Brief Descriptions











Suite de Morceaux pour petites mains score
Score of Suite de Morceaux pour petites mains op.75












Le Galop score
Score of Le galop op.104

Raff's Piano Music 3

Listen to an extract Suite de Morceaux pour petites mains op.75 01:37
This suite of "pieces for small hands", of 1858 and 1859, was one of Raff's most popular sets of compositions for home performance. Not only does it have a French title, but each of the 12 pieces also have titles in the same language and each is dedicated to a different Mademoiselle - his piano pupils in Wiesbaden. The most well known of the pieces, Fabliau, comes second and is of Raff's typical ABA construction which he often adopted for such works. It begins and ends with a very attractive dancing theme and features a contrasting central part with a slower tempo.

The extract is the first half of No.2, Fabliau in G.

Listen to an extract Cachoucha-Caprice in C op.79 1:38
This catchy piece is typical of Raff's brotarbeit - piano works he produced for a quick sale to eager publishers. Its appeal is immediate, but the piano part is hardly easy and the craftsmanship in the writing is clear even if there is little profundity to the work - nor was any intended. This caprice was written in 1858 shortly after Raff's move from Weimar to Wiesbaden.

This example is from the middle of the work. From Ex Libris EL 16 958.

Listen to an extract Chant de l'ondin op.84 04:57
Raff described this attractive piece, Song of the Water-Nymph, which dates from 1858 as a Grand Etude on Arpeggio-Tremolando, and that certainly describes it well. The use of arpeggio permeates the work, particularly in the opening section where the single theme is introduced without the extensive tremolando effects which dominate its accompaniment in the central and final sections. The third section combines the techniques to beguilingly delicate effect. Raff calls for a Larghetto tempo for the work, giving it a dreamlike quality and conjuring up images of a warm day by a lake. Chant de l'ondin was published in 1861.

The mp3 track is the complete work.

Listen to an extract Am Giessbach op.88 03:21
One of Raff's prettiest and most effective evocations of nature, the Etude Am Giessbach is a picture of the well known waterfall and streams at Giessbach above Lake Brienz in central Switzerland. It was written in Wiesbaden in 1858 at a time when Raff was working as a music teacher in two of the spa city's prestigious ladies' schools, and was published in 1862, quickly becoming a favourite in salons. Essentially mono-thematic, the main interest is in the busy figurations which decorate the gently undulating theme and portray the gushing water as it surges towards, and over, the falls into the lake below.

The mp3 track is the complete work.

Listen to an extract Capriccio op.92 06:24
One of several Capriccios which Raff wrote for the piano throughout his career, op.92 was composed in Wiesbaden in 1860 at a time when, whilst earning his living teaching in two ladies' schools in the city and writing music criticism, he was at last starting to make a name for himself as a composer. This Capriccio is in D minor and has an ABA structure: it begins with an attractively busy Allegro assai before giving way to a delicate lullaby-like Molto più lento central section. The opening material returns to close the work, building up to a forceful finish. The piece was published by Peters in 1862, with a dedication to Princess Zénéide Ouroussoff.

The mp3 track is the complete work.

Listen to an extract Dans la Nacelle - Rêverie-Barcarolle in B op.93 01:55
The second of a series of four piano works opp.92-95 written in Wiesbaden in 1860-1, this is another of Raff's fiendishly difficult occasional pieces. The Andantino barcarole is an atmospheric evocation of a trip in a small boat. The continuous figuration (dappled sunlight on the water?) which is a feature of the work is briefly interrupted by a dramatic climax (storm?) before calm is restored and the arch-like structure returns to the tranquility of the opening.

This excerpt is from the central climax to the music's end. From Ex Libris EL 16 958.

Listen to an extract Impromptu-Valse op.94 02:15
Raff's op.94 was the last in a series of three short piano works which he wrote in Wiesbaden in 1860 and which were published by the Leipzig company of Peters in December 1862. Like much of Raff's superior "salon" music, an amateur pianist would have needed a powerful technique to bring the work off successfully. The Impromptu-Valse dispenses with the impressionist style of its predecessor Dans la nacelle and launches into an Allegro vivace of filigree passage work over a waltz rhythm in the lower registers before the B flat gives way to a middle section which comprises a beautifully halting light waltz in G flat. The work closes with a return to the opening Allegro.

The extract is the end of the piece.

Listen to an extract La Polka de la Reine Caprice in A flat op.95 02:08
This "Queen's Polka" was once one of Raff's most popular piano works and even survived into the 20th. Century in the repertoire of older pianists. It was the last of the four works written in Wiesbaden in 1860-1 and is typical of the occasional piano pieces written by Raff throughout his career. The piano writing scintillates with charm and easy melody - though it is far from easy for the performer and to categorise it as a "salon" piece hardly does justice to its technical demands.

The extract is from the start of the piece. From Hunters Moon HMPCD 0589.

