May 27, 2019
Sometimes I wonder why some composers made it the standard repertoire we know today, while others didn’t. When I first heard Joachim Raff’s music, I couldn’t quite place him – I knew it wasn’t Schumann or Brahms, but it sounded closer to Brahms in time, and sure enough, Raff was older by only 11 years. His music has a fluttering, heart-on-sleeve quality. He sent some of his compositions to Felix Mendelssohn who in turn sent them to Breitkopf & Hartel for publication, and his scores hit the printers 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 for whatever reason, the passage of time pretty much relegated him to a one-hit wonder, having composed the Cavatina for Violin in Piano. It’s still performed today; the Cavatina is lovely, with lush, soaring melodies as shown here in this recording by violinist David Nadien and pianist Boris Barere.
Joachim Raff was born May 27, 1822 in Lachen, Switzerland, and died June 24 or 25, 1882 in Frankfurt, Germany.