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Bruno Walter Conducts Mahler

Walter,Bruno
Release Date: 08/07/2012 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 1920102   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Emilia CundariMaureen ForresterMildred MillerDesi Halban,   ... 
Conductor:  Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony OrchestraWestminster ChoirNew York Philharmonic
Number of Discs: 7 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



MAHLER Symphonies: No. 1; No. 2; No. 4; No. 5; No. 9. Das Lied von der Erde. Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Lieder und Gesang aus der Jugendzeit Bruno Walter, cond; Emilia Cundari, Desi Halban, Mildred Miller (sop); Maureen Forrester (alt); Ernst Haefliger (ten); Westminster Ch; New York PO; Columbia SO SONY 88691920102 (7 CDs: 469:58)


These recordings have been available continuously since their original respective releases on 78s and LPs, beginning more than 65 years ago, Read more though I believe that this is the first time they have been collected domestically. The set includes two versions of the First Symphony, the first with the New York Philharmonic (1954), the second from the twilight of Walter’s career in Hollywood, with the studio ensemble dubbed “Columbia Symphony Orchestra,” released in 1961 in stereo. There is only one actual premiere recording (Symphony No. 5, from 1947), but those of the original First and the Fourth (1945, with Desi Halban) were among the first to find a wide audience, since Columbia Records was a major label with more clout than some of the smaller independents (like Vox, home of the early Otto Klemperer Mahler recordings).


The details: There are two distinct periods represented here, the first comprising the New York Philharmonic recordings in mono of Symphonies Nos. 1, 4, and 5, as well as the Lieder und Gesang with Desi Halban, Walter accompanying on piano. The recording (1958) of No. 2, with the New York Philharmonic and soloists Emilia Cundari and Maureen Forrester, is in stereo, as are the later First and Ninth symphonies with the Columbia Symphony, and Das Lied von der Erde with Mildred Miller and Ernst Haefliger and the New York Philharmonic; Mildred Miller also sings the Wayfarer Songs , this time with the Columbia Symphony.


Two myths are effectively debunked with this set. The conventional view is that Walter’s tempos slowed markedly as he aged; comparison of the two First Symphony recordings, however, finds only about a three-minute differential between them. It’s true that the stereo Ninth is quite a bit longer than Walter’s legendary 1938 recording, but I’ve always felt that the extra time taken with the studio recording greatly enhances the interpretation, while the earlier recording suffers from overly hasty tempos in the outer movements, and often scrappy playing from the orchestra.


The other piece of conventional wisdom characterizes Walter’s Mahler as “sentimental” while finding that of Otto Klemperer “granitic” or “steely,” and I admit that I’ve sometimes fallen prey to these overly simplistic characterizations. Listening to the respective conductors’ stereo recordings of the Second (Klemperer’s on EMI) calls into question that distinction. In the first movement, Walter is indeed more deliberate and precise, but there is just as much dramatic contrast between the “Todtenfeier” and lyrical themes; Klemperer is impetuous to such an extent that the orchestra (the estimable Philharmonia) has difficulty keeping up and maintaining ensemble. In the Scherzo, it is Klemperer who is the more heavy-handed, while Walter’s has more bite but also more sinuous beauty. The finales of both recordings are nearly the same in duration; the recorded sound of the Klemperer is still impressive 50 years later, while Sony’s live sound from Carnegie Hall has less impact and is more distant. The final moments of the new Sony, however, with the organ pedal anchoring the sound (especially in this new remastering), are the equal of the EMI, and I am hard-pressed to choose between these equally impressive performances.


This is a bare-bones set at super-budget price, with no annotation or texts. Nothing has been scrimped, however, on the engineering: the new 24-bit remastering has improved the sound of every recording, with little tape hiss or background noise, and they sound better than they have ever sounded, particularly in the case of the mono recordings.


It was one of those wonderful instances of confluence that brought Walter’s Mahler to my attention. Back in the late ’60s-early ’70s, the main classical labels in the U.S. had budget series that served as a source of both reissues and challenging or unusual music, especially helpful to students and those with limited resources: Angel (EMI) had Seraphim, RCA had its Victrola and Camden subsidiaries, and Columbia had the Odyssey series. It was from this last that I discovered not only Come Out by Steve Reich, but also the stereo reissues of Mahler’s First and Ninth Symphonies and Das Lied conducted by Bruno Walter. I only knew Gustav Mahler as a name when I bought that Odyssey LP with the (presumably Greek) statue and the subtitle “Titan” on the cover. But from those ethereal, otherworldly strings in the opening to the heaven-storming finale, Walter had me all the way. If these were some of your first memories of this music, too, you won’t need to be convinced that this set belongs in the Classical Hall of Fame. If they aren’t already a part of your aural museum, this is the perfect opportunity to discover them.


FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 1 in D major "Titan" by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888/1896 
Date of Recording: 1961 
Venue:  American Legion Hall, Hollywood, Calif. 
Length: 51 Minutes 56 Secs. 
2. Symphony no 2 in C minor "Resurrection" by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Emilia Cundari (Soprano), Maureen Forrester (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westminster Choir,  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888/1896; Germany 
Venue:  Carnegie Hall, New York City 
Length: 79 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Language: German 
3. Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Mildred Miller (Soprano)
Conductor:  Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883-1896; Germany 
Date of Recording: 07/1960 
Venue:  American Legion Hall, Hollywood, Calif. 
Length: 15 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Language: German 
4. Symphony no 4 in G major by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Desi Halban (Soprano)
Conductor:  Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892-1900; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/10/1945 
Venue:  Carnegie Hall, New York City 
Length: 50 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Language: German 
5. Lieder und Gesänge, vol 1: no 2, Erinnerung by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Desi Halban (Soprano), Bruno Walter (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880-1883; Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/16/1947 
Venue:  Los Angeles, California 
Length: 2 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Language: German 
6. Lieder und Gesänge, vol 3: no 3, Scheiden and Meiden by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Desi Halban (Soprano), Bruno Walter (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 12/16/1947 
Venue:  Los Angeles, California 
Length: 2 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Language: German 
7. Lieder und Gesänge, vol 3: no 4, Nicht wiedersehen! by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Bruno Walter (Piano), Desi Halban (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887-1890; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 12/16/1947 
Venue:  Los Angeles, California 
Length: 3 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Language: German 
8. Lieder und Gesänge, vol 2: no 2, Ich ging mit Lust by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Bruno Walter (Piano), Desi Halban (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887-1890; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 12/16/1947 
Venue:  Los Angeles, California 
Length: 3 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Language: German 
9. Lieder und Gesänge, vol 3: no 2, Ablösung im Sommer by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Bruno Walter (Piano), Desi Halban (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887-1890; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 12/16/1947 
Venue:  Los Angeles, California 
Length: 1 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Language: German 
10. Lieder und Gesänge, vol 1: no 3, Hans und Grethe by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Desi Halban (Soprano), Bruno Walter (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880-1883; Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/16/1947 
Venue:  Los Angeles, California 
Length: 1 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Language: German 
11. Lieder und Gesänge, vol 1: no 1, Frühlingsmorgen by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Desi Halban (Soprano), Bruno Walter (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880-1883; Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/16/1947 
Venue:  Los Angeles, California 
Length: 1 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Language: German 
12. Lieder und Gesänge, vol 2: no 4, Starke Einbildungskraft by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Desi Halban (Soprano), Bruno Walter (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887-1890; Budapest, Hungary 
Date of Recording: 12/16/1947 
Venue:  Los Angeles, California 
Length: 1 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Language: German 
13. Das Lied von der Erde by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Mildred Miller (Mezzo Soprano), Ernst Haefliger (Tenor)
Conductor:  Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1908-1909; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1960 
Length: 62 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Language: German 
14. Symphony no 1 in D major "Titan" by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888/1896 
Date of Recording: 01/25/1954 
Venue:  Carnegie Hall, New York City 
Length: 48 Minutes 29 Secs. 
15. Symphony no 9 in D major by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1908-1909; Austria 
Venue:  American Legion Hall, Hollywood, Calif. 
Length: 81 Minutes 9 Secs. 
16. Symphony no 5 in C sharp minor by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/10/1947 
Venue:  New York City 
Length: 61 Minutes 52 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  3 Customer Reviews )
 ALL TIME HALL OF FAME? - I AGREE! September 30, 2013 By P. Ledesma (Wellington, KS) See All My Reviews "After reading what the other reviewers have written, I don't know what I could add to this discussion that would be of greater significance. All I know is that every time I hear a Bruno Walter recording of Mahler's music I find something in each reading that just touches me in indescribable ways! I had owned some of these same recordings on vinyl, and I am supremely satisfied with the superb remastering that was achieved here on these CD's! This set delivers quality sound that I'd expected would NEVER top vinyl, and my ears tell me that my belief has been soundly disproved! This is DEFINITELY a Hall of Fame collection in my book! Add that 1938 recording of the 9th Symphony - even with the controversial tempos and alleged musicianship foibles (which are marginal arguments at best and anal retentive bloviations at worst) - and you will have a very special collection of musical history to treasure for a lifetime!" Report Abuse
 The BEST of the best! September 7, 2012 By Daniel Pure (Barrington, NJ) See All My Reviews "This seven CD set of the late, great Bruno Walter is a tremendous bargain. There are so many fine performance of the music offered here. I personally prefer the Klemperer/New Philharmonia Resurrection Symphony and the Furtwangler/ Fischer-Dieskau Songs of a Wayfarer over the Walter, but the performances of thee same works in this set are excellent nonetheless. What makes this set incomparable is the inclusion of the Mahler Ninth (For my money, unrivaled by any subsequent recording) and the Mahler First. Walter had an uncanny way with the First, much like his Beethoven Sixth Symphony. That the earlier First Symphony is included along with Das Lied makes this CD set an absolute must for any serious Mahler devotee. Maestro Walter's love for this music comes through in every CD, and given the excellent sonics that any audiophile would appreciate, this is a MUST HAVE set." Report Abuse
 Walter's Mahler collection still tops them all September 6, 2012 By W. Martin (Cleveland, OH) See All My Reviews "This package of Walter recordings should never go out of print. It remains unique through the superb interpretive insight he gives Mahler. Including, as it does, Mildred Miller's definitive prize winning recordings of the "Das Lied von der Erde," and the "Songs of the Wayfarer, it is without a doubt a "must" for any Mahler lover." Report Abuse
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