- Symphony No.8 in A major "Frülingsklange" Op.205
- Symphony No.10 in F minor "In Autumn" Op.213
- Symphony No.9 in E major "In Summer" Op.208
- Symphony No.11 in A minor "Der Winter" Op.214 "Der Winter"
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Raff: Symphonies 8 - 11 "Four Seasons" based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
While enjoying Raff's "Spring" Symphony No. 8 in A major, I keep reflecting on the mystery of how a professional critic could regard this music as dull. The scherzo second movement is one of the least dull pieces I know. I am willing to admit that the third movement is slow and clearly slow is slower than quick. But then all symphonies have slow movements. I also concede that Raff's symphony lacks surprises. He had better things to do than dispense obvious surprises to jaded tastes. He has chosen instead to offend our sensibilities with beauty. How perverse of him! If I could play the recording backward, I might discover the secret of its inaudible "dullness." Unfortunately my equipment is incapable of this feat so to stay in the mode I have to take on faith the premise that idealistic, serene, optimistic beauty is dull. The recording includes three additional symphonies, giving me added opportunities to discover the elusive dullness. It's got to be in there somewhere. Here I'm completely at a loss, however, because Raff has cheated by composing all three of these symphonies in minor keys, feeding my visceral love of minor key music, no matter how "dull." The instant I hear the minor key stirrings at the start of the F minor "Autumn" Symphony No. 10, I am so hypnotised that I cannot listen to reason and cry "dull" even if I wanted to. We can argue, perhaps, that the "Allegro moderato" of the first movement aims at beauty rather than dramatic thrills and chills but we have already made that point. In short Raff sounds serenely Alpine rather than stylishly hideous. I can remember more agitated sounds from the street folk at 3:00 a. m. during a bus ride through Newark in the mid-1960s. The scherzo second movement of "Autumn" is so appealing that I abandon the search for "dullness" to finer sensibilities. Perhaps we can agree that the Alps just sit there, no matter what the season.
I heartily recommend this recording, especially to anyone who appreciates delicate precision in symphonic writing. Raff titled the opening symphony "Fruhlingsklange," "Spring Noises." The same root word "Klange" appears in Liszt's symphonic poem "Festklange," "Festive Noises." The style of Raff's first movement reminds me of "Festklange"-- a similar giddy outpouring of a disciplined German type. Because Raff worked closely with Liszt on his symphonic poems, there must be a connection. Both pieces exhibit a spirit something like Brahms' Academic Festival Overture. If these works are played in succession, I notice the similarity but also the differences in stylistic temperament: Brahms' Beethovenian sound of striving effort, Liszt's theatrical sense of drama and Raff's more delicate approach. Add Schumann and Mendelssohn and we have the heart of German Romanticism. I especially admire the third selection "Im Sommer" despite the rather light-weight nature of this music with an opening movement in 3/4 time. Although Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner aim higher, I find this music in the same league with symphonists Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky. Somebody has written a book on Raff the "greatest unsung composer" and he isn't kidding.