Walter BRAUNFELS (1882-1954) Orchestral Songs - Volume I Vorspiel und Prolog der Nachtigall op.30 No. 3 for soprano and orchestra after Aristophanes (from the opera Die Vögel) (1913) Zwei Hölderlin-Gesänge op.27 for baritone and orchestra (1916-18) Auf ein Soldatengrab op.26 for baritone and orchestra (1915) Abschied vom Walde op.30, 1 for tenor, soprano and orchestra after Aristophanes (from the opera Die Vögel) (1913) Don Juan op.34 (1924)
Valentina Farcas (soprano); Klaus Florian Vogt (tenor); Michael Volle (baritone)
Staatskapelle Weimar/Hansjörg Albrecht
rec. 7-11 September 2015, Redoute Weimar OEHMS CLASSICS OC1846 [68:08]
The music of German composer Walter Braunfels has been surging forward over the last decade. This can be traced back to Decca's ground-breaking revival of the opera Die Vögel (1920) which fledged as part of the Entartete Musik series in the 1990s. That opera, one of ten, was further refreshed by an Arthaus Blu-Ray in 2011. There have been three volumes of Braunfels' orchestral music from Dutton Epoch courtesy of conductor Johannes Wildner (Vol. 3) as well as individual discs from CPO, Capriccio, BR Klassik and Acanta.
The Vorspiel und Prolog der Nachtigall opens with a smoothly modest unassertive vision. The orchestration is silvery and ushers in some dizzyingly high singing for the soprano Valentina Farcas. The composer exercises restraint in his scene-setting yet at the same time fuels a fantasy which lies close to the boundary between operetta and full-blown opera. The two Hölderlin songs are taken by baritone Michael Volle. Again Braunfels proves himself a master of self-control. These songs lack the voluptuous abandon of Richard Strauss or even Zemlinsky but are most tellingly done. Like Auf ein Soldatengrab these Hölderlin songs date from the years of the Great War and there is certainly a dash of tragedy, night and threat in the second Hölderlin song. All three are sung with stern poetic tone by Volle who is called to sustain his breath control over some very long paragraphs in Auf ein Soldatengrab. This shows particularly when he is called on to sing quietly. Nevertheless one gets a good appreciation of the songs. Klaus Florian Vogt joins Fargas for Abschied vom Walde - like the Vorspiel und Prolog der Nachtigall a 'lift' from Die Vögel. These are not exotic settings but spring directly from the German late-romantic world. Do not expect diaphanous or uproarious expressionism. Do expect the language to be disciplined, inventive and clean-limbed.
The last and longest piece on the disc is not a song. Don Juan is a wild and affectionate fantasy on the Champagne aria from Mozart's Don Giovanni. Direct quotation is the order of the day and morphs, over seven variations, into then modernish styles. None of this is difficult or lacking in brilliance or enjoyment unless you object to such fantasy use of loved and revered originals. The seven variations are full of flighty and imaginative life - a touch of Berlioz here from time to time and of Richard Strauss's Don Juan in the final Presto variation. There's an alternative recording of Don Juan on Capriccio but I have not heard it and it is differently coupled from the present disc.
The words are printed in German only in the well designed booklet which is glued into the CD casing. The essay is by Dr Eva Gesina Baur and is present in German and English.
Volume 2 (OC1847) will follow later this year and will include Braunfels' Chinese and Japanese songs (each after Hans Bethge), as well as settings of Eichendorff, Brentano and Shakespeare. Albrecht will again be the conductor but this time with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin and three other solo singers. It's a shame that all the songs could not be included on one CD and Don Juan omitted given that the orchestral piece is already available on CD.
Vorspiel und Prolog der Nachtigall op. 30, 3
1. für Koloratursopran and orchestra (1913)
Text: Walter Braunfels nach Aristophanes konzipiert für die Oper Die Vögel [8:16]
Zwei Hölderlin-Gesänge op. 27 (1916–18)
für Bariton und Orchester
Text: Friedrich Hölderlin
2. An die Parzen [4:13]
3. Der Tod für’s Vaterland [11:31]
4. Auf ein Soldatengrab op. 26 (1915)
für Bariton und Orchester
Text: Hermann Hesse [4:21]
5. Abschied vom Walde op. 30, 1 (1913)
für Tenor und Orchester
Text: Walter Braunfels nach Aristophanes konzipiert für die Oper Die Vögel (dort „Schlussgesang des Hoffegut“) [5:13]
Don Juan op. 34 (1922-24)
Eine klassisch-romantische Phantasmagorie für großes Orchester über die „Champagner-Arie“ aus Mozarts Oper Don Giovanni
6. Introduktion & Thema [3:23]
7. Variation 1: Allegro [2:59]
8. Variation 2: Allegro [3:51]
9. Variation 3: Allegro con brio [3:25]
10. Variation 4: Mäßig [4:24]
11. Variation 5: Mäßig – Bewegter [6:31]
12. Variation 6: Andante [4:37]
13. Variation 7: Presto [5:24]