Raff: Symphony No. 3 in F (Im Walde); Abends-Rhapsodie; Romeo and Juliet Overture

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WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in F (Im Walde); Abends-Rhapsodie; Romeo and Juliet Overture
PERFORMER: Philharmonia Orchestra/Francesco D’Avalos
Joachim Raff (1822-82) was widely acclaimed in his day. Having been helped on his way by Mendelssohn, he was influenced by Liszt and allied himself to the New German School of composers. Despite some repeatedly predictable sequences, his music is very tuneful, with inventive chromatic harmony and classical contrapuntal techniques. His eleven symphonies are programmatic, often rooted in nature, like Beethoven’s Pastoral. The Third has a Mendelssohnian dryad’s dance for a scherzo, but much in the wild finale is also reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth. This movement could have been part of his Fifth Symphony, based (unlike the others) on a grisly tale of tragic love, open graves and phantoms abroad at midnight. The Philharmonia, particularly the wind section, plays superbly on both discs. Neither conductor is a German but (despite Yondani Butt’s menacing D’Artagnan pose in his photo) both respond sympathetically to this rarely heard music (the fillers are charming salon pieces, most in arrangements). All this might not herald a return to the concert hall, but Raff is certainly worthy of air time and a place on CD shelves. Christopher Fifield