Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bruno Walter In Minneapolis

Many music-lovers are unaware that Bruno Walter was the primary conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony for the orchestra’s 1922-1923 season. Walter’s title the season he led the Minneapolis Symphony was Chief Guest Conductor.

Emil Oberhoffer served as the orchestra’s Principal Conductor from 1903, the year the Minneapolis Symphony was founded, until 1922. In the latter year, Oberhoffer and the orchestra’s management had a fall-out, and Oberhoffer either resigned or was shoved aside.

Lacking a conductor for the following season, the Minneapolis Symphony approached Bruno Walter, who had recently resigned his position as Music Director of the old Court Opera in Munich. Germany was in political and economic crisis at the time—the period of post-war hyperinflation was at its peak—and Walter, like many German conductors in the early 1920s, was looking for work outside Germany. Walter agreed to come to the U.S. and tend the Minneapolis Symphony for a season.

It is unknown whether Walter or the orchestra contemplated a more permanent association at the time Walter was engaged. However, during the 1922-1923 season, the appearance of another guest conductor, Henri Verbrugghen, caused a sensation, and Verbrugghen was offered—and accepted—the post of Principal Conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony beginning with the 1923-1924 season. Verbrugghen remained the orchestra’s Principal Conductor until 1931, when he had to resign for reasons of health.

At the conclusion of the 1922-1923 season, Walter returned to Europe, where he was to hold several important posts for the next fifteen years. Walter fled Europe on November 1, 1939, exactly two months after the war started, and made the United States his home for the rest of his life.

After that 1922-1923 season, Walter was not again to appear with the Minneapolis Symphony until the Dimitri Mitropoulos era (1937-1949), when Walter returned to Minneapolis as a welcome guest conductor.

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