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8th. Symphony
The score of Raff's Eighth Symphony Frühlingsklänge

Raff's Symphonies

Listen to an excerpt Grand Symphony in e minor WoO.18 1:56
Raff's first essay at writing a symphony was made during his time with Liszt in Weimar - the five movement work was completed in 1854 and had its premiere the following year under Raff's baton. Despite it receiving three more performances in Wiesbaden and Gotha in 1856, Raff was evidently unsure about the piece's worth. He also described it as an orchestral suite and eventually he mislaid or destroyed the score, although two of the movements were later used by him in the Orchestral Suite No.1 op.101. The five movements were: Allegro Appasionato, Andante, March, Scherzo and Fugue. The March and Scherzo are the surviving movements.

The excerpt is the first half of the Mendelssohnian 4th. movement Scherzo, leading into the trio section.

Listen to an excerpt Symphony No.1 in D "To the Fatherland" op.96 2:05
Although not the first symphony written by Raff, this work was the one which propelled him to world renown. The work is unusual in having five movements (though his earlier discarded piece also had five) and it is his longest symphony at around 70 minutes duration. The programme celebrates aspects of Germany and its people at a time of aspiration for national unity. The first movement is a very expansive Allegro illustrating the German character and this is followed by a Scherzo, Allegro vivace depicting the countryside. A central Larghetto celebrates domestic love and is succeeded by the earnest Allegro drammatico describing the frustrated attempts at German unity. The long final Larghetto sostenuto opens in a melancholy way before a triumphant end gives hope for the future.

The excerpt is from the Scherzo - the "Forest Hunt" section moving into the "Procession in the meadows". From Tudor 7099.

An extensive essay on this work is available in the Analysis section.

.Listen to an excerpt Symphony No.2 in C op.140 1:50
Only two of Raff's symphonies are untitled. The first of them - No.2 - was written in Wiesbaden in 1869. Opening with an extended lyrical Allegro, the second movement Andante con moto is a wonderfully evocative piece of almost religious intensity. The following scherzo, marked Allegro vivace, is the first example in Raff's symphonic oeuvre of his debt to Mendelssohn in this type of movement. The concluding movement - Andante maestoso, Allegro con spirito - makes a grandiose conclusion.

This excerpt from the start of the slow movement and illustrates the hymn-like opening theme of the movement. From Marco Polo 8.223630.

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

Listen to an excerpt Symphony No.3 in F "In the Forest" op.153 1:41
Although the winning of a prestigious prize by his first Symphony put Raff on the symphonic map, it was his Symphony No.3 of 1869 which sealed his fame. Each of its four movements has a descriptive sub-title meant to give a general impression of the music rather than a detailed programme which it follows. The joyful opening Allegro "Daytime. Impressions and feelings" is followed by slow Largo and fast Allegro assai movements together grouped under the title "At twilight - Dreaming and Dance of the Nyads". The extended Allegro finale depicts "Night....still murmurings.....the wild hunt of Hulda & Wotan......sunrise". The piece was hailed in Raff's lifetime as a masterpiece and it is easy to see why it made such an impression in its day with its inventive orchestration and abundance of melody.

This excerpt - from the end of the 3rd. movement shows Raff blending the characteristically light and jaunty scherzo into a reprise of the themes from the preceding slow movement. From ASV DCA793.

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

Listen to an excerpt Symphony No.4 in G minor op.167 1:56
The second of Raff's non-programmatic symphonies was reckoned by Hans von Bülow to be amongst his friend's best works. It was written in Wiesbaden in 1871. It begins with a large-scale Allegro which has a mostly earnest character but is followed by a light-hearted Mendelssohnian scherzo, Allegro molto and a deeply felt, nostalgic Andante, non troppo mosso slow movement before finishing with a buoyant dance-like finale Allegro vivace which has a couple of references to the more serious opening Allegro.

This excerpt is the wistful and evocative ending of the slow movement. From Hyperion CDA 66628.

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Detailed descriptions section, with audio extracts from all four movements. An extensive essay on this work is available in the Analysis section.

Listen to an excerpt Symphony No.5 in E Lenore op.177 2:45
Of Raff's 11 symphonies, the Third and the Fifth vied for popularity with Victorian concert-goers, but there was no doubt as to his single most played symphonic movement. The Lenore symphony's third movement march was subjected to innumerable arrangements and, with the "Mill" movement from the 7th. string quartet and the "Cavatine", was wildly popular in its time. Lenore is inspired by a macabre gothic ballad by Bürger. The first two movements, together entitled "Love's happiness", are however not specifically linked to events in Bürger's poem and evoke the love of Lenore and Wilhelm, a soldier - the first an ardent Allegro and the second a passionate Andante quasi larghetto. The third movement, "Separation" Marsch tempo - agitato, illustrates the lovers' parting with one of Raff's boisterous marches used to depict the approaching army by using a lengthy crescendo. The parting itself is given over to an anguished trio, before the march reasserts itself with the army leaving for the war in a matching long diminuendo. The exciting fourth movement is one of Raff's most explicitly programmatic symphonic creations. "Reunited in death" Allegro, charts the dead Wilhelm's return as a spectre, enticing Lenore into a nightmare gallop to the grave and ending with a serene apotheosis.

The excerpt is from the finale and represents the end of Lenore's ghastly journey before the rapt closing apotheosis. From Unicorn-Kanchana UKCD 2031.

