Fans of Joachim Raff should be interested in this disc, which includes four overtures and his Suite for piano and orchestra, all of which are recorded here for the first time. The orchestral performances with Roland Kluttig leading the Symphony Orchestra of Norrlands Opera are easily as fine as those of the complete symphonies by Stadlmair and the Bamberg Symphony, and pianist Tra Nguyen's performance of the suite is impressive both for its virtuosity and sensitivity. While Raff was an accomplished composer with a real talent for orchestration, he was rarely inspired to produce music that is much more than entertaining, and none of the music here rises above that level. The suite is a charming pastiche of Baroque dance forms done up in late Romantic colors, while the overtures are delightful works full of big tunes, bold colors, and high drama. Sadly, all these pieces, like Raff's symphonies, slip out of memory as soon as they are over, leaving no trace. Still, listeners who can't get enough of Raff, or who have an overwhelming urge to hear as much 19th century European orchestral music as has ever been recorded will want to try this disc. Sterling's digital sound is not nearly as clear or vivid as it ought to be.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
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