Wednesday, June 26
In the summer of 1912, the Vienna Philharmonic presented a week-long Music Festival that offered three “Ninths”—Beethoven’s Ninth conducted by Felix Weingartner, Bruckner’s Ninth conducted by Artur Nikisch, and, on today’s date, the world premiere of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth, conducted by Bruno Walter.
Mahler had died the previous year, and the Viennese public greeted the posthumous premiere of his last complete work with a roar of applause—and decidedly mixed reviews. The work’s elegiac opening won over most of the professional critics, but many were frankly puzzled by some of the symphony’s raucous middle movements.
Bruno Walter, the Mahler protégé who conducted the premiere, was singled out for praise, however. Walter made two famous recordings of Mahler’s Ninth: The first made live during a January 16, 1938, concert of the Vienna Philharmonic. On January 16, 1961—exactly 23 years to the day after that 1938 recording—Walter began making a stereo recording of Mahler’s Ninth at the American Legion Hall in Hollywood, with the Columbia Symphony.
Walter was 84 in 1961, and despite repeated pleas from the control room, couldn’t stop himself from vigorously stamping his foot 17 seconds into the second-movement, Laendler—a thump not written in Mahler’s score, but now part of Walter’s classic second recording.
Music Played in Today's Program
Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911) Symphony No. 9 Columbia Symphony; Bruno Walter, cond. Sony 64452