Son of a silenced composer

Michael Braunfels, whose father Walter was suppressed in  Hitler’s Germany and ignored for decades after, has died in Cologne, aged 98. Michael, a pianist, was a renowned Schubert interpreter. He did much to restore his father’s works to musical attention from the 1980s on.

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  • Walter Braunfels is indeed a surprising discovery: a kind of mild Richard Strauss, thinking of Strauss’ early operas, or: comparable to the later, ultra-mild Strauss where Braunfels offers more substance than Strauss himself.

    The nazis had asked Braunfels to compose something for the party because of his ‘oldfashioned’ style which seemed to them reflecting reactionary sympathies. But he rejected the offer out of hand, with the result that he got silenced. After WW II he was silenced for the second time by totalitarian thought: by the then dominant ‘avantgarde’. What an irony… a gifted, independently-thinking composer being silenced twice by reactionary forces, both in the name of ‘progress’. Let this be a lesson for people who complain about the ‘oldfashioned’ classical repertoire and would want to have it replaced by more ‘progressive’ programming at symphony orchestras.

  • I knew Michael and even have a CD of his own compositions – far lighter fare than his father. Braunfels the elder was an important and unjustly forgotten composer, but he was enormously lucky to have Michael as a son and Stephen and Susanne as grandchildren who have been equally tireless in getting Walter’s Music heard again.

  • The Walter Braunfels Te Deum in the 2004 Honeck recording on Orfeo is marvellous, and strongly recommended.
    I will look out my Zagrosek Die Vogel tomorrow-it’s been too long since I listened to it

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