COMPOSERS: Bruno Walter in Rehearsal
WORKS: Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: Vancouver International Festival Orchestra
CATALOGUE NO: DV-DOCBW
Only 12 years separate these two televised rehearsals, yet they are worlds apart in presentation, atmosphere and manner. A reverential and distant air pervades the 1958 Walter programme: a highly edited glimpse into the Temple of High Art. A polite greeting from the musicians, businesslike, unemotional gestures and (above all) few words usher in a largely uninterrupted first reading of movements 1 and 4 of Brahms’s Second Symphony.
Intercut with this is an interview – polite to the point of reticence and short on any probing for facts – by a journalist friend in Walter’s Beverly Hills garden. In Stuttgart in 1970, Kleiber, neatly but very informally dressed, talks a lot – almost too much in the Strauss rehearsal.
Yet the risqué jokes about the players’ punctuality, the detailed descriptions of what music in the overture belongs to which part of the stage action and the constant encouragements to the players to make decisions themselves – even if, in fact, he is taking them on the most carefully shepherded guided tour towards his own interpretation – are soon winning over the most hardened-looking desks.
How does that fabulous murky sound at the beginning of Freischütz come about? With the advice, ‘Don’t all start at once! Let your colleague start – perhaps he’ll get it right!’ Wonderful. Sound and picture on the Walter are both pretty scrappy, but the Kleiber is better and gives you two lengthy rehearsals in addition to the concert performances – it’s compulsive viewing. Mike Ashman