Early Music by Walter Braunfels Promising

For their ninth release of music by Walter Braunfels, Capriccio concentrates on some of his earlier music. Braunfels had the misfortune to fall between two stools. Before WWII, he was considered too modern (by the Nazis), and after the war, too conservative by everyone else.

Listening to a century after the fact, I think his music sounds just fine. Don Gil von den grünen Hosen reminds me quite strongly of Richard Strauss’ Don Juan. It has the same swaggering attitude and larger-than-life symphonic gestures.

The earliest work is Ariel’s Gesang, composed in 1910. It’s a work of quiet beauty, rich with late-Romantic lyricism. Braunfels’ Serenade in E-flat major was written around the same time. It also luxuriates thick harmonies that flow easily into one another.

The 1929 Divertimento for radio-orchestra is a little bit leaner. The harmonies aren’t as dense, and the small orchestra includes saxophones. It gives the work a modernist sound, and at times hints at early Kurt Weil in attitude.

The ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra under Gregor Buhl turn in some solid performances. I’ve enjoyed discovering Braunfels’ music one release at a time. I think I prefer the composer’s later style, but these are a good entry point into his catalog.

 Walter Braunfels – Don Gil, Divertimento, Ariel’s Song, Serenade
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra; Gregor Buhl, conductor
Capriccio C542

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