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Helene Raff's autobiography
Helene Raff's autobiography

Historical sources

Modern writings on Raff are listed on the Other books about Raff page. Most of these feature extensive bibliographies and they should be consulted to track down incidental information on Raff. It will be clear from even a cursory look at these listings, however, that although there are many writings in which he figures incidentally, there are few full contemporary sources for Raff's life and music, due to the sudden collapse of his reputation after his death. In contrast, many of the late 19th. century musical lexicons and dictionaries feature extensive entries on Raff, reflecting his contemporary importance.

Helene Raff's biography of her father Joachim Raff, ein Lebensbild (1925, Regensburg, Gustav Bosse) is the primary source for his life. She appears to be commendably objective in her judgements and, where capable of being checked, accurate. Generally it is a biographical, rather than a musical treatise. She relied not only on her own memories, but also on her large collection of her father's papers and on the recollections of her family and Raff's friends and colleagues. Written to commemorate the 100th. anniversary of Raff's birth, the 288-page book was not reprinted, but can be found in some German libraries and antiquarian book sellers. Her autobiography "Leaves from Life's Tree (2010, www.raff.org - original edition: Blätter vom Lebensbaum 1938, Munich, Knorr & Hirth) provides extensive background on Raff's domestic life in its first 96 pages and also on his wife Doris' life after his death. This book is now available from The Raff Shop in a new Translation by Alan Howe. Helene Raff also wrote a series of articles based on Raff's exchanges of letters in the German periodical Die Musik (Nos.1-7).

The other major contemporary source which concentrates solely on Raff is Albert Schäfer's 164-page Chronologisch-systematisches Verzeichnis der Werke Joachim Raff's of 1888. This catalogue is not error free, but it is invaluable in listing all Raff's works, including those lost. Entries list the dates of composition and publication, dedicatee, movement names, keys and major key changes, publisher and availability and the price of parts. It was republished in facsimile (1974, Tutzig, Hans Schneider). Copies of both the original and the reprint are hard to find in antiquarian retailers but many libraries across the world have copies.

The 1909 Lexikon der Deutschen Konzertliteratur by Raff's pupil Theodor Müller-Reuter is easily available from second hand book stores as it was reprinted in 1971 in the USA. In 67 pages devoted to Raff's major orchestral, choral and chamber works, Reuter provides a valuable counterweight to Schäfer's catalogue and is a major source for their compositional and early performance history. In his introduction to the book's section on Raff and in his discussion of individual works, Reuter's close association with Doris Raff yields valuable details not published elsewhere.

The centennial history of the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, Das Hoch'sche Konservatorium 1878-1978 by Peter Cahn, was published by Waldemar Kramer of Frankfurt in 1979 (ISBN 3-7829-0214-9). Its first section deals with the foundation and early years of the Conservatory under Raff's direction and these 80 pages are a very useful source for the final few years of Raff's professional life. This comparatively recent publication can be easily sourced through German antiquarian booksellers.

Raff's surviving papers and sketches were donated to the Bavarian State Library by Helene Raff in 1916 and are held in three bundles Raffiana I, II and III in the Handschriftenabteilung section of the archives. Many letters between Raff and his friend Hans von Bülow were published in Hans von Bülow, Briefe und Schriften (1899-1908 Leipzig, Breitkopf & Härtel). Raff's first six symphonies were analysed in a series of articles in the British Monthly Musical Record (March-November 1875).

Amongst contemporary lexicons and dictionaries, Hugo Riemann's Geschichte der Musik seit Beethoven 1800-1900 of 1901 offers a largely critical summary of Raff's life and his symphonies in particular, whilst another major contemporary biographical source is the composer Joseph Weber, writing in the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie of 1888, who gives a much more positive assessment. The various German, British and American musical periodicals published between 1865 and 1900 carry frequent reviews of new Raff compositions, notices of concerts at which his works were performed and analysis of individual works. A selection can be found on the Historical Analysis page. Their 1882 editions generally published extensive obituaries.

Most of Raff's music remains available only in the 19th. century original editions. For locating these, see the Scores pages, where you can also find details of modern editions.

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