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May 27 composer birthday: the relatively unknown Joachim Raff

May 27 composer birthday: the relatively unknown Joachim Raff featured image

Sometimes I wonder why some composers made it the standard repertoire we know today, while others didn’t. When I first heard Raff’s music, I couldn’t quite place him – I knew it wasn’t Chopin or Brahms, but it sounded closer to Brahms in time, and sure enough, Raff was older by only 11 years, and his music has that fluttering, heart-on-sleeve quality. He sent some of his compositions to Felix Mendelssohn who in turn sent them to Breitkopf & Hartel for publiciation, which happened in 1844. Robert Schumann gave the works a thumbs up in his music journal.

Raff got to know the elite in the music world, befriending conductor Hans von Bulow and eventually becoming assistant to Franz Liszt, helping the composer orchestrate his works. He set up shop in Wiesbaden as a composer, and became the first Director and teacher at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt where he employed Clara Schumann and other prominent musicians as teachers, and even set up a class specifically for female composers.

By the end of his life, Raff was a very well-known composer, and hopefully, he will be again. Occasionally you may hear his “Cavatina for Violin and Piano” performed as an encore, and his works are occasionally recorded such as “Piano and Orchestra Works – Piano Concerto / Ode au Printemps”, with pianist Tra Nguyen and the Prague Radio Symphony, conducted by our own Kerry Stratton, host of “The Oasis”.

Featured here is pianist Tra Nguyen, performing Joachim Raff’s Berceuse, Opus 196.

Joachim Raff was born May 27, 1822 in Lachen, Switzerland, and died June 24 or 25, 1882 in Frankfurt, Germany.

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