WORKS: Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: New York PO
CATALOGUE NO: SMK 64451 ADD mono (1947)
This ten-disc volume (also available as a box: Sony SX10K 66246, D805) is dominated by the music of Mahler, who was Walter’s mentor from 1894 until the composer’s death in 1911, by which time Walter had followed him to Vienna and begun to champion his music. He gave the posthumous premieres of the Ninth Symphony and Das Lied von der Erde, bodi of which loom large in this collection.
Some of the most interesting parts of this set are the rehearsals and interview. Walter considered himself Mahler’s musical executor, duty-bound to pass on all he knew about performing his music, and his preparation of the Nindi with die inexperienced players of the Columbia orchestra was a revelation to them in I960, as it is to us today. As bodi conductor and pianist he was a brilliant accompanist – fine examples here, even if his singers (apart from the glorious Mildred Miller) do not stand comparison with his solo violinists in die two concertos.
The Wagner discs include a fascinating rehearsal of die Siegfried Idylland dramatic accounts of orchestral extracts from the operas, which only underline the regrettable fact that there are precious few recordings by him of the stage works. Walter could balance musical accuracy with sensitivity in his interpretations, and this edition, which today preserves links which effectively go back a century, is not only historically invaluable but (despite unavoidable technical blemishes) musically rich. Christopher Fifield