Raff: Complete Works for Cello & Piano – not quite a silk purse

Fri, Jan 21, 2022, 05:00


Joachim Raff Complete Works for Cello & Piano

Christoph Croisé, Oxana Shevchenko

Avie AV 2490


German composer Joachim Raff (1822-82) is a footnote in musical history. But he made enough of an impression on Mendelssohn that the older man helped get his music published, and he also became a colleague and polemical supporter of Liszt. He knew Brahms and Joachim, the great violinist for whom Brahms wrote his Violin Concerto. And the pianist, conductor and composer Hans von Bülow — who premiered Liszt’s Sonata in B minor and Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto – became a friend and supporter.

In the 1870s Raff became one of the most frequently performed of living German composers. But the durability of his work was limited by his eclecticism and his fondness for the easy effects of salon music – and Liszt criticized his lack of emotion. His most-performed work has long been a Cavatina for violin and piano which has featured in recitals by many a great violinist.

The beautifully turned performances by the Swiss-French-German cellist Christoph Croisé and the Moscow-trained Kazakh pianist Oxana Shevchenko show the often elegantly-textured Duo, two Fantasy Pieces and two Romances in a favourable light.

But even their advocacy can’t quite make a silk purse out of his four-movement Cello Sonata.