Raff: Symphony No 2; Shakespeare Preludes
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/NeemeJärvi, ChandosCHSA 5117 ***
Prolific Joachim Raff (1822-82) wrote his Symphony No 2 (of 11) in 1866, and it carries the opus number 140. He went on to complete nearly 300 works and was for a time one of the most frequently performed of German composers. Raff orchestrated well, and had a sure grasp of symphonic scale. But the eclecticism which made his style so palatable in its time is now likely to have you wondering exactly which moments in Beethoven, Mendelssohn or Schumann particular passages were modelled on. Raff was still popular enough at the end of the 19th century for George Bernard Shaw to use him as a reference point and call him a “cuckoo composer of XIX century music”. The light Second Symphony is more successful than the four Shakespeare Preludes of 1879.