COMPOSERS: Joachim Raff
LABELS: Grand Piano
ALBUM TITLE: Raff Piano Works
WORKS: Piano Works, Vol. 1: Frühlingsboten; Drei Klavier-Soli; Fantasie in B
PERFORMER: Tra Nguyen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 1207089
Joachim Raff was hugely prolific. But he faced criticism, even from his friends, that he failed to achieve a consistent personal style. Although best known for his orchestral music, he wrote a vast amount for solo piano. On this first volume (we are not told whether this will be a complete survey), the British-Vietnamese pianist Tra Nguyen presents three works from the early 1850s: Frühlingsboten, Op. 55, Drei Klavier-Soli, Op. 74, and a ZLisztian Fantasie in B major.
Frühlingsboten has some lovely lyrical writing that’s reminiscent of Schumann, and Nguyen’s emotional engagement is often rewarding, even when, as in the opening ‘Winterruhe’, her rubato is a touch cloying. She is less successful in pieces that require Mendelssohnian lightness and caprice (such as No. 6, ‘Wirrniss’). The Drei Klavier-Soli are more ambitious and demanding: the Ballade owes a debt to Liszt and Scherzo has strong affinities with Alkan, while the most individual piece is the final ‘Metamorphosen’. Performances are winning without always being truly commanding.