Walter Braunfels

Biography

Born: December 19, 1882; Frankfurt, Germany   Died: March 19, 1954; Cologne, Germany  
Walter Braunfels was one of those all-too-ubiquitous figures in the German musical world of the 1920s and early '30s, who -- through no fault of his, and even less of his music -- managed to go from the center of the musical world to near-complete-obscurity as a composer. And that obscurity lingered for decades after his death in 1954, until the end of the twentieth century, when he was belatedly rediscovered. He was born in Frankfurt in 1882, to Read more a wealthy and artistically prominent family, and his mother, a great-niece of Louis Spohr, was his first music teacher. He later studied at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, although music had to compete with law and economics -- which he studied in Munich -- during his late teen years. It was a performance of Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, conducted by Felix Mottl, that pushed him to cast his career lot with music. He studied piano with Theodor Leschetizky in Vienna, and composition in Munich with Mottl and Ludwig Thuille. The strongest influence on his work, among major established composers, was Berlioz, whose concert and stage works he saw performed, mostly courtesy of Mottl. In terms of the practical life of a musician, Braunfels' piano skills were more than sufficient to keep him as fully employed as he wished or needed, from the teens onward, but he was active in other areas of music, as well. As a composer, Braunfels achieved some considerable prominence in Germany in the immediate post-World War I era, where his music -- boldly experimental in key respects, yet melodic and accessible enough to hold the listeners of the prior generation -- attracted critical acclaim and an enthusiastic audience. His greatest success was his opera Die Vögel (1920), based on Aristophanes' The Birds, which Alfred Einstein compared, following its Munich premiere (conducted by Bruno Walter) to Pfitzner's Palestrina and Wagner's Meistersinger. His second opera, Don Gil von der grunen hosen, dating from 1924, was also a success and saw numerous productions in the German-speaking world of the 1920s following its premiere under Hans Knappertsbusch. And his Te Deum, presented in Cologne, inspired the invitation of the city's mayor, Konrad Adenauer, the establish the Academy of Music in that city in collaboration with Hermann Abendroth.

