Joseph Joachim Raff's eleven symphonies receive the occasional recording though remain strangers to the concert hall (as far as I can see). If you are looking for something out of the ordinary among high romantic symphonism, however, they are one of the obvious places to go to. Though the basic tonal language is reminiscent of Schumann and Mendelssohn, Raff's music is - contrary to some claims - not without a certain personal touches, and he was an excellent craftsman wih more than the occasional first-rate idea. The seventh symphony, "In the Alps", dates from 1875 and seems not to be among the more popular of his symphonies, but it is nevertheless a good example of his craft, with plenty of inspired passages and moments.
The first movement, "Wanderung im Hochgebirge" ("wandering in the high mountains"), is a substantial one, though despite its substantial duration it never outstays its welcome. Richard Strauss it isn't, but its generally sunny character is atmospheric enough and the movement pulls you along even if it is hard to find any clear, narrative momentum (it does not employ sonata form, for instance). The second movement, "In der Herberge", is enjoyable with touches of Mendelssohnian impishness (though it is dance-like rather than fiery), and the third, "Am See" ("by the lake") is beautiful and moving, and delectably scored. The finale, "Beim Schwingfest", is a jolly affair without any of the gravitas one might have expected from a finale, though it brings this very attractive work to a compelling close. Overall, the music might strike one as conservative - if very compelling - but there are some interesting and surprising touches in terms of both color and form.
The coupling is a relatively hollow Jubilee Overture, which - as so many similar occasional works (and it is an occasional work written to celebrate the twenty-fifth year of the reign of Prince Adolf, Duke of Nassau) - is predictably based on the tune of God Save the Queen, which is used in a lot of places as a Royal or National anthem so there is no British connection. It works little better than the numerous other occasional works based on that tune, being a pretty boring, bombastic affair, that even Raff's scoring abilites are unable to save. The performances by the Philharmonia Hungarica are very good, though, with plenty of color and warmth, and Werner Andreas Albert leads a performance with plenty of spirit and verve and forward drive. The sound is good, as are the notes. In the end, this may not be music to shake the world, but the symphony is compelling and enjoyable, and should appeal to anyone who enjoys the byways of romantic music.