August 2012

  1. CD-1264 Front



    The Philharmonic-Symphony of 1942 was going through a bit of a rough patch at the height of WWII, with numerous players called up for military service. Still the players respond well and vividly to Walter’s wishes, in this account of the “Resurrection” that is noticeably more rhetorical and dramatic than his several later recordings. His response to directions such as the Molto pesante and ritardando leading to the first movement recapitulation (after Figure 20) is a spectacular bit of interpretive brinksmanship. Similarly, the movement’s coda is conducted with a searching breadth and drama not readily apparent from the Walter we know from the 1950s. The Andante moderato movement that follows is full of charm, contrasted with a truly stormy outburst climaxing the section marked Energisch bewegt. The listener can hear that the Philharmonic of 1942 executes portamento string playing more naturally than American orchestras would in the postwar era. There is even a smattering of applause from the audience in response to this movement.  And the irony of the third movement brought more acute response from Walter on this occasion than usual. The vividness of the third movement climax after Figure 50 throws the playing of the Philharmonic violins in the molto espressivo lines which follow into dramatic relief. Mona Paulee’s finely tuned account of “O Rosebud red” which follows is a moment of calm before the stormy finale. In this apocalyptic movement Walter’s response is again intensified, in details such as the caesura before Figure 2, in the balance and dynamic control of the offstage brass, and finally, in the restrained buildup to the majestic choral finale (with the Carnegie Hall organ adding richly sonorous support).

    It is tempting to speculate that the conductor’s recent uprooting from both his German homeland and his adopted Vienna refuge, combined with the traumatic events of Pearl Harbor just a month before this concert, may have manifested themselves in a certain ferocity evident in this account of the “Resurrection.” Walter’s missionary zeal for Mahler’s multidimensional music provided a ready outlet for such a vivid response to world events.


    The Philharmonic had played the Mahler First under Dimitri Mitropoulos in January 1941, so Walter was not teaching them the work from scratch as he had done with the NBC Symphony in 1939 (also available on a Music & Arts CD). This performance also exhibits similar rhetorical drama to that apparent in the “Resurrection” Symphony from earlier in the year. In expressiveness it even exceeds the NBC account, which is full of striking impetus but not so overtly rhetorical.


    In short, two previously unreleased public performance recordings that reveal a Walter given to passionate excesses not found in his later versions.

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