Listen to an extract Le Galop op.104 04:48
This breathless Caprice Brillant was composed in Wiesbaden in 1861, just as Raff's name was beginning to become better known. Dedicated to William Mason, his American friend from their time with Liszt in Weimar, it was published in 1864 and proved sufficiently popular to be republished nine years later. This breakneck gallop is in E flat but passes though several other keys in its captivatingly breathless dash to the finishing post. Effective though it is, it is perhaps typical of the salon music which Raff continued to write as his name as a serious composer grew and the existence of which eventually harmed that reputation.

The example is the complete work.

Listen to an extract Five Eglogues op.105 01:30
An eclogue is a pastoral piece - both Liszt and Dvorak produced works with the same unusual name. These five essays in the genre were written by Raff in 1861 and published by Peters of Leipzig in 1865 in two volumes. They were dedicated to his wife Doris. The two outer Eglogues in the set are fast (Allegro molto and Presto giocoso) whereas the three inner pieces are slow - all marked Andante. The fourth of them has a brooding quality to it and is more melancholy than rustic - basically monothematic and with an stubborn ostinato, it conveys an atmosphere redolent of genteel regret, perhaps over some lost love.

The excerpt is the second half of No.4 of the set, in C sharp.

Listen to an extract Saltarello op.108 02:20

In this E minor Allegro possibile "salon" piece inspired by Italian dance, Raff employs lively skipping rhythms and catchy tunes to produce a light and carefree number sandwiched between an ominous slow introduction and a madcap final few bars, based upon the opening material. It was written in Wiesbaden in 1863 and was published by Rieter-Biedermann in Leipzig two years later. Although no doubt intended for the drawing room, the demands it makes on an amateur pianist are prodigious.

The excerpt is from the middle of the work. From RILP 30-025.

Listen to an extract Zwei Capricen op.111 03:43
These two Caprices were written early in 1856, at the end of Raff's time as part of the Liszt household in Weimar. Comprising a Bolero in E flat and a fast Waltz in C they are typical of Raff's Brotarbeit (lit. work for bread, or potboilers), written to give him some income. Nonetheless, like all his piano music intended for salon performance, they are far from being just a string of attractive tunes carelessly strung together. Raff's craftsmanship shines through them, as does his gift for instantly memorable melody. They were first published as Zwei Tanzcapricen in 1857 as part of a multi-volume publication edited by Liszt called Das Pianoforte. Raff later revised them and they were republished as Zwei Capricen in 1865.

The example is the first of the two pieces, the Bolero.

Listen to an extract Valse Favorite in D flat op.118 01:55
Raff's Valse Favorite is typical of a particularly Raffian genre - the virtuoso "salon" piece. Although written to be immediately ingratiating, its melodies easily assimilated at first hearing, it needs an accomplished pianist to cope with its demands. It was written in Wiesbaden in 1864 and dedicated to Guillaume Krüger. Composed of two waltzes, it employs an enhanced ABA structure in which the slow introduction derives from the central theme and the two melodies are briefly combined at the close.

The example is the first waltz and the first half of the second.

Listen to an extract Berceuse in E flat op.125 No.2 01:47
Raff's op.125 is a group of three unconnected genre pieces for piano which he wrote in Wiesbaden in the Summer of 1865. Issued in separate volumes by the Leipzig publisher Siegel, they comprised a Gavotte, this Berceuse and a Valse-Impromptu entitled L'Espiègle (The Rascal). No.2's gentle Adagio non troppo lullaby has an ABA structure. The easy lyricism of the engagingly hesitant outer sections subtly contrast with the more elusive melodic material of the middle section, which is in D major.

This example is of the second half of the work. From Concerto CD 2027 .

Listen to an extract Vom Rhein op.134 03:32
Vom Rhein (From the Rhine) is a set of "Six Fantasy Pieces" with the river Rhine as a theme, which Raff wrote in the Summer of 1866. Most numbers are between five and seven minutes duration and all bear descriptive titles which gve a clue to their character: Gruß an den Rhein (Welcome to the Rhine), Kahnfahrt (Rowing), Am Lorely-Fels (At Lorely Rock), Burgsage (Castle Legend), In der Laube (In the Arbor) and Nachklänge vom Winzerfest (Echoes of the Wine Festival). In this substantial set Raff gives his imagination free rein and the result is a series of attractive and poetic pieces. Vom Rhein was published by Kistner in two volumes in 1867

This example is the third and shortest piece in the set, Am Lorely-Fels.

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Works in detail section, with audio extracts from all four movements.

Listen to an extract Tarantelle in a op.144 02:11
This is the third of three piano pieces opp.142-4 written by Raff in Autumn 1867 in Wiesbaden; unusually all were also published in Paris as well as Leipzig. This tarantella is a scintillating tour de force of virtuoso piano writing which starts Presto and finishes in a furious Prestissimo. As with the several other tarantellas which Raff wrote, it captures the spirit of the Italian dance without too many German overtones.

This example is of the second half of the work. From Ex Libris EL 16 958.

More piano works >>

© 1999-2017 Mark Thomas. All rights reserved.