This final entry in the Walter conducts Brahms series features only one recording from the 1951 series around which it has been constructed, the previously unissued and stunning performance with Clifford Curzon of the Piano Concerto No. 1. The surviving source for this recording has suffered some mild deterioration over the last 66 years that can at times be heard, but never to the extent that it distracts from the performance - in this we have I hope largely achieved the wish of the New York Times correspondent who wished it "might have been transfixed and preserved immaculate for the generations" - if not quite immaculate, then pretty close to it. It's certainly a major addition to the Walter discography.
For the rest of this release I've had to sift through the archives - not all of Walter's 1951 performances survive, and there we no performances of either the German Requiem or the Alto Rhapsody in the series. The latter, from a 1941 Carnegie Hall performance appears here for the first time, whilst I decided on the Italian performance of the German Requiem for both better sound quality and an unusually slower tempo from Walter than the other performances captured at this time. In both cases I've done what I can with the archive material available to me - the age of the Alto Rhapsody is reflected in a limited frequency range, whilst there is some top end hash heard during some of the louder passages of the Requiem.
other two recordings here come from the same Hollywood Bowl performance
that appears on Volume 1 of this series, and yes, once again the
crickets make an appearance towards the end of the Haydn Variations!
BRAHMS Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56a*
1 Theme. Chorale St. Antoni (1:53)
2 I. Poco più animato (1:17)
3 II. Più vivace (1:02)
4 III. Con moto (1:52)
5 IV. Andante con moto (1:50)
6 V. Vivace (0:58)
7 VI. - Vivace (1:11)
8 VII. Grazioso (2:07)
9 VIII. Presto non troppo (0:59)
10 Finale. Andante (4:14)
11 BRAHMS Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53 (11:02)
Enid Szantho, contralto
BRAHMS Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15
12 1st mvt. - Maestoso (20:49)
13 2nd mvt. - Adagio (13:36)
14 3rd mvt. - Rondo. Allegro non troppo (10:49)
Clifford Curzon, piano
1 BRAHMS Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80* (9:27)
BRAHMS Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45** (Sung in Italian)
2 I. Selig sind, die da Leid tragen (Ben è vero che gli affliti son beati) (10:03)
3 II. Denn alles Fleisch (Dell'erba al par la carne è vile) (14:00)
4 III. Herr, lehre doch mich (Dio, svelami tu) (10:01)
5 IV. Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen (Le tue dimore sono dolci invero) (5:01)
6 V. Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit (Voi avete qui dolor) (7:16)
7 VI. Denn wir haben hie (Stabil secle in terra noi non abbiamo) (10:40)
8 VII. Selig sind die Toten (Oh, beati i morti che muoiono nel Signore) (11:27)
Rosanna Carteri, soprano
Boris Christoff, bass
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York
*Hollywood Bowl Orchestra
**Rome Symphony Orchestra & Chorus of RAI
Bruno Walter, conductor
XR remastering by Andrew Rose
Cover artwork based on photographs of Walter & Brahms
*Haydn Variations: 10 July 1947
Alto Rhapsody: 9 November 1941
Piano Concerto No. 1: 28 January 1951
*Academic Festival Ov.: 10 July 1947
**German Requiem: 16 April, 1952
All performed at Carnegie Hall, New York
except *Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, **Auditorium Rai di Torino
Total duration: 2hr 31:33
One emerges from the second concert of the Brahms series which Bruno
Walter is giving with the Philharmonic - Symphony Orchestra, which took
place last night in Carnegie Hall, with, if anything, an even deeper
impression of the music and its unique interpretation.
These concerts apparently find Mr. Walter at the very zenith of his powers, absorbed in a task which is especially dear to him. He conducted last night the variations on the theme of Haydn, the Third Symphony, and the First Piano Concerto, with the fortunate collaboration of Clifford Curzon. He interpreted in such a manner that those who did not and will not hear these performances are missing something the like of which they are unlikely to hear again.
Mr. Walter was fortunate in his pianist, for Mr. Curzon treated the piano part of the concerto with the same sense of grandeur and poetry and passionate feeling entertained by the conductor. In one respect Mr. Curzon was not fortunate. He came at the end of a long and substantial program. This did not deter him from a magnificent interpretation, in which he showed that while as a virtuoso he had the music in the palm of his hand, he also had the complete and sensitive understanding of the score which he would have manifested if he had been conducting.
There was a further correspondence in the complete unaffectedness and virility of his reading, and his ability to capture mood and an introspective beauty of a rare kind in the passages that contrast exquisitely with the prevailing ruggedness and grandeur. There were salvos for the conductor and the soloist. This was inevitable. One could only wish that the flying moment might have been transfixed and preserved immaculate for the generations.
Olin Downes The New York Times, January 26, 1951 (excerpts)