Raff, Joachim


Raff, Joachim

Aus Thüringen, suite for orchestra

Art.-Nr.: 1947 Kategorie:


Joachim Raff

(b. Lachen near Zurich, 27 May 1822 – d. Frankfurt/Main, 24 June 1882)


Aus Thüringen



Following the legendary student protest rally in 1817 which commemorated the 300th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, the Wartburg Castle rose to become a place of national symbolic significance, to which the idea of the ‘birth of German nationalism from the spirit of Protestantism’ was firmly attached.1 The history of the artistic reception of the Wartburg myth, too, shows the extent to which the latter contributed to the legitimation of national unification. From the end of the 18th century writers like Novalis, E. T. A. Hoffmann or Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué tackled ‘the minstrels’ contest on the Wartburg’, which was shrouded in myth, and wove out of the spirit of the middle ages utopias for the future, a third age that would have the artist at its core. Soon the Wartburg myth served the dynastic self-assurance of the House of Saxe-Weimar, which in 1853 gave the order for the restoration of the castle, albeit in the spirit of Catholicism.2 The figure of St Elizabeth, who once lived in the castle, flourished in the arts: in 1853/54 Moritz von Schwind decorated the Wartburg with the famous Elizabeth frescoes. Franz Liszt, whose oratorio Die Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth (The Legend of St Elizabeth) also relates stories from the life of the Wartburg saint, was a passionate advocate of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser, which at the time was one of the most frequently performed stage works in Weimar. Among the numerous composers who traced this myth in music was Joachim Raff. Helene, his daughter and biographer, tells of ultimately uncompleted projects of a ‘Wartburg opera’ and a Wartburg Symphony, from which his suite Aus Thüringen (Thüringian Suite) is supposed to have evolved.3


Raff, who was more of a moderate liberal than a utopian revolutionary, rarely made great show of his political position. In the combative articles he wrote as a correspondent for the Wiener Allgemeine Musikzeitung in 1846/47 he presents himself as a liberal elitist in favour of German unification who nevertheless holds firm to the rule of the aristocracy.4 However, he rejected the ‘ridiculous German chauvinism’ of the Second Empire.5 His moderate liberal stance becomes evident in his Geibel settings or in his symphony An das Vaterland (To the Fatherland), which gave him his break-through as a freelance composer.6 Raff’s understanding of the symphony as a genre which was ‘specifically musical’ and ‘authentically German’ is based on a principle rooted in the idea of the nation: in terms of musical aesthetics he stands in the tradition of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Theodor Vischer and especially Franz Brendel, and so he expected from the symphonist the synthesis of the artistic styles of all nations, since he regarded the German style as ‘universal’.7 Raff’s works in this form can moreover be located in the tradition of the ‘bourgeois realism’ to which Martin Geck ascribed Robert Schumann’s works of the 1840s and 1850s.8 It could have been Raff’s intention to contribute to the constitution of a pan-German society with an – at least superficially – accessible ‘national’ music in the popular style. Such national traits are to be found in the suites of his contemporaries. Elements of popular culture played an increasingly decisive role in the last quarter of the century: the final movement of Franz Lachner’s Sixth Orchestral Suite goes so far as to represent the German victory of 1870/71




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210 x 297 mm