Joachim Raff

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Joachim Raff (steel engraving by August Weger )

Joseph Joachim Raff (born May 27, 1822 in Lachen SZ , Switzerland ; † June 24, 1882 in Frankfurt am Main ) was a German composer and music teacher of Swiss origin.


Adolescent years

Joseph Joachim Raff grew up in Lachen on the upper part of Lake Zurich. His father, the schoolmaster (employed from 1817) and music teacher Franz Josef Raff, had fled to Switzerland in 1810 before forced recruitment in Württemberg , where he married the ox-keeper's daughter, Katharina Schmid, in Lachen in the canton of Schwyz . In 1838 he moved to Schmerikon , then to Schwyz . The modest income as a schoolmaster did not allow him to give his son Joachim a comprehensive education. At an early age, however, the boy practiced playing the violin, piano and organ.

When the papal nuncio needed an interpreter for an official matter, Joachim entered work as his companion at the age of 18. He proved his worth and became a teacher in Rapperswil that same year . However, his thoughts were on music, and four years later he freed himself from teaching. As a result of a youth prank, he was expelled from the canton of Schwyz as an “undesirable foreigner” and moved to Zurich . When he found out that Franz Liszt would give a concert in Basel , the opportunity arose in the summer of 1845 to experience and see his great role model for himself. Since he had no travel money, he marched on foot in the pouring rain. Unfortunately, all the seats were sold out, but Liszt found out about his admirer, also let him into the concert hall and gave him a special place on the stage. Through Liszt's mediation, Raff got a job in a Cologne music shop from autumn 1845. This ended his time in Switzerland.

Beginnings as a composer

Raff was mainly self-taught , but his first compositions already showed a great talent. In an effort to make himself financially independent and to become known as quickly as possible, he fell into a real compositional fever and produced as if on an assembly line, which was not very beneficial for his artistic development. In a letter he stated that he wanted to force his composing career by force.

On Mendelssohn's and Liszt's recommendation, Breitkopf's first compositions appeared in print. Nobody wanted to sign a permanent contract with him, which would have been necessary for a future as an independent composer , which is partly due to Raff's often undiplomatic, sometimes know-it-all behavior. In his desperation over the never-to-come breakthrough and the fact that Liszt did not give him enough support in his opinion, Raff turned to his father’s home and moved to Stuttgart , but had to live a meager life there as an occasional music teacher.

In Stuttgart he met the pianist Hans von Bülow , who was to become his sponsor and long-term friend. After a job in a publishing house in Hamburg and an extensive letter of apology to Liszt, he returned to Weimar in 1849 , this time as his personal secretary and assistant. Raff primarily had to orchestrate Liszt's orchestral works, which earned him no laurels but plenty of experience. His opera King Alfred was well received by the audience. In Weimar he met Doris Genast, whom he was to marry in 1859.

He also made the acquaintance of the virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim here, made friends with him and encouraged him to compose. Helene Raff writes: "When they signed in the foreign books, they had fun with how nice the two names were to each other." Hans von Bülow says: "Apart from Raff and his first name, I don't deal with anyone here." The three friends wrote virtuoso chamber and piano music together.

Wiesbaden years and increasing success

Because the great success was a long time coming, Raff moved to Doris in Wiesbaden in 1853 . With his first symphony An das Vaterland on the song Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland? whose patriotism hit the nerve of the times, in 1861 he won first prize at the music competition of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna with a prominent jury ; the first performance took place on February 22nd, 1863 in the Wiener Musikverein .

The symphony Im Walde quickly spread his fame, as did the fifth symphony Leonore, which is still occasionally played today . In Wiesbaden, where Raff also spent some time with his colleague Richard Wagner , he worked until 1877. In addition to his initial activity as a teacher for piano and lecturer for harmony, this time is considered to be his most productive phase of compositional work. The increasing success of his works allowed him to work as a freelance composer from the beginning of the 1870s.

Frankfurt years and death

Grave in the main cemetery in Frankfurt

In 1878, he was appointed first director of the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main , which thanks to his work quickly gained an international reputation. This fulfilled his dearest wish for a secure existence. During five years he demonstrated his great abilities as a teacher and organizer and was highly regarded as a composer and conservatory director. Companions from this time included Clara Schumann and Julius Stockhausen .

