Raff Piano Works, Vol. 3
Volume 3 of Tra Nguyen’s Raff survey contains four works, all first recordings, written between 1849 and 1861. The style is eclectic and hard to pin down, beyond a generalised Romanticism, with the later music sometimes having more rhetorical grandiosity.
In the nine pieces of the Album lyrique Op. 17 (the ‘nouvelle edition’ of 1849) the spirits of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Chopin are not far away. The Cinq églogues Op. 105 are charming miniatures, with a refined poetry Raff didn’t always achieve, while the Impromptu-Valse Op. 94 is in a slighter salon style, and the Fantaisie-Polonaise Op. 106 is a storming virtuoso display piece.
Tra Nguyen gives performances that are fluent and committed, and often more than that. She is best in the lighter pieces – the elegantly spun line of the Impromptu-Valse, or the atmospheric colouring of the first of the Eglogues. At other times this delicacy and dynamic shading does not quite come through – for example, in the flowering filigree of the first Nocturne from the Album lyrique. She copes well with the demands of the monumental Fugue that ends the Album lyrique, but in the Fantaisie-Polonaise the essential dynamic contrasts are ironed out, leaving the music seeming rather flat and relentless. Mixed, but rewarding nevertheless.