WALTER conducts Brahms, Volume 1 (1947-54) - PASC485

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WALTER conducts Brahms, Volume 1 (1947-54) - PASC485

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  • Sold Out! - 2CD with case & artwork (+MP3)


BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 - Symphony No. 2 - Double Concerto - Song of Destiny - Tragic Overture - Hungarian Dance No. 17

Live recordings, 1947-54
Total duration: 2hr 25:42 

Bruno Walter, conductor
John Corigliano, 
Leonard Rose
, cello
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York

Hugo Strelitzer Choir

Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra

This set contains the following albums:

Bruno Walter's 1951 Brahms Cycle with the NY Philharmonic - and more!

"These concerts apparently find Mr. Walter at the very zenith of his powers, absorbed in a task which is especially dear to him" - NY Times

  • This series is based around what survives of Bruno Walter's fabulous 1951 series of Brahms concerts with the New York Philharmonic, together with other live performances which either fill gaps in the 1951 recordings or, in the case of the German Requiem (Vol. 3), add to the 1951 programme. A number of major recordings, including two of the symphonies, have never been issued before; in other cases we have gained access to sonically superior sources to those used in previous releases.

    There is some variation in sound quality across the recordings, some of which have required extensive repair and restoration. What shines throughout is the fabulous musicality of these truly historic concert accounts of Brahms' music, as given by Walter and the New York Philharmonic. 

    One of the highlights of this first of three 2-CD volumes is a previously-unissued recording of the First Symphony. This was original played alongside the Tragic Overture and the Violin Concerto, neither of which has apparently survived in usable recorded form (a correspondent reports "a horrible transfer to a defective private LP" of the Violin Concerto with Francescatti); here we've replaced the Overture with a later New York performance, a later disc will include a 1953 NY recording of the Violin Concerto. The Song of Destiny which completes the first disc was not performed at the New York concerts - the present recording is taken from a 1947 Hollywood Bowl concert, conducted in the open air by Walter to the (occasional) gentle accompaniment of crickets chirruping in the background.

    The second disc here offers the third concert programme in full. Of the recordings it is the Double Concerto which is perhaps of greatest interest to collectors - previous outings on various dubious Italian labels have offered badly muffled, congested and inferior sound. By comparison it is clean and clear here, as are the other two recordings. I had to deal with occasional peak distortion in the first movement of the Second Symphony where it was originally recorded at levels which overloaded during the loudest sections, something I've endeavoured to bring under control here.

    Volume Two in this series will complete the symphonies, accompanied by two concertos, whilst the final volume will include a previously unissued recording of the Piano Concerto No. 1 from the 1951 New York series, together with a later performance of A German Requiem and other works.

    Andrew Rose

    • BRAHMS Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny), Op. 54
      Hugo Strelitzer Choir, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra

    • BRAHMS Tragic Overture, Op. 81
    • BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68
    • BRAHMS Hungarian Dance No. 17 in F-sharp minor
    • BRAHMS  Double Concerto for violin and cello in A minor, Op. 102
      John Corigliano,
      Leonard Rose,

    • BRAHMS  Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73

    Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York

    Bruno Walter
    , conductor 

    *Schicksalslied: 7 October 1947
    Tragic Overture: 19 December 1954
    Symphony No. 1: 21 January 1951
    Hungarian Dance: 4 February 1951
    Double Concerto: 4 February 1951
    Symphony No. 2: 28 January 1951

    All performed at Carnegie Hall, New York
    except *Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles

    New York Times, 1951:

    He Conducts Philharmonic in Concert of Master’s Works

    Bruno Walter began his Brahms cycle with the Philharmonic-Symphony last night in Carnegie Hall, and gave us a wonderful concert. He played Brahms without the slightest affectation or mannerism, with all his heart, and a simplicity and nobility of spirit which matched the music.
    It was a great pleasure to hear the scores played without any attempt to modify or beautify them. The rugged and melodic Brahms, whose orchestration is quite often stringy and unsilky or glistening, fell upon our ears, “echt” Deutch and “echt” Brahms. Perhaps this is too provincial a way to put it. The universality of the music rather frowns upon that.
    On the other hand, the very grandeur and universality of this immortal music comes from its soil and from the consciousness of an artist who was profoundly German in his consciousness and his devotion to the traditions of the German symphonic art.
    Mr. Walter, in arranging and finding the almost ideal tempi and inflection for this music, pointed out something else to us, which is that Brahms, popularly conceived as the neo-classic master of his period—and ours too, for that matter—is not only a romantic composer, but, in the appropriate circumstances, is to be interpreted as such.
    Contrast in Interpretation
    This refers especially to the reading of the C minor symphony, which ended the program, and the contrast between its interpretation and that of the “Tragic” overture which opened it. In the “Tragic” overture Brahms is completely a classicist. There is mysteriously communicated, in this music, the tragedy of human existence, and the grandeur of destiny. The style is singularly austere, impersonal, like destiny. There is no self-pity, no caterwauling at fate. Wherefore, Brahms is here a classicist not only in form and workmanship,
    The form of the great C minor symphony is also classic. The symphonic methods are those of the classical masters of composition in whose footsteps Brahms was both proud of and also diffident about treading. But actually, in this work, he is a wild-eyed romanticist—as was Beethoven in a certain other C minor symphony. And Mr. Walter read the music in the flaming romantic spirit—“sturm und drang”—with all sorts of grand rhetoric. He did not hesitate for an instant to retard or accelerate, or entirely differentiate the contrasting phrases of the introduction, in the instance of the lyric phrases which immediately follow the initial motive, heard over the pounding drums.
    Later on, the way in which he maintained the pace of the choral melody which opens the finale, after the prelude with a horn-call, was a master-stroke of classic architecture. And this finale was tonal drama of the most thrilling kind; We need not particularize farther. The transcending value of this concert was the conviction, the rugged strength and unfeverish, unmodern, absolutely real faith and emotion which vibrated in every measure.

    Olin Downes 
    The New York Times, 19 January 1951