Raif, Oscar



Noted piano teacher; born at The Hague; of mixed descent, including Turkish, Italian and Swiss ancestors, he was "proud to call himself a Dutchman." His first music lessons were received from his father, Carl Raif, but he turned his attention to painting for several years. About the age of eighteen, he took up music study under Tausig, and soon rose into high esteem as a pianist, being distinguished from the majority of his contemporaries on the concert stage by his natural and artistic interpretations. Raif's health failed and he was compelled to give up private practise as well as public playing. In this crisis he concentrated his attention on the work of teaching, and in 1875 was appointed professor of piano at the Royal High School of Music, Berlin. He formulated an original system of technic, in which a prominent feature is that of using the thumb very softly in technical practice. In common with several prominent American teachers, Raif largely discarded the use of piano studies of purely technical type, condensing essentials into a concise form, known as his " Pocket Technique," and thus leaving more time for the development of the musical understanding, in which he is said to have been especially successful in training his pupils, making them independent in working new numbers for their repertory, both in technic and interpretation. He left but few compositions, the only ones of which we can find any mention being a piano concerto, and a sonata for violin and piano. Raif married one of h'is pupils. Unlike the majority of musicians, he found his most congenial friends among other professions; he was modest, very popular with his pupils, both as a teacher and as a man, and almost "too indifferent about public opinion."