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Joachim Raff

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Joachim Raff

Biography

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

Raff's father, a teacher, had fled to Switzerland 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. 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.

Raff was very prolific, and by the end of his life was one of the best known German composers, though his work is largely forgotten today. He drew influence from a variety of sources -- his eleven symphonies, for example, combine the Classical symphonic form, with the Romantic penchant for program music and contrapuntal orchestral writing which harks back to the Baroque.

Raff also composed in most other genres, including concertos, opera, chamber music and works for solo piano. His chamber works include two piano sonatas, five violin sonatas, a cello sonata, a piano quintet, two piano quartets, a string sextet and four piano trios.


Works for Winds


References