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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Recordings from a Dinosaur, 26 May 2013
By 
John Fowler (urbana, illinois) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Bruno Walter: The Edition (Audio CD)
I've used this headline before - in a review of Otto Klemperer: Romantic Symphonies
It applies to both men, but even more so to Bruno Walter, who was nine years older than Klemperer.

Bruno Walter began his conducting career in 1894.
Johannes Brahms and Anton Bruckner were (just barely) contemporaries. Bruckner died in 1896, Brahms in 1897.
Gustav Mahler was very much a contemporary.
He hired Bruno Walter as an assistant in 1894, and Walter was part of Mahler's inner circle until the composer's death in 1911.
[Klemperer was part of the inner circle from 1905-1911].

Bruno Walter was a Nineteenth Century musician who survived into the Modern Age.
A true dinosaur.
Thanks to the forward thinking of Columbia Records, the 82 year-old conductor was brought out of retirement in 1958 to record his core repertoire in modern stereo sound.
This continued until his death in 1962.

I first started listening to classical music when I was fifteen - in 1964.
My first big crush was Herbert von Karajan.
I think I may have been influenced by the sheer look and feel of 1960s Deutsche Gramophon LP records.
They were twice as thick as American records, came in extra-wide plastic-lined sleeves, and didn't snap, crackle and pop like American records.

The infatuation with Karajan lasted about five years, until I discovered Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer at my college record shop (what's a record shop?).
The American pressings were still pretty awful, but the music-making was revelatory: Walter was warm and comforting; Klemperer was imposing and majestic.
Still my two favorite conductors of the stereo era.

Young Bruno Walter could be tough. "Old" Bruno Walter was warm and fuzzy. Musicians loved him.
I loved him.
Dynamic conductors are a dime a dozen. Old Bruno Walter was something special.

Bruno Walter seated his second violins stage right.
This was the custom in the Nineteenth Century.
Composers took it as a given.
You hear a lot of contrapuntal stuff which is absent when all violins are massed together on the left
(Karajan, Bernstein, Solti, and nearly every other modern conductor). *

Walter's early European career is documented in an 8 CD box from EMI: Icon: Bruno Walter
His middle career (1941-1956) was based in New York.
The New York Philharmonic mono recordings were done by Columbia Records.
Many of them are in this box.
Aside from a few New York PO stereo sessions, the late stereo recordings were done in Los Angeles with the "Columbia Symphony".
The "Columbia Symphony" was the Los Angeles Philharmonic under another name (the pre-1958 Columbia Symphony was mostly the New York Philharmonic).

This new Bruno Walter Edition is a straight re-issue of Sony's mid-1990s Bruno Walter Edition.

SOUND QUALITY:
No recordings were newly re-mastered for this box:
"These recordings were mastered using 20-bit technology for "high definition sound".
This was state of the art in 1995. An improvement over 16-bit.
They sound fine to me.

A few of them were reissued after 2000, using "Sony's Direct Stream Digital (DSD) System and SBM Direct".
I own the 2004 "Masterworks Expanded Edition" of Bruckner's Symphony 9.
I did an A/B comparison with the 1996 Bruckner 9 included in the Bruno Walter Edition.
The 2004 CD remastering sounded a tiny bit more impressive, but it was also transferred at a higher level which could affect my judgement.
One thing I noticed is that the timings are absolutely identical, which implies that Sony tweaked the 1996 digital master in 2004, instead of starting from scratch with the 1959 analog master tape, which a true re-mastering would have involved.

