Bruno Walter

Bruno Walter conducts Dvorák & Smetana

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Bruno Walter conducts Dvorák & Smetana Review

by James Leonard

For fans of Bruno Walter with the New York Philharmonic, this disc collecting their early recordings of works from the Bohemian repertoire will be a boon. While he made a small number of recordings in the '20s and the '30s with the Berlin, the Vienna, and the Royal Philharmonic, Walter is best represented in the catalog by his recordings from the late '50s and early '60s with the Columbia Symphony. These recordings of the core Austro-Germanic repertoire of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, and, above all, Mahler, remain by common agreement among the finest ever made. However, as his fans know, Walter had first begun recording in the United States with the New York Philharmonic, and the performances here from 1941 and 1947 are vintage Walter/New York Philharmonic: brilliantly played, lightly driven, immensely soulful, and enormously joyful. His postwar Dvorák Eighth, while much faster than his Eighth with the Columbia Symphony from 1961, shines and glimmers and sings. His prewar Slavonic Dance, while much slower than most later recordings of the work, is still infectiously rhythmic, and his prewar Moldau is warmly lyrical, radiantly colorful, and satisfyingly emotional. The addition of Walter's 1938 recording of the Overture to the Bartered Bride with the London Symphony Orchestra rounds out this portrait of Walter as an advocate of Bohemian music -- an advocacy he didn't surrender during the dark time when there was no more Bohemia but rather the Sudetenland. Istituto Discografico Italiano's sound is quite distant, but clean enough with a distinct sense of time and place.

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