Sunday, January 13, 2019

Joachim Raff - Symphony No. 11 in A minor "Der Wintrer"

Image von der Wik
Some decisions change everything.  In 1810, the German state of Württemberg had been conquered by Napoleon.  Forced to provide soldiers for his planned invasion of Russia, the prince implemented conscription.  One young man had no intention of going to Russia, and so fled to Switzerland.  That man ended up being Joachim Raff's father.  Since almost all of Napoleon's army came to an end in Russia, we owe a great deal of German romantic music to his father's quick wits.

Young Joachim got a job as a school teacher in Zurich, and taught himself composition.  He sent a couple of his works to Felix Mendelssohn who recommended them to his publisher.  By 1850 he was an assistant to Franz List and his career was off to the races.  By his death in 1882 he was one of the best known German composers, although few have heard of him these days.  Interestingly, there's an entire web site devoted to him, at which we find an excellent description of this composition:
The Symphony No.11 in a op 214 Der Winter (The Winter) is both the last in a series of symphonies describing the four seasons and the last Symphony undertaken by Raff. Although composition commenced in the spring of 1876, the work remained unfinished at the time of Raff's death six years later. The task of completing the work was assumed by his long time friend and associate, the conductor Max Erdmannsdörfer (1848-1905), who published the score in the year after Raff's death. The symphony was premiered in February 1883 in Wiesbaden under the direction of Louis Lüstner. 
It would not be surprising when listening to this symphony if one would be reminded of the characteristics usually associated with Tchaikovsky, Raff's younger contemporary. Some comparison with the Russian's first symphony (op. 13 in g "Winter Dreams") might be made. Although composed some ten years prior to Raff's Winter Symphony, it was not performed until 1886 and it is quite unlikely that Raff had any knowledge of the work.
There's quite a lot there if you're interested, particularly on why he went from extreme popularity to obscurity.  It snowed here at Camp Borepatch last night and so the first movement of this symphony (Die erste Schnee - The first snow) seem particularly appropriate for today.


libertyman said...

Still not sure how you come up with these posts. Another new guy to me!
Well done, and much appreciated.

LSP said...

I've heard his music but had forgotten, beautiful. And what a good synposis!

Thanks for that.