BAD NEWS:
The mid-1990s Bruno Walter Edition did not include all of Bruno Walter's stereo recordings.
His stereo Mozart Symphonies 35-41, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Masonic Funeral Music, 4 Overtures, and Beethoven's Violin Concerto with Francescatti were bypassed in favor of the mono New York recordings (Szigeti was soloist in the Beethoven).
I though this was a mistake at the time, and Sony has not corrected the problem.
It would have meant only three additional CDs.
These stereo recordings have been issued separately: Bruno Walter conducts Mozart - or - [ Last 6 Symphonies - or - Mozart : The Last 6 Symphonies - plus - Eine Kleine Nachtmusik / Opera Overtures ]
- and - Beethoven / Sibelius: Violin Concertos

It would have been nice if Sony had also included the mono New York Beethoven and Brahms Symphonies, and Mahler Symphony 1.
The performances are quite a bit more dynamic.
I still prefer the warm and fuzzy stereo versions, but it would have presented a more rounded picture of Walter's accomplishment.

The packaging is kind of dumb.
A 12 by 12 inch box, just like LP records used to come in.
Very retro, but it doesn't fit on my CD shelf.

No texts or translations for the vocal works.
Inevitable with these budget boxes. Sigh.

GOOD NEWS:
All the rehearsal recordings are included: Beethoven Symphonies 4,5,7,9, Mahler Symphony 9, Mozart Symphony 36, Wagner Siegfried Idyll. **
Even his rehearsals were warm and fuzzy.
When I want to hear the Siegfried-Idyll, I actually prefer this rehearsal to anybody's performance of the complete work.

A gorgeous booklet is included, with lots of well-produced photographs.
A new and excellent biography of Walter (slightly gossipy), plus detailed history of these recordings.

The price is incredibly low.

Highly Recommended.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* Leopold Stokowski is credited with devising the modern seating plan with massed violins on the left.
Stokowski liked the richer string sound that resulted when the f-holes of both violin sections were facing the audience.
This is not as lewd as it sounds.
The f-holes are two f-shaped holes on the top of the violin.
They serve to focus and project the sound coming from the interior of the instrument.
Violinists seated to the left of the conductor hold their instruments at a 45 degree angle toward the audience.
Those to the right hold their instruments at a 45 degree angle away from the audience (unless they're left-handed, then no problem).
Sacrificing clarity for fullness of tone: the "Philadelphia Sound."

This new system also made it easier for musicians to stay together, and Twentieth century conductors came increasingly to adopt it
(bot not Toscanini or Furtwangler, both of whom passed away before stereo could document their divided violins).
Contemporaries of Walter who remained loyal to divided violins in the stereo age included Klemperer, Monteux, Boult, Bohm and Kubelik.
[Fritz Reiner's earliest Chicago Symphony stereo recordings had divided violins, but by 1957 he had given up and adopted massed violins on the left].

** A few very hard-to-find rehearsals were omitted: See the May 28 comment from pclaudel.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A massive profile of one of the GREAT conductors, 26 May 2013
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This review is from: Bruno Walter: The Edition (Audio CD)
All my life, I have loved Bruno Walter's interpretations, and so it comes as would a birthday present to have this wonderful collection of CD's. If you are considering the purchase of such a large set, then you must be a Bruno Walter fan. Therefore, a review of the music will be not be required, while a technical appraisal of the recordings will be of the moment.

I enjoy a valve sound, electrostatic speakers and a audio-note DAC. This means that I really do hear what I play, and that the recording and mastering technology is of the essence to my enjoyment. Here's where some of the CD's come a-cropper. Those that were recorded in mono lack definition and lustre, while the later recordings are as good as it gets. Fortunately, most are in the latter category and a joy to listen to, being clean and precise.

So, what you get is warm-hearted, optimistic and intensely charged interpretations of a cross section of orchestral music selected by the maestro himself, and you are transported into a wonderland where nothing is out of place, and everything is just where it ought to be, and all of this at a most affordable price. What more can anyone ask for, and easily forgive the odd muddy sounding CD of an older technology!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Peerless Musician!, 13 Jun 2013
By 
R. C. Ross (Birmingham) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Bruno Walter: The Edition (Audio CD)
Just for this review we shall leave out of account Bruno Walter's background, his close ties with Gustav Mahler and his earlier performances and recordings - and confine a few comments to this collection: the Bruno Walter Edition.

