Ensemble Villa Musica – Sextet & Grand Quintuor (Joachim Raff) (2003)

FrontCover1Joseph Joachim Raff (27 May 1822 – 24 or 25 June 1882) was a German-Swiss composer, teacher and pianist.

Raff was born in Lachen in Switzerland. His father, a teacher, had fled there from Württemberg in 1810 to escape forced recruitment into the military of that southwestern German state that had to fight for Napoleon in Russia. Joachim was largely self-taught in music, studying the subject while working as a schoolmaster in Schmerikon, Schwyz and Rapperswil. He sent some of his piano compositions to Felix Mendelssohn who recommended them to Breitkopf & Härtel for publication. They were published in 1844 and received a favourable review in Robert Schumann’s journal, the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, which prompted Raff to go to Zürich and take up composition full-time.

In 1845, Raff walked to Basel to hear Franz Liszt play the piano. After a period in Stuttgart where he became friends with the conductor Hans von Bülow, he worked as Liszt’s assistant at Weimar from 1850 to 1853. During this time he helped Liszt in the orchestration of several of his works, claiming to have had a major part in orchestrating the symphonic poem Tasso.

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In 1851, Raff’s opera König Alfred was staged in Weimar, and five years later he moved to Wiesbaden where he largely devoted himself to composition. From 1878 he was the first Director of, and a teacher at, the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. There he employed Clara Schumann and a number of other eminent musicians as teachers, and established a class specifically for female composers. (This was at a time when women composers were not taken very seriously.) His pupils there included Edward MacDowell and Alexander Ritter. See: List of music students by teacher: R to S#Joachim Raff.

He died in Frankfurt on the night of June 24/25, 1882. (by wikipedia)

Raff’s Piano Quintet was considered by Hans von Bülow to be one of the very greatest works in its medium, and he wasn’t wrong. Generously proportioned (37 minutes), expertly written, full of good tunes, and not a bit diffuse in its argument, it’s surely one of Raff01the great Romantic chamber works, and yet it’s barely known. The reason undoubtedly stems from the fact that Raff’s compositional fecundity has counted against him; but he was a gifted composer, and at his best, as here, he rivals anyone. The basic, A minor key and passionate contrasts of mood and tempo tell the whole story. Unlike so many “moderato” openings, this piece starts “Allegro mosso assai” and maintains its intensity right up to the final bar of the last movement, marked “Allegro bioso, patetico”. The Sextet in G minor is more pithy, but just as keenly felt, and beautifully textured. Raff’s expert orchestral writing has often been cited, usually in connection with his assisting Liszt in orchestrating his tone poems, but his talent in this area is no less evident in these chamber works. The Ensemble Villa Musica plays both pieces with all of the necessary enthusiasm and energy, and the players are gorgeously recorded. This is one of those discs that no true chamber music connoisseur can afford to miss. (by David Hurwitz)

Raff is one composer whose posthumous reputation has suffered enormously with his vast oeuvre almost completely forgotten. A recent revival of his symphonies on a variety of labels has shown that he has flair and charm if not always a top rank composer.

Dabringhaus & Grimm continually churns out precious chamber music gems that are fast becoming unique to the catalogue. This latest release is no exception and I would advise listeners who have found Raff’s symphonies enjoyable to sample some of his most exquisite chamber works.

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The Sextet, Op. 178 is probably the best work of the two recorded here with a highly enjoyable Allegro and a beautiful Larghetto, rather reminiscent of Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony. Raff uses colour and has a fine palette that makes the music all the more attractive especially in the final Allegro.

The Grand Quintet is an earlier work and at times, I do feel that the piano part is a mite boorish but other listeners may digress from that view! It would be safe to say that the Ensemble Villa Musica are ideal interpreters and that the disc will appeal to chamber music lovers who enjoy seeking out such rarities. (by Gerald Fenech)

Founded in 1990 in connection with the master classes of the state foundation Villa Musica in Mainz the Ensemble Villa Musica has earned an international reputation as one of the leading chamber music groups of our day. With always increasing enthusiasm the international music press has noticed the growth of an ensemble which is almost incomparable in its variety of instruments and repertoire.

Founded in 1990 in connection with the master classes of the state foundation Villa Musica in Mainz the Ensemble Villa Musica has earned an international reputation as one of the leading chamber music groups of our day. With always increasing enthusiasm the international music press has noticed the growth of an ensemble which is almost incomparable in its variety of instruments and repertoire.

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About 20 of Germany’s most renowned instrumentalists joined the group under the leadership of clarinetist Ulf Rodenhäuser. All of them were or still are first soloists in the great German orchestras and have taught for years as professors at German music academies Musicians such as the bassoonist Klaus Thunemann the cellist Martin Ostertag the violinist Thomas Brandis and the oboist Ingo Goritzki represent an unmistakably high standard of musical craftsmanship.

Aiming at the education of highly gifted young chamber musicians on the one hand, and at the performance and recording of forgotten masterworks of chamber music on the other hand, the ensemble has been able to contribute on many levels of German chamber music.

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In connection with the CD producers Dabringhaus und Grimm, they published an exemplary series of CDs containing French chamber music by Fauré‚ Saint-Saëns, and Milhaud, Chech Music by Janácek, Klein and Schulhoff, late Romantic German Music by Spohr and Reinecke, and especially the Chamber Music of Paul Hindemith. All of the CDs have been given highest rates by the critics, some of them have received international awards.

Of course, the Ensemble Villa Musica is also regularly performing in concert halls and at music festivals all over the world. In Rhineland-Palatinate, Stuttgart, and Munich it has established its own concert cycles

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Personnel:
Ensemble Villa Musica:

Sextet:
Nicolas Chumachenco (violin)
Michel Dispa (cello)
Chiara Morandi (violin)
Martin Ostertag (cello)
Enrique Santiago (alto)
Hariolf Schlichtig (alto)

Quintet:
Nicolas Chumachenco (violin)
Erika Geldsetzer (violin)
Martin Ostertag (cello)
Kalle Randalu (piano)
Enrique Santiago (alto)

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Tracklist:

String Sextet in G Minor, Op. 178;
01. Allegro 9:10
02. Allegro molto 4:07
03. Larghetto 10:22
04. Allegro 4:54

Grand Quintuor in A Minor, Op. 1075:
05. Allegro mosso assai 11:28
06. Allegro vivace, quasi presto 6:04
07. Andante, quasi larghetto mosso 11:54
08. Allegro brioso, patetico 7:42

Music written by Joachim Raff

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