excerpt from 'Lionel Bradley Bulletin, 11 Jan 1939' (447 words)

excerpt from 'Lionel Bradley Bulletin, 11 Jan 1939' (447 words)

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Lionel Bradley Bulletin, 11 Jan 1939

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Jan.11, Queens Hall: B.B.C. Bruno Walter


I think that my only previous experience of Bruno Walter as a conductor was in June 1937 when he came with the Vienna Philharmonic & Elizabeth Schumann. Now his Vienna is no more & he has become a Frenchman. It is, apparently, a number of years since he conducted the BBC orchestra & whether for that or other reasons he was welcomed to-night with a particularly vociferous ovation by an audience which the eye & ear revealed as containing a number of Jews and Germans. We began with Mozart’s G minor (K.550) which had as good a performance as any I have heard. He took it rather more slowly & rather more quietly than some conductors do. It didn’t lose by that & tho’ he is a very undemonstrative conductor (easy going one might say if one didn’t hear the results) there was quite enough incisiveness & force, and a nice blending of tones. Beecham might have made it more exciting and more delicate in fantasy but could hardly make it unfold more naturally nor with so exquisite a pianissimo. There followed the Requiem which I have not heard now for a number of years. Indeed the time when I heard the Dies Irae each Christmas in Magdalen Chapel under Varley Roberts is now no more than a dim tho’ cherished memory. The soloists were Noel Eadie who sang as beautifully and as purely as one would expect from a one-time Queen of Night, Astra Desmond who did well the little she has to do, Heddle Nash (who sounded a trifle operatic but then the music is in its way as dramatic as Verdi’s) and Keith Falkner. The latter is always a sound and an intelligent singer but it didn’t seem to me that his voice was big enough (or should I say rich & fruity enough) for the “Tuba mirum”. I found that parts of the Requiem had become quite unfamiliar – though two fugal passages “Quam olim Arabae” and the “Hosanna” seemed to be old friends.

The BBC choir sang very well indeed & responded to all Walter’s demands whether for a great burst of sound or for an expressive quietness. He adopted the useful habit (which I don’t remember from previous conductors) of making the choir sit down for half a minute between one section & the next even when both were choral. The result was that they came fresh to each section. There was some good playing from the orchestra tho’ it was not so noteworthy as the choir’s singing.

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