Magazine article Gramophone

The Suisse Romande Record German-Swiss Composer Raff

Magazine article Gramophone

The Suisse Romande Record German-Swiss Composer Raff

Article excerpt


Symphony No 2, Op 140.

Four Shakespeare Preludes

Suisse Romande Orchestra/Neeme Jarvi

Chandos (F) CHSA5117 (78' * DDD/DSD)

I had to smile when, at around 12'09" into the Orchestral Prelude to The Tempest of 1879, I noted how the change of mood, colour and rhythm bears such a close resemblance to a similar contrast that occurs in the Allegro maestoso assai coda of Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony, completed some 35 years earlier. As with Mendelssohn's best overtures, Joachim Raff's Shakespeare Preludes exhibit a keen sense of dramatic narrative. The openings of both The Tempest and Macbeth are fraught with tension, the former on the wings of furious string figurations, the latter with spectral woodwinds. Romeo and Juliet feeds on motifs representing the lovers and the warring families they grew from. Chandos's annotator, Dr Avrohom Leichtling, praises Othello for its dramatic compression (a feature throughout all four pieces), with some justification.

The C major Symphony is unusual on a number of counts, the most obvious being the way the Andante second movement erupts for its C minor middle section (at around 3'06"), replete with fugal development (a favourite Raff device), before calm is restored. And Raff's general style? Various associations, both reflective and prophetic, suggest themselves throughout--the lightness of Mendelssohn, the harmonic richness of Schumann, Wagner for dramatic tone-painting, and Richard Strauss in embryo.

Neeme Jarvi and his Suisse Romande players seem to be having a whale of a time, or least that's the impression that these extremely vital performances suggest. …

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