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

Listen to an excerpt Symphony No.6 in D minor op.189 1:58
Although when it was written in 1873, this work bore the motto "Lived: Struggled, Suffered, Fought, Died; Glorified", the title was suppressed when the symphony was published. The movements themselves do not have separate titles, but Raff did confirm that the programme depicted an artist's struggle for recognition, which eventually comes after his death. The initial Allegro non troppo depicts the noble aspects of an artist's life and the Vivace second movement the humorous ones. The death of the artist is portrayed in the lugubrious self-explanatory Larghetto, quasi marcia funebre third movement which is followed by an Allegro con spirito finale which ends in a triumphant apotheosis.

The excerpt is the transition from the funeral march to the lighter trio of the third movement. From Marco Polo 8.223362.

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Detailed descriptions section, with audio extracts from all four movements. An extensive essay on this work is available in the Analysis section.

Listen to an excerpt Symphony No.7 in B flat major "In the Alps" op.201 2:26
Completed two years after the 6th., Raff's 7th. symphony was not so well received by critics as its predecessors. It represents Raff's symphonic homage to his Swiss homeland and is in the usual four movements all of which have programmatic titles. The first movement Andante-Allegro "Wandering in the high mountains" has a grandiose opening depicting the Alpine massif, as a prelude to its general Alpine scene painting in which the characteristic sound of the alpenhorn is often heard. The following Andante quasi Allegro "In the Inn" is a gentler dance movement portraying a (rather restrained) evening of merry making, whilst the slow movement Larghetto "On the lake" is a tranquil piece, with just a hint of distant thunder. The Allegro finale "At the Schwingfest; Departure" portrays a Swiss wresting contest and concludes with a return to the opening material of the whole symphony.

The excerpt is the very beginning of the symphony in which Raff pictures the Alps rising high above the traveler, followed by the transition to the first movement proper.

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

Listen to an excerpt Symphony No.8 in A "Sounds of Spring" op.205 1:51
Raff began his cycle of four "Seasons" symphonies with this work, which he completed in 1876, just before he left Wiesbaden for Frankfurt. The first movement, Allegro, is entitled "Spring's return" and is fittingly exuberant after an atmospherically dark beginning. The succeeding movement is a demonic Allegro "During Walpurgis night" - Raff had a penchant for writing circumspectly devilish music in a number of his symphonies. The slow movement Larghetto "With the first bunch of flowers" is a beautifully lyrical piece of writing which is followed by the Vivace finale "Wanderlust", which begins quietly but gathers pace to a rousing conclusion. In common with most of his "programme" symphonies, none of the movements has an explicit programme.

This extract is the closing pages of the first movement. From Ex Libris 8067.

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Detailed descriptions section, with audio extracts from all four movements. An extensive essay on this work is available in the Analysis section.

Listen to an excerpt Symphony No.9 in E minor "In Summer" op.208 2:03
Written in Frankfurt in 1878, this second of Raff's "Seasons" symphonies is one of his most successful symphonic creations. It is in three parts covering the four conventional movements. The first movement Allegro "A hot day" is a joyful evocation of summer which despite its free-flowing nature features fugal writing - it is one of Raff's most successful symphonic movements. The second movement forms the symphony's second part - an Allegro "The hunt of the Elves". For this spirited movement Raff followed a detailed programme centred on Oberon & Titania from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". The final part of the symphony comprises the last two movements : a Larghetto "Eckloge" and an Allegro "To the harvest wreath", which depict firstly a pastoral idyll followed by a joyous celebration of the harvest.

The excerpt is the middle of the movement leading to the triumphant recapitulation. From Tudor 7020 (review).

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Detailed descriptions section, with audio extracts from all four movements. An extensive essay on this work is available in the Analysis section.

Listen to an excerpt Symphony No.10 in F minor "To the Autumntime" op.213 2:09
This was the last symphony which Raff wrote - the "Winter" symphony having been in fact the second of the "Seasons" cycle to have been written. Raff wrote his final symphonic work in Frankfurt in 1879 and it received its first performance the next year. His wife Doris disliked the pathos of the original third movement and so Raff composed a replacement in 1881, together with a revised finale. The symphony begins with an Allegro, "Impressions and feelings" - one of Raff's most inspired and concise first movements. This is followed by an eerie Allegro scherzo "Ghostly Dance" and leads on to the replacement slow movement Adagio "Elegy" - a piece of subdued melancholy. The Allegro finale depicts the "Hunt of Man" which follows a simple programme easily understood from the music. It was felt by Raff's contemporaries to be a weaker work than the rest of the symphony.

The excerpt is from the middle of the third movement. From Tudor 786.

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Detailed descriptions section, with audio extracts from all four movements. An extensive essay on this work is available in the Analysis section.

Listen to an excerpt Symphony No.11 in a minor "The Winter" op.214 1:54
Although designated Raff's last symphony it was in fact written immediately after No.8 in 1876/7 as Raff was taking up his post as director of the Hoch Conservatory. It was first performed only after his death, probably having been revised by Raff's friend the conductor Erdmannsdörfer, and was not well received. Raff's daughter suggests that he was exhausted by his efforts to set up the Conservatory and that this work suffered as a result. It is in the usual four movements - "The first snow" Allegro, opens the symphony and is followed by an untitled Allegretto which is a delightful theme and variations on a gavotte. The slow movement Larghetto "By the fireside" is another of Raff's very effective evocations of domestic bliss and the Allegro "Carnival" ends the work in festive style.

The excerpt is the start of the slow movement with its gently swaying Larghetto theme. From Tudor 787.

This work is discussed in much more detail in the Detailed descriptions section, with audio extracts from all four movements. An extensive essay on this work is available in the Analysis section.
 

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