Joachim Raff died of a heart attack in his Frankfurt apartment in 1882. The burial took place in Frankfurt's main cemetery on June 27, with great sympathy from the population (grave location: Gewann D 298). The city magistrate declared the grave to be a grave of honor . Condolences arrived from all over the world. Then it gradually became quiet around him. His works, which were still at home in concert halls at the turn of the 20th century, soon fell into oblivion. On the occasion of his 150th birthday, a memorial was unveiled in 1972 in his birthplace, Lachen.

Post fame

Eclectic and productive, Raff caught the eye of his contemporaries for his keen intellect. During his lifetime he was considered one of the most sought-after composers in the German cultural area and was placed on a par with Wagner and Brahms by contemporary commentators . His compositional work includes operas , sonatas , symphonies , instrumental concerts , suites as well as overtures and chamber music. The first versions of Franz Liszt's early symphonic poems, which Franz Liszt conceived on the piano and left to Raff to orchestrate according to his specifications, are also due to his orchestration.

His works were performed frequently during Raff's lifetime. In the 20th century he was largely forgotten, and his compositions were judged unfavorably. Since around 1970, and especially since the 1980s, numerous works (especially instrumental music) have been published on phonograms, so that you can judge for yourself.

With the rediscovery of Romanticism , an upgrading of his work seems to be on the way. Certainly not everything Raff wrote was of the same rank. However, his best compositions are characterized by a rich artistic disposition and expressiveness. With taste he knew how to combine forms of the then frowned upon baroque and classical with the ideas of his time.


Portrait from a younger age
Memorial plaque, Lachen SZ (Switzerland)


  • King Alfred (Text: Gotthold Logau), great heroic opera in 4 acts, WoO 14, 1848–50, first performance in Weimar in 1851
  • Samson (Text: Joachim Raff, 1851–52), musical tragedy in 5 acts, WoO 21, 1853–57, rev .: 1865, unpublished
  • The password (text: Joachim Raff under the pseudonym Arnold Börner, 1867), comic opera in 3 acts, WoO 30, 1868, unpublished
  • Dame Kobold (text: Paul Reber after Calderón ), dedicated to the Grand Duchess Sophie of Saxony Weimar, comic opera in 3 acts, op.154, 1869, first performance in Weimar in 1870
  • Benedetto Marcello (Art and Love), (Text: Joachim Raff, 1875), lyrical opera in 3 acts, WoO 47, 1877–78
  • Die Jeaersuchtigen (Text: Joachim Raff, 1880), Komische Oper in 3 Akten, WoO 55, 1881–82, unpublished

Works for choir and orchestra

  • Psalm 121 for soprano, alto, choir and orchestra, WoO 8 (1848, unpublished)
  • Te Deum for mixed choir and orchestra, WoO 16 (1853, unpublished)
  • Sleeping Beauty , fairy tale epic for solos, choir and orchestra, WoO 19 (1854, unpublished)
  • Wake up! (Emanuel Geibel), cantata for solos, choir and orchestra, op.80
  • Resurrection of Germany , cantata for male choir and orchestra, cantata for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig, op. 100, 1862/3
  • Psalm 130 De Profundis for 8-part soprano, choir and orchestra, dedicated to Franz Liszt, op.141, 1867
  • Two songs for mixed choir and orchestra, op.171, 1871
    • No. 1 In the boat
    • No. 2 The Dance (Paul Flemming)
  • Morning song (JE Jacobi) for mixed choir and orchestra, op.186A, 1873
  • A Lullaby (Arnold Börner, pseudonym Raffs) for soprano, choir and orchestra, op.186B, 1873
  • The times of day (Helge Heldt, pseudonym Helene Raffs) for choir, piano and orchestra, op.209, 1877
  • Die Sterne (Helge Heldt, pseudonym Helene Raffs), cantata for choir and orchestra, WoO 54, 1880 (unpublished)
  • World end - judgment - new world . Oratorio based on the words of the Holy Scriptures, especially the Revelation of St. John for mezzo-soprano, baritone, choir and orchestra, op.212, 1879-81


