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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25, No. 2. 1962.

Bruno Walter

page 4

Bruno Walter

"He is the poet among contemporary conductors . . . the last great representative of the romantic tradition of conducting."

So said Albert Goldberg of Bruno Walter in an article appearing in The New York Times Magazine, thus summarizing the countless tributes which have been bestowed on the internationally celebrated conductor in his more than sixty years before the public.

Long associated with the gramophone, Dr. Walter conducted recorded performances of numerous Strauss, Mozart and Mahler works, and complete Beethoven and Brahms cycles. His last release, the product of two years' work in Columbia's studios, was the first complete Beethoven cycle in stereo, and a new set of the Brahms symphonies.

France's highest disc honour, the Grand Prix du Disque, has been awarded to three Walter recordings: a Mozart album entitled "In the Gardens of Mirabell"; "The Birth of a Performance", a rehearsal and performance of Mozart's "Linz" Symphony; and the Brahms Double Concerto, with soloists Isaac Stem and Leonard Rose. Several years ago his four-volume album of Brahms' complete orchestral works with the New York Philharmonic was cited by the Saturday Review Annual Critics Poll as the year's best orchestral recording.

The most recent honour accorded Dr. Walter was the cultural honorary prize for 1959 of the City of Munich" by a unanimous vote of the Munich City Parliament, in recognition of his long association with the City which began in 1912, when he became Generalmusikdirektor of the Munich Opera and conducted its Philharmonic Concerts.

Bruno Walter was born in Berlin on September 15, 1876. His mother had attended Stern Conservatory of Music, and it was there that young Bruno Walter commenced his studies. A gifted pianist he gave his first recital at the age of ten. His career was abruptly altered three years later, however, when he heard and saw Hans van Bulow conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Immediately the young man decided to become a conductor and pursued studies toward that end.

On March 13, 1894, Bruno Walter, age seventeen, ascended the conductor's podium of the Cologne Opera House for his first professional engagement. The next two years he spent at the Hamburg Opera House, first as chorus master, later as conductor. During that time occurred one of the significant meetings of his life—the encounter with Gustav Mahler, first conductor of the opera. The meeting was to deepen into a warm friendship with lasting and profound influence on Bruno Walters' career and life.

During the next five years, from 1896 to 1901, he conducted in the smaller opera centres of Germany, at the Riga Opera in Russia, finally at the Berlin Royal Opera. Then, at Gustav Mahler's invitation, he became Kapellmeister to the Vienna Hofoper, a position which he held for eleven years, increasing the artistic renown of the opera house and enlarging his own talents through his close association with Mahler. When Mahler left Vienna in 1907, Bruno Walter remained for another five years.

In 1913 he became Royal Music Director at Bavaria and he assumed the position of director of the Berlin Municipal Opera in 1925, in which position he continued until 1929, when he became director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus.

Early in the twenties, Bruno Walter was also one of the great guiding forces of the Salzburg Festival, which he helped found and develop, and where his interpretations of Mozart were the primary attraction.

When Hitler came into power in 1933, Bruno Walter centred his career in Austria, where he was director of the Vienna State Opera from 1935 to 1938. Immediately following the Anschluss, he resigned from this position and went to France, where the Government gave him French citizenship. He remained in France until the out-break of World War II in 1939, when he made his residence in the United States.

A citizen of the United States since 1946, Bruno Walter's American career dates back to 1923 when he first appeared as guest conductor of the New York Symphony. He returned for the next two seasons, at which time he also appeared as guest conductor of the Boston Detroit and Minneapolis Orchestras. Musical adviser of the New York Philharmonic Symphony from 1947 to 1949, he was invited to conduct that orchestra each subsequent season.

On many occasions since 1946, Dr Walter returned to Europe to conduct at many international festivals and for opera and symphonic organisations; he was also the author of a book on Gustav Mahler, an essay on Mozart, and an outstanding autobiography, "Theme and Variations."