Raff: Symphony No 5 in E major, Op 177 (Lenore); Overtures – Dame Kobold, Op 154; König Alfred; Die Eifersuchtigen; Dornröschen (Prelude); Abends, Op 163b

Reviewed on Mon 31 Mar, 2014

Enthusiasts of visual art respond to a vast spectrum of paintings. Works by so-called minor artists fetch decent sums in the auction rooms; that happens because such artists have much to offer. Art music can be in an allied position. Composers such as the Swiss-German Joachim Raff (1822-82) also can be enjoyable, interesting and rewarding. On this generously full Chandos anthology, Neeme Järvi and Ansermet's old orchestra furnish us with four overtures, a rhapsody and a standard-length Romantic symphony. What we get is music that's thoroughly professional, warm, tuneful, inventive and not especially demanding. The main work, the Fifth Symphony (based on a famous poetic ballad, Lenore), is attractively picturesque while not being risky. Of the remaining pieces, the overture to the comic opera Dame Kobold might almost have been written by Rossini had he continued developing and composing into the 1860s. The others are quite as enjoyable, especially melodically. Both the performers and recording engineers make an excellent case for Herr Raff – a refreshing change from the overfamiliar!
–Ivor Solomons