Joachim Raff (1822–1882) worked as Liszt’s secretary and amanuensis at Weimar for several years. (The presence of his handwriting in some of Liszt’s orchestral scores has led to much false speculation, some of which stemmed from Raff himself, as to how much, if any, input he had into the final texture of Liszt’s orchestration. A short period of study of Raff’s own orchestral music, some of which is very fine, and Liszt’s symphonic works makes it quite clear that Raff was working under instructions, and that their final sound-worlds are entirely different.) Raff completed his first opera König Alfred
in 1850 and Liszt produced it in Weimar the following year. Liszt’s two transcriptions from the opera appeared two years later, but did not really produce the desired effect of promoting further productions of the opera (but Raff went on to have great success with his next opera Dame Kobold
). The two excerpts which Liszt chose show at the very least the young Raff’s confidence, and the Andante is an intense and moving piece. The March is more conventional (and not dissimilar to the famous march from Raff’s Symphony No 5, ‘Lenore’), and allows Liszt—who suggests various alternative passages to avoid some of the four-square harmony of the original—to indulge in a little keyboard wizardry.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1996