Raff: Symphony No. 7 (In den Alpen); Jubelouvertüre

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WORKS: Symphony No. 7 (In den Alpen); Jubelouvertüre
PERFORMER: Philharmonia Hungarica/Werner Andreas Albert
CATALOGUE NO: 999 289-2
If you aren’t that familiar with the music of Joachim Raff (1822-82), there’s a website (www.raff.org) – isn’t there always? – where enthusiasts debate the composer’s works and the merits of various recordings. To the outsider this advocacy is baffling: on the evidence of the main work here, subtitled ‘In the Alps’, Raff wrote pleasant, competent music in a conservative Romantic style. All right: the first movement opens with an impressive unison statement, though the woodwind could be better in tune, but after that there’s little but four-square posturing until the main body of the movement sets off with a memorable bassoon tune. The problem is that it doesn’t do anything – and I listened three times to this movement to try to find anything beyond academic working-out. The performance, apart from the tuning, is vigorous and attentive, and a reminder of the quality of the now defunct Philharmonia Hungarica, though even these players sometimes sound tired in the finale. There’s more lightness and charm to be found there, after the heavy-footed scherzo of the second movement, and the turgidly scored Larghetto. Like the Symphony, the Jubelouvertüre (based on ‘God Save the King’) is overlong and goes through the expected motions. The recordings, now well over ten years old, are clear if studio-bound. Martin Cotton