Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Did Joachim Raff also anticipate Rachmaninoff?

In a recent post I theorized about the emotional and technical predecessors to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Second and Third Piano Concertos, and today I pulled out a Swiss CD from a company called Claves (Qualiton), for a recording of the C Minor Concerto (Op 185) by Joachin Raff. It’s not early (Raff was 51), and the style is a bit Mendelssohn-like, but the program notes say “He used vigorous chordal blocks in rising and falling arches , as later appeared in 1909 in the Finale of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto in D Minor, Op. 30. There are also passages which anticipate the great Russian composer at the exciting close of the first movement where the themes are originally divided and alternate between both hands in an artistic duet culminating in brilliance and fiery pathos.” The outer movements both have familiar heroic themes, and the slow movement has a ¾ theme that will sound familiar. Is Raff another rather obscure Romantic composer who has left us tunes to show up in the movies?

By the way, even though Rachmaninoff came from Russia, he lived and worked in the US for a while (apparently earning citizenship), to the point that the AFMC festivals in the 1950s allowed his use as an “American” composer when I played one of the Op 32 preludes (B Minor, E Major, and almost the massive D-flat major).

(By the way, the “accepted” revised First Piano Concerto (F# minor) of Rachmaninoff has always left me cold; I wonder what the original version sounded like. I hope some pianist and conductor will revive it.)

The Claves recording features pianist Jean Francois Antonioli, with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Foster, CD 50-8806, 1988; the sound is a little tubby.

The CD also includes Raff's G Major Konzertstuck, Ode to Spring, and Ferruccio Busoni's D Minor Konzertstuck, a far cry from his massive C Major Piano Concerto with chorus.

See June 12 posting for earlier discussion.

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