That most musical of music critics, Sir Neville Cardus, writing in 1955 eloquently summarised Bruno Walter's conducting as 'A life-time of masterful musicianship warmed by love ... every note is related to a various, humane, and lovable art'. These recordings, often said to represent Walter's 'Indian Summer' (and what a harvest!) are the proof of that claim. Such an assessment of Bruno Walter, as man and musician, meant for Yehudi Menuhin that Walter's 'kindness was not the only reason why, of all the conductors whom I met in my youth, he remained my favourite.'

As may be seen from listings of the contents elsewhere, the works represented, all recorded in the late 50's and early 60's, are the music closest to this conductor's heart. He knew these works intimately and loved them deeply. And the glory of this collection is that all Bruno Walter's deep sensitivity and profound musicianship have been preserved. Unlike the (generally awful!) recordings Toscanini and Furtwangler had to contend with, the recorded sound here is excellent - nothing is 'spot-lit', nothing exaggerated, there is ripeness and warmth with a winsome clarity and truthfulness.

In many respects the performances are beyond reproach - none of us know so much or will live so long! Walter is never less than devoted to his art, and in many cases his approach and the response he finds from the orchestras he worked with are peerless. There is affection, but equally there is vitality. There is authority, but also humility before the score. Quite exemplary are the performances of Mozart symphonies, Brahms and Wagner. It goes without saying that his Mahler performances are uniquely persuasive (how glorious would have been a Walter 3rd!), so too the performances of Bruckner (oh for a Walter 5th!). The story is told of a famous conductor who concluded his rehearsals of Mahler's 9th with the New York Philharmonic with a plea to the orchestra for any advice that would help invoke the spirit of Mahler at the concert. After a lengthy pause, a brass player offered a way forward: 'Send for Bruno Walter'!

It's a fascinating fact that conductors of Walter's generation seemed at one in preferring divided violins (left firsts and right seconds) - this is true of Bruno Walter, and also of Nikisch, Toscanini, Furtwangler, Klemperer, Reiner, Szell, Knappersbusch, Boult, to name a few - but then so too does Boulez, at least at times.

There are at present many superb boxed sets being presented to us (how grateful we are!) - I would not hesitate to claim that this Bruno Walter Edition can, for a number of very good reasons, claim a priority over all others!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Reissue, 10 July 2013
By 
J. Gibbons (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Bruno Walter: The Edition (Audio CD)
This is, of course, a bargin reissue of Sony's original collection taken from the archives of American Columbia. The choice of performances is the same as the original issue. Therefore it is not a complete collection of his American Columbia output but - where alternative recordings exist - includes what the compilers felt were the best versions. The personal choice this involves is bound to cause debate amongst collectors but it is surely more important to consider what is included rather than bemoan what is not.

Most of Walter's 'indian summer' sessions with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra are here and well deserve their continuing place in the catalogue.

The Beethoven symphonies are superb performances. Whilst not minimising the drama inherent in the music, they are intensely lyrical and, although very different in approach from other conductors, Walter's interpretations retain their validity after more than half a century.

The Brahms symphonies are also a highlight of the set and remain amongst the finest ever recorded. Bruckner's 9th Symphony is also outstanding as are the Haydn and Mozart symphonies and overtures. The New York Philharmonic Mozart late symphonies have been used here and are very fine although, of course, very much in the 'big band' tradition of Mozart interpretation.

Given Walter's friendship with the composer, the Mahler discs have enormous interest. However, I should like to suggest their value lies in the quality of the performances themselves rather than as a guide to 'authentic' performance practice. After all, other conductors who knew Mahler - like Klemperer - recorded performances very different from those included here. Both the Ninth and Resurrection symphonies are quite superb. They are extremely moving and totally involving. Certainly not the only way to play Mahler but Walter, in accentuating the lyricism inherent in the music, has given us versions that are amongst the very finest on record.

Another highlight of this set is the two discs of Wagner recordings. The various opera highlights and the Siegfried Idyll are beautifully shaped and paced. Walter emphasises the humanity and warmth inherent in the music and this approach results in performances of superb quality.

