Raff: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 5

If all you know of Raff is his Cavatina, get this disc urgently. It shows so many sides of the composer's voice ...

Raff: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 5

While the name of Joachim Raff (1822-1882) might be associated with his Cavatina, his output was vast.

The Fifth Quartet (G-Major, Op. 138) begins with an expansive first movement:

The helter-skelter Scherzo follows:

The expansive slow movement, a Larghetto, is simply gorgeous. But notice the occasional unexpected chromatic 'slips' Raff puts in, which dramatically increases the range of expressivty. First violin Daniel Bell has a cantabile to die for; his instrument repeatedly sings swetely over this olleagues.

The finale has some positively delicious counterpoint between the instruments, delivered expertly here. This ia virtuoso performance:

The String Quartet No. 1 in D-Minor, Op. 77 opens with a first movemet that is remarkably dark and troubled. Not adjectives one readily asspciates with Raff's music, but we do hear another side of him here. The music - and performance here by the excellent Mannheim Quartet - has a rugged concentration about it:

The Scherzo, placed second, has a deliciously madcap element to it. The players are asked to play “very merrily, as fast as possible”: quite the ask, and brilliantly realised by the Mannheimers:

The slow movement is fascinating because of Raff’s use of texture: fantastically varied and inventive throughout, shedding multiple lightson the inspired melodic material. Again, Bell's violin gives great pleasure:

The finale is fascinating, not least the end. The booklet notes leave the reader hanging about this as well - perhaps the best way to enjoy Raff's clever and effectice close is just to listen!:

If all you know of Raff is his Cavatina, get this disc urgently. It shows so many sides of Raff's voice. cpo has done such work for this composer (including Raff's symphonies) - this is but one of many discs that will, without doubt, enhance your life.