Walter Braunfels Piano Music presents a different face

Capriccio continues its survey of Walter Braunfels’ music. This installment features music for the piano — mostly piano four-hand music. Braunfels was a concert pianist, so these works lay well on the keyboards. And they also demand a lot from the players.

Tatjana Blome and Holger Groschopp perform with distinction. Their interpretation of Braunfels Post-Romantic music leans into the drama and the emotion. And their technical skills ensure the complex counterpoints Braunfels weaves between the instruments is clearly articulated.

The Variations on an Old French Song for two pianos get the program off to a lively start. The tune is simple enough. Through 18 variations Braunfels transforms it, sometimes using the melody as the foundation for entirely new music. At times it seemed as if each performer was playing something different that still managed to blend together harmonically.

Also impressive were Little Pieces for Four-Hand Piano. Blome and Groschopp dial back the intensity, letting the simplicity of this suite come through.

Tatjana Blome takes center stage for the Bagatelles. Baker’s defines a bagatelle as “a trifle; usually a short, fairly easy piece.” Braunfels’ bagatelles are certainly short. And the melodies are easy to follow. But the thick textures and independent lines make me think they are anything but easy. Nevertheless, Blome seems to just glide through these works.

Braunfels was a pianist who achieved recognition as a symphonic composer. I heard both aspects in these works. Braunfels uses the piano effectively, and the four-hands music seemed to have an expansive symphonic quality to it.

A nice edition to Capriccio’s series.

Walter Braunfels: Piano Music
Variations on an Old French Song for 2 pianos, Op. 46; Little Pieces for Four-Hand Piano, Op. 24; Bagatellen, Op. 5
Tatjana Blome, Holger Groschopp, piano
Capriccio C5361

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