  • Great Symphony in E minor in 5 sections , WoO 18 (WP 1855, lost)
  • Symphony No. 1 in D major, op. 96 ("To the Fatherland") (1859–1861)
  • Symphony No. 2 in C major, op.140 (1866)
  • Symphony No. 3 in F major, op. 153 ("Im Walde") (1869)
  • Symphony No. 4 in G minor, op.167 (1871)
  • Symphony No. 5 in E major, op. 177 ("Lenore") (1872)
  • Symphony No. 6 in D minor, op. 189 ("Lived - Strived, Suffered - Contested, Died - Courted") (1873)
  • Symphony No. 7 in B flat major, op. 201 ("In the Alps") (1875)
  • Symphony No. 8 in A major, op. 205 ("Spring Sounds") (1876)
  • Symphony No. 9 in E minor, op. 208 ("In Summer") (1878)
  • Symphony No. 10 in F minor, op. 213 ("At Autumn Time") (1879)
  • Symphony No. 11 in A minor, op. 214 ("The Winter") (1876)

Other orchestral works

  • Suite for orchestra No. 1 in C major, op.101
  • Orchestral Suite No. 2 In the Hungarian Way , op.194
  • Italian suite for orchestra
  • Suite for orchestra from Thuringia (with the sentences Salus intrantibus / Elisabethenhymne / dance of gnomes and sylphs / variations on a folk song / rural festival )
  • Overture to King Alfred
  • Overture to Benedetto Marcello
  • Overture to Die Parole
  • Overture to Lady Kobold
  • Overture to The Jealous
  • Overture The Tempest based on Shakespeare
  • Overture Othello after Shakespeare
  • Macbeth overture after Shakespeare
  • Overture Romeo and Juliet after Shakespeare
  • Jubilee Overture , op.103
  • Festival overture , op.117
  • Concert overture , op.123
  • Our God is a strong castle , overture to a drama from the Thirty Years War, op.127
  • Sinfonietta , op.188 for ten wind instruments (1873)
  • Elegy for orchestra, WoO 48
  • In the evening , Rhapsody for orchestra, op.163b
  • Orchestration of Bach's Chaconne , BWV 1004


  • "La Fée d'Amour", concert piece for violin and orchestra, op. 67 (1854)
  • "Ode au printemps", concert piece for piano and orchestra, op. 76 (1857)
  • Piano Concerto in C minor, op.185 (1873)
  • Suite for piano and orchestra in E flat major, op.200 (1875)
  • Suite for violin and orchestra in G minor, op.180
  • Violin Concerto No. 1 in B minor, op.161 (1871)
  • Violin Concerto No. 2 in A minor, op.206 (1877)
  • "Ungarischer" from op. 203 for violin and orchestra (1876)
  • «Berceuse» from op. 203 for violin and orchestra (1876)
  • "Cavatina" from op. 85 for violin and orchestra (1859)
  • Cello Concerto No. 1 in D minor, op.193 (1874)
  • Cello Concerto No. 2 in G major, WoO 45 (1876)

Chamber music with piano

  • Violin Sonata No. 1 E minor “Grand Sonate”, op. 73
  • Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, op.78
  • Violin Sonata No. 3 in D major, op.128
  • Violin Sonata No. 4 in G minor, op. 129 "Chromatic Sonata in one movement"
  • Violin Sonata No. 5 in C minor, op.145
  • “From Switzerland” for violin and piano, op. 57
  • Two fantasy pieces for violin and piano, op.58
  • Duo for violin and piano, op.59
  • Duo for violin and piano, op.63.1
  • Duo for violin and piano on themes from Tannhäuser , op. 63.2
  • Duo for violin and piano, op.63.3
  • Six Morceaux for violin and piano, op.85
  • Sonatilles for violin and piano, op.99
  • Volker , cyclical tone poem for violin and piano, op.203
  • Fantasy pieces for violoncello and piano, op.86
  • Duo for violoncello and piano, op.59
  • Piano Trio No. 1 in C minor, op.102
  • Piano Trio No. 2 in G major, op.112
  • Piano Trio No. 3 in A minor, op.155
  • Piano Trio No. 4 in D major, op.158
  • Piano quartet No. 1 in G major, op. 202 No. 1
  • Piano quartet No. 2 in C minor, op. 202 No. 2
  • Piano quintet in A minor “Grand Quintuor”, op. 107

Chamber music without a piano

  • String Quartet No. 1 in D minor, op.77
  • String Quartet No. 2 in A major, op.90
  • String Quartet No. 3 in E minor, op.136
  • String Quartet No. 4 in A minor, op.137
  • String Quartet No. 5 G major, op.138
  • String Quartet No. 6 in C minor, Op. 192 No. 1, "Suite in older form"
  • String Quartet No. 7 in D major, op.192 No. 2, "The beautiful miller"
  • String Quartet No. 8 in C major, op.192 No. 3, "Suite in canon form"
  • Sextet for 2 violins, 2 violas, 2 violoncellos in G minor, op.178
  • Octet for 4 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos in C major, op.176

