Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Schubert "Great C Major" (Bruno Walter, 1946)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
(restored by Peter Joelson)

Today I present a recording that is very dear to me, as it was my introduction not only to this wonderful symphony, but the very first set of 78s I ever bought (or, more accurately, that was bought for me, by my grandmother, for $8.49 plus tax) at Clark Music, the wonderful music store that I wrote about in this post.  I was all of 10 years old, that fall of 1973, when I discovered the place, and of the twenty or twenty-five classical album sets in mint condition there that had remained unsold since the late 1940s, this one beckoned to me, mainly because I knew Schubert to be a Great Composer - I don't think I had even heard of most of the other composers represented in that motley collection - and moreover, it was a great big Symphony on six records!  Such is a child's reasoning.  Of course, this isn't the same copy as that one.  I wore that one out within two or three years, eventually obtaining another to replace it, which was sold off along with most of my 78s eight years ago.  This copy came to me courtesy of Ken Halperin of Collecting Record Covers:

Schubert: Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D. 944 ("The Great")
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York conducted by Bruno Walter
Recorded April 22, 1946
Columbia Masterworks set MM-679, six 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 124.35 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 64.3 MB)

Bruno Walter, it seems to me, came closer to the essence of this symphony than anyone else, and I don't think I'm saying that merely because I "learned" the work through this recording.  This is the second of his three recordings of it - the first was in 1938, with the London Symphony for HMV, and the last was in 1959, with his California-based, eponymous Columbia Symphony Orchestra.


  1. Look forward to first hearing. Have Walter's HMV, and
    Blech; be interesting to compare. Assume you know the
    cello quintet. If I had to choose one piece as the most beautiful music in the world, the slow movement
    woukd be it. Of course, I should hate to be forced to choose!

    1. Do indeed love the quintet. Favorite old recording of it is the Pro Arte (HMV, 1935) which is in an Andante CD set devoted to vintage recordings of Schubert chamber music.

  2. Bryan, many thanks for sharing this recording and your lovely story. For me, it was my grandmother's mono vinyl of Rimsky's Scheherazade (Ansermet) that was my first childhood window onto the world of classical music.

    1. We all have our stories, don't we? And thanks for sharing yours. Strictly speaking, this wasn't my intro to classical music, for I had inherited a few classical 78s (and LPs) previously, but it was the first time I had chosen a major classical recording for myself in a store, rather than merely getting hand-me-down stuff.