Also included are a number of rehearsals and a very interesting interview with the conductor which are a joy to listen to. As this is a 'bargin' reissue, there has been no new remastering. The large format booklet is most informative and contains an excellent essay. However, it would have been helpful if full discographical details were included - these have to be obtained from the sleeves of the individual discs.

A superb issue which will give great pleasure to all lovers of fine music making. Highly recommended.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good value, but missing documentation, 21 July 2013
This review is from: Bruno Walter: The Edition (Audio CD)
This set contains good value for your money. I would, however, have preferred a release according to the "Original Jacket" concept. Although there is a fine booklet containing an essay on Walter, I severely miss the documentation that was included in original "Bruno Walter The Edition". That would had been possible to include on a separate CD. 20-bit mapping was used throughout, according to the booklet. I believe that people who buy boxes like this are real afficionados, and they value all information they can get about the recordings included.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some of my collection's finest recordings, 10 April 2014
This review is from: Bruno Walter: The Edition (Audio CD)
In common with many collectors, I'm always on the look out for THE recording of a piece that to these ears seems to put all others in the shade. There are a number recordings included in this set that do this for me. Brahms 2,3 & 4, Dvorak 8 & 9, Bruckner 7, Schubert 8 & 9. The list goes on... Incidently, check out the Reiner Chicago SO complete RCA box as well. No shortage of definitive recordings there also: Mahler 4, Strauss Heldenleben, Rachmaninov concerto 2 with Rubinstien.... Oh, and don't forget the daddy of them all, Leopold Stokowski. The EMI & Columbia boxes are probably the ones to have. Never a dull moment! ,
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LISTENING IS BELIEVING, 21 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Bruno Walter: The Edition (Audio CD)
My intial reaction of recieving the 39 cd box set of Bruno Walter the edition this afternoon was beyond description.The sound in crystal after listening a couple of cd.I d not wheter they were remastered for this edtion,no crackle or tape hiss.It put a lot of rcording such Mercury Living Presence or Living Stereo 2nd class in comparison to this set.I am going to listen to all cd before a complete review.The only regret is there is no text or translation of songs.The booklet is 30 pages of LP side and few extra pages could accomodate the text and translation.Never mind even the perfect diamond has flaw.Highly recommended and urge to invest in this box set and you will not regret your investement.Sony should be pro-active and why all the rehearsal, on 1 cd the rehearsal last 45 minute and the music is less than 18 minutes. .Why spend money in wrapping the gift in deluke editon and all music lovers would prefer extra cd and text and translation.Has sony lost the plot and believe that you speak and understand German. Good morgen and blumen is my extensive vocaburary that I can speak to a German he or she will understand.I have been comparing Mahler symphony 5 by Abbadoo.Although the Abbadoo sound is superior but the Bruno Walter version is the one I prefer to listen despite the frying chips sound .Any one for fish.......
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BRUNO WALTER THE EDITION, 4 Sep 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Bruno Walter: The Edition (Audio CD)
WALTER BEING ONE OF MY FAVORITE CONDUCTORS I WAS MOST EXCITED WHEN I PURCHASED THIS WONDERFUL BOX SET. THE BEETHOVEN SYMPHONIES WITH THE COLUMBIA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA HAVE BEEN DELETED A LONG TIME SO IT WAS GOOD THAT THEY HAVE NOW BEEN REISSUED IN THIS BOX SET. WHAT I FOUND OUTSTANDING IS THE SYMPHONY NO 9.BY BEETHOVEN . ONE OF THE BEST INTERPRETATIONS I HAVE EVER HEARD ON RECORD. ALSO SYMPHONY NO 96 BY HAYDEN.. THIS .BOX SET IS A MUST FOR ANY MUSIC LOVER WHO IDOLIZES BRUNO WALTER. IT VERY GOOD VALUE FOR MONEY AND HAS AN INTERESTING BOOKLET.

BRIAN

MANCHESTER
.
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