Piano for 2 hands

  • Album lyrique, op.13
  • Grande Sonate in E flat minor, op.14
  • 6 poems, op.15
  • Romance in A flat major, op.41
  • Heralds of Spring, op.55
  • 9 Swiss tunes, op. 60
  • Suite No. 1 in A minor, op.69
  • Suite No. 2 in C major, op.71
  • Suite No. 3 in E minor, op.72
  • Suite en 12 Morceaux pour petits mains, op.73
  • Ballad, Scherzo and Metamorphoses, op.74
  • Suite No. 4 in D minor, op.91
  • Cachucha-Caprice, op.79
  • Valse-Impromptu, op.94
  • Polka de la Reine, op.95
  • 3 sonatinas, op.99
  • 5 Eglogues, op.105
  • Fantasy Polonaise, op.106
  • Valse-Caprice, op.116
  • Spanish Rhapsody, op.120
  • Leaves and Flowers, op.135
  • Fantasy, op.142
  • Barcarolle, op.143
  • Valse brilliant in E flat major, op.156
  • Suite No. 5 in G minor, op.162
  • Suite No. 6 in G major, op.163
  • La Cicerenella, op.165
  • Two pieces, op.166
  • Fantasy Sonata, op.168
  • Two pieces, op.169
  • Variations on an Original Theme, op.179
  • Memory of Venice, op.187
  • Four piano pieces, op.196
  • Suite No. 7 in B flat major, op.204
  • Fantasy in B major, WoO 15a

Piano for 4 hands

  • 12 pieces, op.82
  • Humoresque in the form of a waltz, op.159
  • Travel pictures (3 booklets), op.169
  • From the dance salon, op.174

2 pianos

  • Chaconne in A minor, op.150
  • Fantasia in G minor, op.207


  • The Wagner question - critically illuminated. First part. Wagner's last artistic rally in the “Lohengrin” . Printed and published by Friedrich Vieweg and Son, Braunschweig, 1854 ( digitized in the Google book search).

Discography (selection)

vinyl record

  • Capriccio in F sharp minor (op.64), Saltarello in E minor (op.108) and Am Giessbach, Etude (op.88). Together with works by Theodor Kirchner and Theodor Fröhlich: Swiss Romantic Piano Music. Charles Dobler, piano. undated, Rimaphon RILP 30-025.
  • Concerto for piano and orchestra in C minor (op.185). Together with works by Ferdinand Hiller, Ignaz Moscheles and Hans Bronsart von Schellendorf: Romantic piano concertos. Michel Ponti, Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, Richard Kapp. undated, FONO Schallplatten-GmbH, Münster FSM33034 / 35.
  • Suite in D minor for piano solo (op.91). Adrian Ruiz, piano. 1971, genesis Records, Inc. GS1009
  • Sinfonietta (op.188) for ten wind instruments. Together with works by Joseph Hartmann Stuntz and Xaver Schnyder von Wartensee: Swiss composers. Winds of the Orchestra della Radio Svizzera Italiana, Leopoldo Casella. 1971, Communautéde travail.
  • Symphony No. 3 (“Im Walde”), op. 153 (Westphalian Symphony Orchestra, Richard Kapp) & “Ode to the Spring” (op. 76). Michael Ponti, Hamburg Symphony, Richard Kapp. 1972 Candide / Fox Productions CE31063 & STGBY667
  • Symphony No. 8 in A major, op. 205 ("Spring Sounds"). Radio Symphony Orchestra Basel, György Lehel. 1978, Ex Libris Dietikon-Zurich, EL17008.
  • Symphony No. 9 in E minor, op. 208 (“In Summer”) - Basel Radio Symphony Orchestra, Jean-Marie Auberson. 1981, Ex Libris AG, EL17025.
  • Symphony No. 5 in E major, op. 177 (“Lenore”). RSO Berlin. schwann musica mundi, 1983.


At the end of 2018, almost 70 CDs of his works were available.

