Discover Günter Raphael’s ballet, Jabonah

Günter Raphael (1903-1960)

Günter Raphael’s (1903-1960) life was surrounded by war and upheaval. Born into a musical family in Germany, he entered the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin in 1922. In 1926 he became professor of composition and theory at State Conservatory and at the Kirchenmusikalisches Institut, Leipzig in 1926. But this was short lived. When Nazis assumed power, Raphael’s Jewish ancestry led the Nazis to ban his music. He fled to Meinengen, Germany in 1934 to resume teaching, but his music did not receive any performances during this time. After the war, Raphael returned to East Germany, and in 1948 he was awarded the Liszt prize by the city of Dresden. He lived out the rest of his life in East Germany.

In 1948, Raphael composed the ballet suite, Jabonah. The style of the piece is reminscent of Soviet compositions. The saxophone solo, (minute 3:07 in the video below) brings a melancholy feel in contrast to the Copland-esque Russian march in the opening. I cannot find any information whether this was performed as a ballet or has been staged as a ballet since its premiere.

In the 1950s, Raphael composed several solos for alto saxophone. Divertimento für Altsaxophon in Es und Violoncello op. 74 in 1952, Sonata for für Altsaxophon in Es und Klavier in 1957, and Récitatif pour Saxophon alto et Piano in 1958. I find his Divertimento the most fascinating, with the cello providing a unique timbral and textural contrast to the saxophone. Here is one movement from the piece.

To find out more information about Günter Raphael and his works, check out this website dedicated to his life and work.

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Published by Mary Huntimer

Saxophonist, teacher, opera and silent movie enthusiast. All opinions are my own.

One thought on “Discover Günter Raphael’s ballet, Jabonah

  1. Remark on the biography of Günter Raphael:
    He did not continue to live in East Germany after WW2. 1949 he started teaching and composing in Duisburg, from 1956 in Cologne. During the 50s, Raphael and his family lived a few years in my home town Laubach, Hesse, because he needed fresh air (he suffered from Pneumonia since 1940). In fact, we are going to celebrate his 120th birthday in Laubach this year.


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