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Joachim RAFF (1822-1882)
Works for Violin and Piano, Volume 1.
First Grand Sonata, Op. 73 (1853/4) [27’53]. Duo, Op. 59 (1848, rev. 1852) [14’04]. Two Fantasy Pieces, Op. 58 (1850, 1852) [18’08: 8’48 + 9’16]. Duo on Motifs from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Op. 63 No. 2 (1853) [11’31].
Ingolf Turban (violin); Jascha Nemtsov (piano)
Rec. Chamber Music Studio of South West German Radio, Stuttgart, on June 20th, 21st and 23rd, 2000. DDD
CPO 999 767-2 [71’53]


This disc is pure pleasure from first to last (Volume 2 is now also available, CPO999 768-2). Ingolf Turban (who was offered the post of concertmaster with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra by Sergiu Celibidache when only 21 years old) has poured his talent and belief into these wonderfully attractive pieces. No less attractive is the playing of his accompanist, the Russian-Jewish pianist Jascha Nemtsov. The whole disc represents a meeting of equals and affords much pleasure.

It may take you almost as long to read the booklet notes as it does to listen to the music itself. Georg Albrecht Eckle provides well-informed and thorough background to both the composer and his representations here. Even without any of this, though, CPO’s generous 72 minutes worth guarantees much pleasure.

The disc begins with by far the heftiest item, the First Grand Sonata. This is music of very serious intent. Interestingly, despite its full duration of nearly 28 minutes, one expects the first movement to be longer than it actually is: is this a need to hear more from the players, or is it that Raff’s material is so fertile that he does not quite do it justice?. Whatever, the performance has real drive.

It is typical of Raff that the slow movement (with its qualifier, ‘nicht zu langsam’) contains great charm amongst its generally sober intent. The fact that both players are young probably meant that the cheeky end to the ‘sehr rach und fein’ second movement came easily to them. However, it is in the finale that the sparks really fly. There is superb violin playing, and Nemtsov despatches the fiendishly difficult piano part with apparent ease.

The overall trajectory of the works on this disc seems to be from the more ‘serious’ constraints of the sonata towards the salon. Thus, the Duo, Op. 59 and the Two Fantasy Pieces, Op. 58 separate the Sonata from a pot-pourri on themes from Tannhäuser. Eckle’s booklet notes make much of the influence of Mendelssohn on Raff, and this is certainly aurally obvious in the charming Duo. This is a fairly extended piece, but the easy flow makes the time fly by. It has to be admitted, though, that some of the linking passages are running low on the inspiration that fuelled the whole of the Grand Sonata.

The two Fantasy Pieces were written for Mendelssohn’s friend Ferdinand David. They contain much lovely playing here, often of a quasi-improvisational nature. Both players, although possibly particularly Nemtsov, revel in the tonally rich sounds available.

Finally, the first chord of the Tannhäuser Duo affirms our musico-geographical whereabouts. This is a flighty, fun recontextualisation of the familiar, which makes Wagner seem completely and utterly harmless. It is a fun way to end a most stimulating and rewarding release. The many difficulties are surmounted with ease by Turban and Nemtsov (try Turban’s excellently-placed high register at around 8’24, for example, immediately following a virtuoso-like passage from the pianist)..

Wholeheartedly recommended. This disc is a box of life-affirming delights waiting to be opened.

Colin Clarke



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