But the very attributes that made his work so alluring in Weimar Germany, coupled with decisions he was forced to make in the early '20s, brought an end to his public music activities in the decade that followed. Although he was descended from Jewish ancestors on one side of his family, Braunfels regarded himself -- and, indeed, was -- a devout Catholic. And on that basis alone, he had a built-in abhorence for the National Socialist (Nazi) Party and was a political opponent, within the musical world, of those he found to be party members. Additionally, as one of Germany's most promising new composers of the era, he had been asked in the early 1920s to compose an anthem for the Nazi Party, which he declined to do, apparently with excessive vehemence. These matters put him permanently on the wrong side of the National Socialists, and in 1933 his music -- which had not disqualified him from being a recipient of their request in the 1920s -- was banned from public performance. Braunfels gave up his Cologne post but remained in Germany, not imprisoned but effectively in internal exile for the duration of the Hitler years. His disappearance from musical life in Germany during the Nazi regime scarcely affected him personally or artistically, as Braunfels never ceased composing; after the fall of Hitler at the outset of the reconstruction of Germany, he was one of the nation's few remaining resident major musical figures untouched by association with events of the preceding 12 years. He found himself regarded by the new Democratic German government as an essential figure in the restoration of the nation's cultural life. He resumed his formal musical activities at the Cologne Academy of Music in the fall of 1945, at the urging of the government, eventually becoming its president. His compositions, however, were not of interest to audiences in 1950s Germany, and at the time of his death in 1954, Braunfels had been out of the spotlight for decades as a creative musician. Upon his death, this obscurity was, if anything, exacerbated. It was only in the late '80s, as Germany began a concerted examination of its lost cultural past, exhuming and seeing performances of works branded as "degenerate" by the Nazis and subsequently forgotten, that his reputation as a composer was restored. Die Vögel, in particular, was returned to the opera houses of the world, and received a full recording in 1996, some 76 years after its premiere. Read less
Braunfels: Grosse Messe, Op. 37 / Weigle
Release Date: 06/10/2016   Label: Capriccio Records  
Catalog: 5267   Number of Discs: 1
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Braunfels: Die Vogel / Conlon, Rancatore, Jovanovich, Johnson, Gantner
Release Date: 11/16/2010   Label: Arthaus Musik  
Catalog: 101530   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 1-20 of 20 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Braunfels: Grosse Messe, Op. 37 / Weigle
    Label: Capriccio Records   Catalog: 5267 Release Date: 06/10/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels
    Performer:  Heiko Holtmeier,  Simone Schneider,  Gerhild Romberger,  Christian Elsner  ... 
    Conductor:  Jörg-Peter Weigle
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Singakademie,  Staats- Und Domchor Berlin,  Philharmonischer Chor Berlin  ... 
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  • 2.
    Walter Braunfels: Lieder (Songs)
    Label: Capriccio Records   Catalog: 5251 Release Date: 02/12/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels
    Performer:  Eric Schneider,  Konrad Jarnot,  Marlis Petersen
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  • 3.
    Braunfels: Don Juan Op. 34; Symphonic Variations on an Old French Nursery Song, Op. 15
    Label: Capriccio Records   Catalog: 5250 Release Date: 01/08/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels
    Conductor:  Markus L. Frank
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonisches Orchester Altenburg Gera
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  • 4.
    Far from Home is the Moon: Chinese Culture Reflected in European Song
    Label: Bayer Records   Catalog: 100314 Release Date: 04/28/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  James Simon,  Agide Tedoldi,  Seppo Nummi,  Albert Roussel  ... 
    Performer:  Lydia Leitner,  Alexandra Paulmichl,  Fan Yang
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  • 5.
    Suites & Overtures for the Radio / Theis, Staatsoperette Dresden
    Label: Cpo   Catalog: 777838 Release Date: 01/13/2015   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels,  Max Butting,  Eduard Künneke,  Franz Schreker  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernst Theis
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchester Der Staatsoperette Dresden
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  • 6.
    Braunfels: Verkundigung  / Schirmer, Banse, Schwarz, Klink, Erod, Holl
    Label: Br Klassik   Catalog: 900311 Release Date: 10/14/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels
    Performer:  Mauro Peter,  Matthias Klink,  Hanna Schwarz,  Vanessa Goikoetxea  ... 
    Conductor:  Ulf Schirmer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Chorus,  Munich Radio Orchestra
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  • 7.
    Hebbel Lieder
    Label: Gramola   Catalog: 98999 Release Date: 10/14/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hans Pfitzner,  Walter Braunfels,  Othmar Schoeck,  Peter Cornelius  ... 
    Performer:  Ulf Bastlein,  Sascha El Mouissi
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  • 8.
    Braunfels: Verkundigung / Nimsgern, Trauboth, Ruggeberg, Davies, Cologne
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 6055325 Release Date: 02/25/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels
    Performer:  Chieko Shirasaka-Teratani,  Andrea Trauboth,  Siegmund Nimsgern,  Claudia Rüggeberg  ... 
    Conductor:  Dennis Russell Davies
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Symphony Orchestra,  Cologne Symphony Chorus
    CD: $19.99
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  • 9.
    Gunter Wand - The Radio Recordings
    Label: Profil   Catalog: 13038 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 20
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Olivier Messiaen,  Anton Webern,  Wolfgang Fortner  ... 
    Performer:  Erno Sebestyen,  Margaret Marshall,  Monique [Ondes Martenot] Matagne-Cavailles,  Tiny Wirtz  ... 
    Conductor:  Günter Wand
    CD: $98.99
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  • 10.
    Braunfels: Concerto For Organ, Boys Choir & Orchestra / Apkalna, Albrecht, Tolz Boys' Choir
    Label: Oehms   Catalog: 411 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels
    Performer:  Iveta Apkalna,  Hansjörg Albrecht
    Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Symphony Orchestra
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  • 11.
    Braunfels: String Quintet; Strauss: Metamorphosen / Geringas, Gringolts Quartet
    Label: Profil   Catalog: 12053 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels,  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  David Geringas
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gringolts String Quartet
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  • 12.
    Gunter Wand Edition Vol 17 - Braunfels, Mozart, Baird
    Label: Profil   Catalog: 6004 Release Date: 03/27/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Tadeusz Baird
    Performer:  Dennis Brain,  Lothar Faber
    Conductor:  Günter Wand
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  West German Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
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  • 13.
    Schreker: Der Holdestein - Choral Works By Schreker, Fuchs, Braunfels
    Label: Carus   Catalog: 83399 Release Date: 03/27/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels,  Robert Fuchs,  Franz Schreker
    Conductor:  Michael Alber
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orpheus Vocal Ensemble
    CD: $18.99
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  • 14.
    Goethe Lieder - Das Ewig Weibliche / Marlis Petersen, Jendrik Spinger
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 902094 Release Date: 03/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ernst Krenek,  Robert Schumann,  Walter Braunfels,  Franz Liszt  ... 
    Performer:  Marlis Petersen,  Jendrik Springer
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  • 15.
    Braunfels: Die Vogel / Conlon, Rancatore, Jovanovich, Johnson, Gantner
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 101529 Release Date: 11/16/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels
    Performer:  Brian Mulligan,  Martin Gantner,  Brandon Jovanovich,  Désirée Rancatore  ... 
    Conductor:  James Conlon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Opera Chorus,  Los Angeles Opera Orchestra
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  • 16.
    Braunfels: Die Vogel / Conlon, Rancatore, Jovanovich, Johnson, Gantner
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 101530 Release Date: 11/16/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels
    Performer:  Matthew Moore,  Stacey Tappan,  James Johnson,  Désirée Rancatore  ... 
    Conductor:  James Conlon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Los Angeles Opera Chorus,  Los Angeles Opera Orchestra
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  • 17.
    Braunfels: Te Deum / Honeck, Sjoberg, Jonsson, Et Al
    Label: Orfeo   Catalog: 679071 Release Date: 01/29/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels
    Performer:  Lars-Erik Jonsson,  Gitta-Maria Sjöberg
    Conductor:  Manfred Honeck
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Swedish Radio Chorus,  Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Eric Ericson Chamber Choir
    CD: $22.49
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  • 18.
    Braunfels: Phantastische Erscheinungen, Serenade / Davies, Vienna Radio SO
    Label: Cpo   Catalog: 999882 Release Date: 11/15/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels
    Conductor:  Dennis Russell Davies
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
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  • 19.
    The Music Survives - An Introduction To Entartete Musik
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 452664 Release Date: 06/10/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Erwin Schulhoff,  Ernst Krenek,  Pavel Haas,  Berthold Goldschmidt  ... 
    Performer:  Krister St. Hill,  Heinz Kruse,  Michael Kraus,  Martin Petzold  ... 
    Conductor:  John Mauceri,  Lothar Zagrosek,  Berthold Goldschmidt
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra,  Hawthorne String Quartet
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  • 20.
    Entartete Musik - Braunfels: Die Vogel / Zagrosek, Kwon, Etc
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 448679 Release Date: 02/11/1997   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Walter Braunfels
    Performer:  Hellen Kwon,  Matthias Goerne,  Michael Kraus,  Wolfgang Holzmair  ... 
    Conductor:  Lothar Zagrosek
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin,  Berlin Radio Chorus
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