Raff: Symphony No. 3 (Im Walde); Symphony No. 4

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 (Im Walde); Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Milton Keynes City Orchestra/ Hilary Davan Wetton
Determination and a stout pair of walking boots are no guarantee of a composer’s immortality. JS Bach’s visit to Buxtehude proved, with hindsight, to have been a smart career move, but Joachim Raff was not so lucky, despite a 50-mile trek to Liszt and six years as his musical assistant. His 11, very un-Lisztian, symphonies, victims of the received view of music history as a neatly packaged alternation of innovation and transcendant consolidation, have not entered the repertoire, a surprising and shameful miscarriage of justice, given their obvious appeal.


Admittedly Nos. 3 and 4 are not works of stunning originality: the fingerprints are there for all to hear – Mendelssohn in their (not quite) featherlight scherzos, Brahms in their gently troubled but glowing lyricism and Dvorák in their sweeping energy and unquenchably sunny disposition. But even the 45-minute Third Symphony, whose subtitle In the Forest conceals no lack of proper symphonic argument, rarely outstays its welcome, even in those passages fuelled more by academic correctness than blazing creativity.


Hilary Davan Wetton and the Milton Keynes City Orchestra are sympathetic interpreters, compensating for any roughness with the same fervent intensity that distinguishes much of this nourishing music. Antony Bye