You Review: Manfred Honeck conducts Braunfels and Mahler

Reader Felicitas Birckenbach enjoys discovering Braunfels

You Review: Manfred Honeck conducts Braunfels and Mahler

Together with conductor Manfred Honeck (above) and violist Antoine Tamestit, the West German Radio Symphony Orchestra performed a remarkable concert of Walter Braunfels and Gustav Mahler last Friday (6 February). Both composers were classified as 'entartete Musik' (‘degenerate music’) during the Nazi regime and, while Mahler was re-discovered in the 1970s, Braunfels' music has remained largely forgotten.

His Schottische Phantasie for Viola and Orchestra, Op. 47 was completed in 1933 for the violist Ludo Ludwig. The piece has five movements which each elaborate a central theme containing the motive of the scottish folk song ‘Ca' the Yowes’. The solo viola line is mostly combined with the sound of the ensemble, but with a wonderful solo part in the cadenza – this came through beautifully with the Stradivarius viola of Antoine Tamestit.

Though the composition seems unwieldly and harsh, rough from a perspective of the late-Romantics, the whole has a song-like gist with rhythmic and harmonic characteristics of folkloristic colour. The viola is the singing instrument – and Tamestit's was an excellent performance. This piece is evidence that Braunfels' music is an enriching part of musical life.

As an encore, Tamestit performed Henri Vieuxtemps' Capriccio, which recalls the world of JS Bach. This recieved long-lasting applause from the audience, among them many enthusiastic young people.

The second part of the concert featured a vivid performance of Mahler's First Symphony, with excellent soloists and a convincing coherence with the first half of the concert.


– Felicitas Irene Birckenbach, Cologne



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