At long last, Tudor have boxed Hans Stadlmair's cycle of Raff's symphonies. This is an important effort by Stadlmair -- at the time of Raff's passing, he was among the most oft played composers in the concert halls of the world; a recognised giant. From that point on, however, his star waned until by the 1970's he had fallen into absolute obscurity. Fortunately, since then, we have seen several important steps taken in the rehabilitation of his reputation and legacy. Firstly, there was Bernard Herrmann's recording of Raff's excellent 5th symphony with the London Philharmonic in 1970. Later came the excellent recordings of two of Raff's finest creations -- the Ode au Printemps for piano and orchestra and the piano concerto -- by Peter Aronsky with Matthias Bamert conducting; it comes on this separate Tudor release. And then, there is Stadlmair's traverse of much of Raff's orchestral output...
This 9 cd box set incorporates all of the Tudor full-price (and now very hard to get!) releases involving the symphonies (rather than list them, I'll leave it to you to use the search facility; I'm sure you'll manage!). However, the box does not contain all of Stadlmair's recordings of orchestral music by Raff -- somewhat bizarrely, it omits the Shakespeare Overtures release. Now, while I wouldn't say thats an unmitigated disaster, it is a little disappointing. I can see absolutely no reason as to why Tudor would have decided to do this. Still, you can always snap up one of the last copies of that disk separately.
And what of Raff's music? Without getting into any technical details, I would describe Raff as an optimist; his music almost always seems to have a positive feel to it, and he never fails to lighten my mood. Personally, I find him a joy to listen to. This in no way should be interpreted as me saying Raff lacks depth or an ability to write "serious" music; its simply that his personal style has a wonderful freshness and vitality to it. It is very easy to understand why he was so popular in the concert halls of his day and much harder to fathom why we so rarely see him in the concert halls of today (in fact, I have never seen a live performance of any of his works).
This really is a great release by Tudor. Raff's 11 symphonies are worthy of your attention and now having them released at a decent price is a veritable boon to those who (unlike me!) didn't search out all the original releases individually. Raff really is a lost giant. Get this box and see what we are all missing. But don't stop there either; while you're at it, you really should get hold of the Ode au Printemps disk mentioned above, as well as the truly wonderful Six morceaux for violin and piano too.