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Typically for the music of Joseph Joachim Raff, this Sinfonietta has aspects that look both forward and backward in musical history. The handling of the ensemble and aspects of the harmony are modern for the time, yet it is reminiscent of earlier music in form and style. Raff especially realized the advance made possible by new key systems for wind instruments, and by the new valved and horns. His scoring for wind in orchestral works is unfailingly clear and colourful. The flute duet texture that is often associated with Tchaikovsky (for instance, in The Nutcracker) was a feature of Raff's music much earlier. This is a true Sinfonietta for the typical wind section of a classical symphony orchestra: two each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and French horns. This is most decidedly not a piece of chamber music for a dectet; still less is it a double wind quintet. The music is conceived like an orchestral symphony: the members combine to make a unit, submerging their individuality in the group. In many respects this Sinfonietta is the ancestor of numerous twentieth-century works bearing that title. It contradicts the Romantic trend of creating larger, more grandiose, and more blended ensembles, but points toawrds the twentieth century's interest in returning to small ensembles. Formally the work resembles the wind serenades of Mozart's time: a succession of movements in a genial, outgoing mood, with some resemblance to what might be called "symphonic form light." It is not a miniature work; it lasts 26 minutes, equal to many full-scale symphonies. The opening movement, Allegro, is contrapuntal in nature and here the texture most resembles the conversational chamber music ideal. The high point of the Sinfonietta is the second-movement Scherzo, marked Allegro molto. This is as delightful as any Mendelssohn scherzo and is one of Raff's most masterly individual movements. The slow movement, a singing Larghetto, has an example of Raff's pre-Tchaikovskian flute duet texture, playing graceful triplets. Raff, who was considered a leading composer of his time by many commentators, was often criticized by the Liszt-Wagner crowd for his lack of emotionalism, particularly in slow movements, and that is the case here. Raff usually foregoes the opportunity to bare his soul or at least put on tragic accents in slow movements. Here he produces a simple and attractive extended song. The finale, Vivace, is a skipping and relaxed concluding romp.

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