Universal Edition - Walter Braunfels – The Birds

Walter Braunfels


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Walter Braunfels
The Birds

Work Details

Opus: op. 30
Year of composition: 1913-1919
Subtitle: Ein lyrisch-phantastisches Spiel in 2 Aufzügen
Composer: Walter Braunfels
Text Source: after Aristophanes
Text Editor: Walter Braunfels
Parts: Hoffegut und Ratefreund, Bürger einer großen Stadt, tenor and high bass
Stimme des Zeus, baritone
Prometheus, baritone
Wiedhopf, einstens ein Mensch, nun König der Vögel, baritone
Nachtigall, high soprano
Zaunschlüpfer, soprano
Adler, bass
Rabe, bass
Flamingo, tenor
1. Drossel, low soprano
2. Drossel, soprano
3 Schwalben und 2 Meisen, sopranos
4 Wendehälse, tenors
2 Kibitze, basses
Choir: SATB
Instrumentation: 3 2 2 2 - 4 2 3 1 - timp, perc(2), hp(2), cel, str; flute behind the scene
Instrumentation details: 1st flute; 2nd flute; 3rd flute; oboe; cor anglais; 1st clarinet in A; 2nd clarinet in A; 1st bassoon; 2nd bassoon; 1st horn in E; 2nd horn in E; 3rd horn in E; 4th horn in E; 1st trumpet in Bb; 2nd trumpet in Bb; 1st trombone; 2nd trombone; 3rd trombone; tuba; timpani; percussion(2); celesta; 1st harp; 2nd harp; violin I; violin II; viola; violoncello; contrabass; flute cont.aind the scene
Scenery: 2
Duration: 120′
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Audio Excerpt

Die Vögel, op. 30

World Première

Location: Nationaltheater München / Germany
Date: 30.11.1920
Conductor: Bruno Walter

Work Introduction

Premiered by Bruno Walter in 1920 (the year when the Phantastische Erscheinungen also received its first performance), The Birds may well be the composer’s chef-d’oeuvre; it is certainly the work that has had more performances than any other of his compositions after World War II, with productions fairly regularly since its first post-war performance in Berlin in 1994. Klaus Geitel described the experience in Die Welt: “Saturated with a closely-woven richness of inspiration … a magnificent piece of music”. Seventy years previously, Alfred Einstein enthused after the premiere: “I do not believe such a complete work of art has ever before been performed on the German operatic stage. There is an imperative at work here which calls for comparison with the Mastersingers and Pfitzner’s Palestrina.”

“The key to Braunfels’ treatment of the subject lies in the depiction of three levels of reality: the world of men, the world of the birds (or that of the imagination) and the world of the gods. Whereas in Aristophanes the men succeed in their rebellion against their gods, Braunfels here lends a more ‘Christian’ character to Zeus, father of the gods and has him punish man for his arrogance. After the city of the birds has been destroyed by the forces of heaven, the birds pay homage in a pious hymn to the power and greatness of the gods. The humans have to return home in humiliation.” (Frithjof Haas)

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