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Walter, Bruno (1876-1962)

WALTER, BRUNO (1876-1962)

The celebrated conductor and composer Bruno Walter was born in Berlin on September 15, 1876, and died in Los Angeles on February 17, 1962.

Born German, Bruno Walter Schlesinger was naturalized as an Austrian citizen in 1911, took French citizenship in 1938, and became an American citizen in 1948. Dropping his surname in favor of "Walter" represented an identification with Walther von Stolzing, the hero of Wagner's comic opera, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Walter's musical training took place in Berlin, Cologne, and Hamburg, where he met avant-garde composer Gustav Mahler, who became his mentor and whom he followed to Vienna. There he began a brilliant career as conductor and pianist, and was also Mahler's staunch defender.

Walter was an active participant on the unique and complex intellectual scene in turn-of-the-century Vienna, and his introduction to psychoanalysis occurred in 1906, while a young conductor and Mahler's protegé.Thenata crucial stage in life, he suffered from a paralyzing neuralgia and, after consulting a number of specialists, he decided to seek help from Freud. From Walter's autobiography we know the course and outcome of their meeting, which has been the subject of a small number of studies. Freud's work with Walter was unusual in that he operated less as psychoanalyst than as a psychiatric consultant.

Indeed, while the young Walter expected months of psychological investigation, Freud, after a physical exam and a single visit, prescribed sojourns in Italy and Sicily. The impact of the consultation had such an effect that Walter obeyed immediately. His subsequent treatment with Freud resembled therapy by suggestion such as was common in the nineteenth century. When Walter asked Freud if he would be able to play in front of an audience because he feared a relapse, Freud took upon himself the responsibility, assuming the role of a protective paternal figure and inducing an almost hypnotic effect upon Walter, traces of which were still discernable forty years later.

The case history of Bruno Walter was discovered by the Austrian analyst Richard Sterba, who also emigrated to the United States and was a great music lover. Since his 1951 publication, this unusual affair has come regularly under scrutiny, whether for purely historical value, as a key example of brief therapy, for Freud's use of a somatic approach, or even as a method of treating the so-called "actual neuroses."

The close-knit Viennese artistic milieu fostered fortuitous encounters. Mahler, for example, also had a therapeutic consultation with Freud; and Ernest Jones, in the second volume of Freud's biography, mentions that it took place to the intervention of Viennese neurologist Richard Nepallek, who also happened to be a relative of Mahler's wife, Alma. Others have suggested Walter as the source of the consultation, but have not been able to prove it. It is true that during the 1930s Walter collaborated with Herbert Graf, better known in psychoanalytic circles as "Little Hans." Whether these experiences intensified Walter's powerful admiration for Freud, as revealed by Sterba, is not known.

Nicolas Gougoulis

See also: Music and psychoanalysis; Suggestion.

Bibliography

Chesire, Neil M. (1997). The empire of the ear: Freud's problem with music. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 6, 1127-1168.

Garcia, Emanuel E. (1990). Somatic interpretation in a transference cure: Freud's treatment of Bruno Walter. International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 17, 83-88.

Gougoulis, Nicolas, and Kapsambélis, Vassilis. (1996). Recherches sur le concept freudien des névroses actuelles. Topique, 61, 493-502.

Sterba, Richard F. (1951). A case of brief psychotherapy by Sigmund Freud. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 38, 75-80.

Walter, Bruno. (1946). Theme and variations. An autobiography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

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Walter (Schlesinger), Bruno

Walter [Schlesinger], Bruno (b Berlin, 1876; d Beverly Hills, Calif., 1962). Ger.-born conductor and pianist (Amer. cit.). Coach and ass. cond., Cologne Opera, 1893–4, Hamburg 1894–8 as ass. to Mahler, Riga 1898–1900, Berlin 1900–1, Vienna 1901 (with Mahler till 1907)–1912, Munich Opera 1913–22. Disciple of Mahler and cond. f.ps. of Das Lied von der Erde, Munich 1911, and 9th Sym., Vienna 1912. Cond. f.p. of Pfitzner's Palestrina 1917. Amer. début 1923. Cond. Berlin Municipal Opera 1925–9, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch. 1929–33. Mus. dir., Vienna Opera 1936–8. Assoc. with Salzburg Fest. 1925–37, and 1949, 1950, 1953, and 1956. Emigrated to Fr., and became Fr. cit. 1938, and then moving to USA., where he became Amer. cit. London début 1909, Phil. Soc. concerts, CG 1910. From 1924 to 1931, cond. regularly at CG, incl. memorable perfs. of Der Rosenkavalier, Die Fledermaus, and Le nozze di Figaro. After Second World War returned to London to cond. LPO 1946. At first Edinburgh Fest., 1947, cond. legendary perf. of Das Lied von der Erde with Kathleen Ferrier and Peter Pears. Accompanied (pf.) Ferrier at recitals in Edinburgh and Salzburg and recorded Das Lied von der Erde with her in Vienna, 1952. Cond. at NY Met 1941–6, 1950–1, and 1955–6. Prin. cond. NYPO 1947–9. Last visit to Eng., 1955. One of greatest conds., especially of Beethoven, Bruckner, Schubert, and Mahler. His warm, expansive approach was at opposite pole to Toscanini's precision and brilliance. Comp. 2 syms., str. qt., pf. quintet, pf. trio, and songs. Wrote biography of Mahler (1936, Eng. edns. 1937 and 1958) and autobiography Theme and Variations (1946).

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"Walter (Schlesinger), Bruno." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Walter, Bruno

Bruno Walter, 1876–1962, German-American conductor, b. Berlin as Bruno Walter Schlesinger. Walter studied at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. After he had conducted in several German cities, Gustav Mahler appointed him (1901) assistant conductor of the Vienna State Opera, where he remained until 1912. Walter was musical director of the Munich Opera (1912–22) and of the Municipal Opera, Berlin (1925–29), and appeared at Covent Garden and the Salzburg Festival. He made his American debut in 1923. While conductor of the Gewandhaus Concerts in Leipzig (1929–33), he was forced by the Nazis to leave Germany. He returned to the Vienna Opera in 1935 but left in 1938, when the Nazis took over Austria. Walter became a permanent resident of the United States in 1939. He conducted the Metropolitan Opera, the NBC Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, and other American ensembles, being permanent conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 1947 to 1949. His performances had technical accuracy, controlled balance and inner details, expressive phrasing, rhetorical emphasis, and contrasting power and lyricism. Walter was renowned as an interpreter of the German and Austrian classics and was a friend and champion of Mahler. He wrote Gustav Mahler (tr. 1941), an autobiography, Theme and Variations (1946), and Of Music and Music-Making (1961).

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Walter, Bruno

Walter, Bruno (1876–1962) German conductor, b. Bruno Walter Schlesinger. After a series of posts in Europe, he went to the USA in 1939. From 1941 to 1957, he worked with the Metropolitan Opera Company, New York. He was highly regarded for his interpretations of Richard Strauss and Mahler.

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