Home
Life
Raff and his art
Raff's influence

"In the very end of the last movement [of his 3rd. Symphony] Brahms brings back the opening theme of the first movement in a quiet, gentle reminiscence. Many think that this is original with Brahms, but Joachim Raff......had previously ended his 3rd. Symphony exactly the same way." This extract from Harold Schonberg's "The lives of the great composers" (3rd. Edition, USA, p.301) underlines the extent to which Raff's modern obscurity has hidden the breadth of his influence on other composers in the last forty years of the 19th. Century.

Even his detractors acknowledged his skill and adventurousness in orchestration and the composer Woldemar Bargeil, in criticising him, nonetheless confirmed that Raff "produces ideas and melodies that appear as if they should tear the soul from the body". Between 1860 and 1900, Raff's music in all genres except his operas was played extensively and with such wide exposure it would be more surprising if other composers did not absorb some of Raff's music, if only subconsciously.

Tchaikovsky was an admirer of Raff (see Peers & Critics) and one of his most famous and effective symphonic movements features an almost direct quotation from an earlier symphony of Raff. The wonderful melancholy horn theme from the slow movement of the Russian's 5th. Symphony of 1888 echoes both in outline and orchestration a section from the slow movement of Raff's 10th. Symphony "To Autumn". This movement, a replacement for the original one, was the last symphonic work written by Raff and was completed in 1881, following which the revised Symphony was widely performed.

Raff: Symphony No.10 - 3rd. movement 2:09

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.5 - 2nd. movement 0:36

Raff made a virtue of being an independent composer and he made no attempts to found a "school". As head of the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt he forbad the performance of his own music but his most famous pupil, the American Edward Macdowell, betrays a clear Raff influence in many of his early piano and orchestral works.

[Thanks to Markos Dragoumis for his help in preparing this page]

© 1999-2013 Mark Thomas. All rights reserved.