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Walter Braunfels Jeanne d’Arc

Szenen aus dem Leben der Heiligen Johanna

Action in a prelude and three parts, Op. 57, by Walter Braunfels (1882–1954)
Libretto by the composer, based on the 1431 court records of Joan’s trial 

Concert performance
With German and English surtitles


  • 01 August 2013, 20:00

Print programme (PDF)


Manfred Honeck, Conductor
Alois Glaßner, Chorus Master
Wolfgang Götz, Children's Chorus Master


Juliane Banse, Joan
Bryan Hymel, Archangel Michael
Pavol Breslik, Charles of Valois
Thomas E. Bauer, Archbishop of Reims / Florent d'Illiers
Michael Laurenz, Cauchon / Bertrand de Poulengy
Norbert Ernst, Colin, a shepherd
Tobias Kehrer, Jacobus von Arc
Johan Reuter, Gilles de Rais
Ruben Drole, Duke of La Trémouille
Martin Gantner, Knight of Baudricourt
Wiebke Lehmkuhl, Lison, his wife
Siobhan Stagg, Saint Catherine
Sofiya Almazova, Saint Margaret
Johannes Dunz, Duc d’Alençon
Johannes Stermann, Vicar Inquisitor
Domen Križaj, English captain

Salzburger Bachchor
Salzburger Festspiele und Theater Kinderchor
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra


The first recording of the opera Die Vögel (The Birds) in the early 1990s marked the beginning of the international resurgence of interest in the composer Walter Braunfels (1882–1954), who together with Richard Strauss and Franz Schreker was among the most successful composers of the Weimar Republic until his works were banned by the Nazis. At the beginning of the 1920s his standing as a composer was so high that conductors of the first rank such as Fritz Busch, Hans Knappertsbusch, Otto Klemperer or Bruno Walter all vied to perform his works. The son of a Jewish father, Braunfels was branded “half-Jew” and all his works were banned when the National Socialists seized power. Dismissed from his post as head of the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne, he settled near Überlingen on Lake Constance. He was loath to leave Germany, convinced that “my presence was a stone in the dam that must be raised against the evil spirit if it was not to drown everything, and also because I felt that if I left my country, I would be tearing out the main root of my creativity”. Among the works he composed during these years of “internal emigration” were three operas, Die Verkündigung (The Annunciation) based on a verse drama by Paul Claudel, Der Traum ein Leben (The Dream, a Life) based on Grillparzer’s drama, and Jeanne d’Arc. Szenen aus dem Leben der heiligen Johanna (Jeanne d’Arc. Scenes from the life of St Joan), for which he wrote his own libretto. In eight self-contained scenes he movingly portrays the life of the martyr, ending with her death at the stake. The work concludes with the chorus announcing the victory of faith. France’s liberator has been burned at the stake, but her heart remained unscathed; it is hope, not evil, that ultimately triumphs. Completed in 1943, this opera was not performed until 2001 in Stockholm, where it was given in a concert performance, with the first fully staged performance taking place in Berlin in 2008. In contrast to fellow-composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, Braunfels did not undergo any kind of cultural rehabilitation after 1945. Written very much in the late Romantic tradition, his œuvre no longer fitted in with the avant-garde currents that dominated musical life in the post-war era. Jeanne d’Arc first became more widely known through the CD of the above-mentioned concert performance conducted by Manfred Honeck with Juliane Banse in the title role which was issued in 2010 and won the 2011 Echo Klassik German music award in the World Premiere Recording of the Year category. An increasing number of other works by Braunfels have found their way onto the stage or into the concert hall over the past few years. In an essay on the newly awakened interest in this once banned and still underappreciated composer Eva Gesine Baur writes: “The mask of coolness assumed by many people today conceals a longing for passion. For music that seizes the soul, letting no one go and carrying everyone with it to the very end.”

Ronny Dietrich
Translated by Sophie Kidd