About this Recording
8.573351 - WALTER, B.: Violin Sonata / Piano Quintet (Frolova, Mari Sato, Vida, Peherstorfer, Häusle, S. Huber, Le Liu)
English  German 

Bruno Walter (1876–1962)
Piano Quintet • Violin Sonata


Nowadays, everyone remembers Bruno Walter as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century. But particularly during his first Viennese period (1901–12), he also saw himself as a “creative” musician, a kind of conductor-composer like his friend and rôle model Gustav Mahler. It is therefore not surprising that the then 27-year-old Walter was a founder member of the Vereinigung schaffender Tonkünstler (Society of Creative Musicians) founded in the spring of 1904. This was an initiative modelled on the Vienna Secession and driven mainly by Alexander von Zemlinsky and Arnold Schoenberg, with Gustav Mahler as its honorary president. Guido Adler, Professor of Musicology at the University of Vienna, wrote a sympathetic report on their aims in the Neue Freie Presse on 1 April 1904, namely: “To give contemporary music an ongoing platform and to keep the concert-going public abreast of current developments in music composition.”

In the spring of 1962, a few months after Bruno Walter’s death, his daughter, Lotte Walter-Lindt, offered her father’s papers to the University of Music and the Performing Arts in Vienna as a bequest.

Michael Staudinger
Head librarian, mdw

Bruno Walter’s Piano Quintet in F sharp minor was written in 1904–05 in the tradition set by Schumann and Brahms for such larger chamber formations. (There is an entry at the end of the manuscript score: “Vienna, 28 January 1905”.) Stylistically the four-movement work is indebted to the turn-of-the-century late-Romantic idiom. Gustav Mahler had engaged Bruno Walter to work at the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper) in 1901, and the influence of his eclectic method of composition, with its love of working out even the tiniest details, is unmistakable. This work is dedicated to Nina Spiegler (née Hoffmann), who almost became Mahler’s sister-in-law and whose salon brought together the leading intellectuals in Vienna at the turn of the century—Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Karl Kraus, Alfred Polgar, Peter Altenberg and Arthur Schnitzler. Arnold Rosé, the leader of the Vienna Philharmonic who gave the first performances of Bruno Walter’s Violin Sonata and String Quartet, also frequented this circle. His world-famous Rosé Quartet gave the première of the Piano Quintet in 1905 at the Vereinigung schaffender Tonkünstler’s second concert, with the composer at the piano.

The first movement opens on a simmering trill, after which the energetic first subject is stated ff by the violin and cello. The more tranquil subsidiary subject is introduced by the violin before being taken up by the other instruments. In the development (which moves from F minor to B major) Walter’s development of both themes demonstrates his consummate skill as a composer. The recapitulation opens “düster tonlos” (“sinisterly and tonelessly”) with the main theme in the piano; the subsidiary subject, played cantabile (“singend”) by the violin, enlivens the music and leads to a tranquil conclusion. The second movement is cast in three parts with a fiery central section in F sharp minor inserted between the two B major outer sections. The end of the movement dies away to nothing. The third movement is also in three sections, moving from “geheimnisvoll bewegt” (“mysterious and agitated”) to “wild ausbrechend” (“in a savage outburst”), but in the third section the viola takes up the theme in the faster tempo of the central section. The fourth movement, “fiery” and “tempestuous” (“feurig” and “stürmisch”), brings the Quintet to a brilliant conclusion.

Although the library of the University of Music and the Performing Arts in Vienna (mdw) holds the original manuscripts of most of Bruno Walter’s works, the autograph score of the Piano Quintet, with his corrections, rehearsal numbering and annotations, is owned by the Viennese architect and music-lover Klaus Furthner, who encouraged and sponsored its publication. Thanks to the engagement of Vice-Rector Kleibel, mdw subsequently financed the later stages of its preparation for print and encouraged Universal Edition to publish the first edition.

In 2012, the 50th anniversary of Bruno Walter’s death, I was able to link all the interested parties further by arranging two performances of his Piano Quintet, one in the Konzerthaus in Vienna (in which I myself participated), and another in the Musikverein, as well as rehearsing the ensemble heard on this recording.

Wolfgang Klos
Professor of Viola and Chamber Music, mdw

An intense artistic relationship linked Bruno Walter and the Vienna Philharmonic’s first violinist, Arnold Rosé. In 1883 Rosé had founded the quartet that bore his name and which, with various changes of personnel, can be said to have been the leading chamber music ensemble until 1938. Numerous world premières and first performances (mostly from manuscript rather than from existing printed editions) bear witness to its versatility. These include Brahms’s Piano Trio Op. 8 (1890, in a new revised version with the composer at the piano), Robert Fuchs’s Sonata for violin and piano in D minor (1902, with Rosé and Bruno Walter at the keyboard), Arnold Schoenberg’s sextet Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4 (1902), Hans Pfitzner’s String Quartet in D major, Op. 13 (1903), Arnold Schoenberg’s String Quartets Op. 7 (1907) and Op.10 (1908, with the famous singer Marie Gutheil-Schoder), to name but a few.

The first work by Bruno Walter to be premièred by the Rosé Quartet was his String Quartet in D major, which was performed on 17 November 1903 in the Brahms-Saal in Vienna as the second concert of the Quartet’s 22nd season. (Sadly, only parts of the manuscript have survived.) There followed premières of the Piano Quintet in F sharp minor (28 February 1905 with Bruno Walter at the piano), the Piano Trio in F major (now lost, 8 January 1907, again with Walter at the piano) and the Sonata for violin and piano in A major (9 March 1909, dedicated to Rosé, with the composer at the piano). After the Anschluss of 1938, Arnold Rosé had to leave Austria with his daughter Alma to avoid racial persecution, heading for Great Britain. Because it was almost impossible to perform in England during that period, Alma returned to the continent to earn a living, was denounced and taken to Auschwitz, where she died in 1944. Rosé lived in London until 1946 a broken man.

The Sonata for violin and piano in A major was Bruno Walter’s final chamber music composition and the only one to be published during his lifetime. The dedicatee (“For my dear friend, the great artist Arnold Rosé”) and the fact that the two friends gave the première give us a clear indication that the violin part is very difficult and makes technical demands on both soloists. The first movement begins with a forceful first subject in A major (“con espressione”). This is followed by a second subject in F sharp minor that initially seems calm (though “con gran espressione”), but is gradually drawn into the emotional sphere of the first, giving rise to a dramatic contest between the two themes (the development section). A somewhat shortened recapitulation restates both themes in the tonic. The rapidly changing indications of mood in the second movement (“serioso, misterioso, lugubre, dolcissimo, impetuoso, morendo, con gran dolore, energia violenta”, etc.) are characteristic of the time when it was written. They contribute to its variety and interest, and its difficulty for the performers. The final movement in A minor is structured like a rondo, but with the refrain alternating between the violin and the piano and occasionally inverted.

Gerold Gruber
Professor and Director of the exil.arte Centre, mdw

Translations: Susan Baxter

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