  • Cello Concertos - op.193, op.86 no.1, op.59, no.2 Op. posth. Daniel Müller-Schott (cello), Bamberg Symphony , Hans Stadlmair . BR-Klassik & TUDOR, 2004
  • Symphony No. 9 in E minor, op. 208 (“In the summer”). Jean-Marie Auberson, Radio Symphony Orchestra Basel. Ex Libris CD 6090, 1981 and 1988: Ex Libris AG, CH-8953 Dietikon
  • Piano works, 6 CDs. Tra Nguyen (Grand Piano). Naxos, 2012, 2014 and 2015


Letters from J. Raff from 1852 to 1875 are in the holdings of the Leipzig music publisher CF Peters in the Leipzig State Archives . In the house where he was born in Lachen, the Joachim Raff Archive with autographs , first editions, etc. was opened in 2018 under the leadership of Res Marty - head of the Joachim Raff Society . a. abandoned objects opened.



Web links

Commons : Joachim Raff  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Article on Joachim Raff. (PDF) SWR2, May 8, 2017
  2. a b Helene Raff: Joachim Raff: Ein Lebensbild . In: German Music Library . tape 42 . Gustav Bosse Verlag, Regensburg 1925, p. 94 f .
  3. ^ Article on Joachim Raff. (PDF) SWR2, May 10, 2017
  4. ^ Article on Joachim Raff. (PDF) SWR2, May 11, 2017
  5. Ed. H. (i.e. Eduard Hanslick ):  Feuilleton. Music. The price symphonies…. In:  Die Presse , February 24, 1863, p. 1f. (Online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / maintenance / apr
  6. * - * Joachim Raff's funeral…. In:  Neue Zeitschrift für Musik , July 21, 1882, p. 328 (online at ANNO ). Joachim Raff's funeral took place on June 27th, attended by many of the people of Frankfurt. At the entrance to the cemetery, the theater orchestra received the coffin richly decorated with flowers with the sounds of the funeral march from Beethoven's Eroica , at the grave the teachers' association joined in the singing of the monks from Schiller's Tell, composed by BA Weber : "Death comes quickly to man". After the ceremonies of the Catholic Rite were performed, Mr. Dir. Veith on behalf of the Curatorium of the Hoch'schen Conservatorium, then Mr. Prof. Böhm on behalf of the teaching staff warm words of thanks and appreciation for the rich merits of the departed. Deputations from local and foreign associations laid palm trees and wreaths on the grave and the funeral ceremony was concluded with the choir “Des Pilgers Reise” by Cornelius . -Template: ANNO / Maintenance / nzm
  7. Guide to the graves of well-known personalities in Frankfurt cemeteries . Frankfurt am Main 1985, p. 13
  8. ^ Gerhard Schuhmacher: Raff, Joseph Joachim . In: Marc Honegger, Günther Massenkeil (Hrsg.): The large lexicon of music in eight volumes . tape 6 . Herder, Freiburg / Basel / Vienna 1981, ISBN 3-451-18056-1 , p. 392–393, here p. 393 .
  9. ^ Paula Rehberg: Franz Liszt. The story of his life, work and work . Artemis-Verlag, Zurich / Stuttgart 1961, DNB  453952763 , p. 180–181 : "He was a good and productive composer, but his lack of ingenious momentum and an overly strong connection to Liszt's style prevented him from attaining a meaning that would endure over time."
  10. ^ Alfred Baumgartner: Propylaea world of music - The composers . A lexicon in five volumes. Edited edition. tape 4 . Propylaen, Berlin / Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 3-549-07830-7 , pp. 419–420, here p. 420 : “The 214 works by Joachim Raff disappeared from the programs very soon after his death, because they were probably brilliantly contrapuntal and skillfully orchestrated, but devoid of any originality. This applies to his 6 operas (...) as well as to his 11 symphonies, which probably all have programmatic titles (...) but do not express them musically. "
  11. ^ Alfred Baumgartner: Propylaea world of music - The composers . A lexicon in five volumes. Edited edition. tape 4 . Propylaen, Berlin / Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 3-549-07830-7 , pp. 419-420, here p. 420 .
  12. ^ Alfred Baumgartner: Propylaea world of music - The composers . A lexicon in five volumes. Edited edition. tape 4 . Propylaen, Berlin / Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 3-549-07830-7 , pp. 419-420, here p. 420 .
  14. Discussion of the new release: Chamber and House Music. . In:  Neue Zeitschrift für Musik , July 1, 1861, p. 4 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / nzm
  15. Joachim Raff - books, CDs, sheet music and more - Retrieved December 29, 2018 .
  16. ^ "Personal" Swiss Radio DRS, January 29, 2012, from minute 37