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Bruno Walter Rarities, Vol. 2 = Works of BERLIOZ, HANDEL, WAGNER, MOZART, WEBER – Pristine Audio

Mark Obert-Thorn adds more rare Bruno Walter recordings to supplement his three earlier installments.  

Bruno Walter Rarities, Vol. 2 = BERLIOZ: Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9; HANDEL: Concerto Grosso in b, Op. 6, No. 12; WAGNER: Parsifal: Act I Transformation Music; A Siegfried Idyll; MOZART: Le Nozze di Figaro, K. 492 – Overture; Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K. 525 “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”; WEBER: Der Freischuetz, Op. 77 Ov. – Berlin Philharmonic Orch. (Berlioz)/ Royal Philharmonic Orch. (Wagner)/ Mozart Festival Orch. (K. 492)/ British Sym. Orch. (K. 525)/ Paris Conservatory Orch. (Handel, Weber)/ Bruno Walter – Pristine Audio PASC 492, 72:28 [avail. in various formats from] ****: 

The recorded legacy (1923-1938) of Bruno Walter (1876-1962) enjoys further expansion in the CD format via the painstaking efforts of Mark Obert-Thorn, who restores several items – the Handel Concerto Grosso, in particular – once available through the Bruno Walter Society on LP, and the frisky 1928 Le Nozze di Figaro Overture, which makes its debut here. Essentially, Obert-Thorn’s tour takes us from Walter’s work in Berlin to his excursions to Britain and then flight to Paris, France to escape the Anschluss in Austria. Walter’s musical style maintains strong ties a Romantic tradition that both Weingartner and Toscanini had begun to discredit, with its portamentos and luftpausen in the melodic/rhythmic line.  What does compel us, however, even in the acoustic records, comes in the form of Walter’s infectious tempos and unabashed enthusiasm for this repertory, some of which, like the Berlioz, he never again engaged in the recording studio. The Berlioz, from the Polydor label, somehow missed inclusion in the acoustic releases offered on PASC 142 and PASC 342.

I recall having programmed the tender 1938 Concerto Grosso in b of Handel for a series of extended Bruno Walter tributes over WHRW-FM at SUNY, Binghamton, my having secured the Bruno Walter Society issue of the LP. The Paris Conservatory Orchestra responds well to Walter’s tempos and dynamics, which includes a harpsichord continuo in the texture. What passes as the “Mozart Festival Orchestra,” Obert-Thorn confides, is likely this same ensemble under a pseudonym. From 1938, we have a rather tempestuous Overture to Der Freischuetz, the sound much improved over Walter’s acoustic record. While the French horns do not blend perfectly, they still shimmer with a forest excitement that the Paris strings accentuate for its Gothic possibilities.  Walter recorded Wagner’s A Siegfried Idyll several times, and here (in 1926) we have a lyrical, somewhat brisk account that will be surpassed for sheer intensity in his New York Philharmonic version.  Obert-Thorn himself favors the British Symphony collaboration in Mozart’s ubiquitous Serenade in G Major. The performance does project a distinctly outdoor character, especially made enchanting in the first movement by both the tugs in the rhythm and the solid support in the bass line. The carefully contrived hesitations add a distinct color, and the strings attacks maintain a crisp, clean articulation.

These performances from Walter’s pre-American tenure reveal an energy and litheness of spirit that provide a good foil to the more “venerable” approach of his later, Los Angeles legacy. They enter our record library particularly welcome.

—Gary Lemco

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