"Slightly the audience remember that I'm - as a descendant of writing tonal music - still alive and continue composing." (Walter Braunfels, 1946) Walter Braunfels is a composer whose music died twice: Once when the Nazis declared his music "degenerate art". Then again when post-war Germany had little use for the various schools of tonal music; when the arbiters of taste considered any form of romantic music - almost the whole pre-war aesthetic - to be tainted. This 9th release of Capriccio's Braunfels Edition shows us also an open-minded composer who experimented with Jazz elements in his Divertimento for radio-orchestra in 1929.
This is light and delightful music, far from offering even the hint of banality or boredom. The music of Walter Braunfels can hardly be stylistically determined, as he is said to have references to all the great composers around him, though Braunfels always kept his music on his personal path. Conductor Gregor Bühl is among some who are again paying attention to this composer. He gives this positively upbeat music the affection and care that makes its special character shine, modeling both the clean craftsmanship and the warmth of the music’s content. The airiness, as in Ariel’s singing, becomes just as clear as the heart beating in the Serenade, without any unnecessary display of individual compositional elements.
That Divertimento is the real discovery here: an absolutely delicious bon-bon evocatively scored for a small orchestra including two saxophones, used with effortless freshness and not a shred of fin-de-siècle decadence (fun though that can be). Both the Serenade and Ariel’s Song date from 1910, fairly early in Braunfels’ career, and if they lack the individuality we find in his more ambitious later pieces, they certainly fall gratefully on the ear and deliver exactly what they promise – a bit of light relaxation. The “song,” by the way, is a lyrical orchestral piece, and not a not a vocal work. The Don Gil prelude offers six minutes of comic opera fun. Apparently the opera itself, composed in 1921-23, was a failure, but from such failures have come many appealing concert works, and here is one. As with previous releases in this series, the fine performances under conductor Gregor Bühl have all of the conviction and commitment of a true believer in the cause, and the sonics are excellent. This disc will appeal to music lovers of all ages. Strongly recommended.
– ClassicsToday.com (David Hurwitz)