for some time I've been keen to explore neglected late romantic composers. At first it was Suk who is now, fortunately, rather better known and then Franz Schmidt who is still hardly ever played outside Austria but at least most of his major works have been recorded. Most recently has been the turn of Walter Braunfels, most of whose work has been all but unobtainable until very recently and it's still fairly thin on the ground. All that I've managed to hear so far are fine and interesting works but the Te Deum completely bowls me over. Can you imagine that there was ONE HOUR applause at the premiere -- beat that Mr. Hitler who stopped him having any active musical role for 12 years! There is a good deal of Berlioz in the second movement, more than a few hints of the Brahms requiem and the wonderful warmth and ecstasy of Strauss at his best. But it's the excitement, wonderful tunes and almost delirious passion at times which makes this the most moving choral setting of a Latin text I have heard for years. Tremendously popular in the 1920's, I have no doubt it would become a repertoire staple again if given the chance.
Braunfels was one of the leading German composers of the early part of the twentieth century, but he fell out of favour during the time of the Nazis in Germany (he was part Jewish), and, once the War was over, his music was regarded as pitifully old fashioned for the iconoclastic new world. His masterpice is probably the opera Die Vogel which the conductor Bruno Walter desribed as 'life-giving'. It's available from Decca, but this massive Te Deum from Orfeo is very impressive as well.
The style is admittedly 'old-fashioned' compared with the music that was in favour in the 50s and 60s, but there's nothing wrong with that. What you get here is one of the final authentic flourishes of the Romantic movement, audibly twentieth century, but still rooted in the past. The work is massive in four long but contrasting movements, and the huge forces required are used with great skill. To some extent is is akin to the great Bruckner Te Deum, but perhaps because of its length, I personally find it more attractive, and more moving - the closing pages really are quite stunning!
The performance is excellent, despite the soprano being slightly under the note on one unfortunate occasion, and the recording captures the vast spaciousness of the muic, but without unnecessary reverberation.
Very highly recommended as a wonderful recording of a great work by a shockingly neglected composer.