The Bruno Walter Papers represent the career of the conductor Bruno Walter. The collection contains correspondence (primarily from after his emigration to the United States in 1941) as well as photographs, some books and music, and memorabilia.
Additional physical form: Series 1-9 are available on microfilm: *ZB-2677 (master negative: *ZZ-33,406)
Biographical/historical: As the life of Bruno Walter is well documented in standard reference sources, a brief overview of his life should suffice.
Bruno Schlesinger was born in Berlin on Sept. 15, 1876. His early musical instruction was in the form of piano lessons. As a student at the Stern Conservatory he began to receive notice as early as 1887. By the 1890s his interest gravitated toward conducting and he made his conducting debut in 1894. He first met Gustav Mahler in Hamburg, 1895. In 1901 Walter was appointed to the Court Opera in Vienna where Mahler was the Music Director. The two developed a close relationship that lasted until the composer's death in 1911. By the turn of the century Walter dropped Schlesinger as a last name. In 1900 he conducted the world premiere of Hans Pfitzner's Der arme Heinrich, and remained a close friend of the composer and of his wife (Walter's last letter, written the day before he died, was addressed to the composer's widow, Mali Pfitzner). Sometime in this first decade Walter married Elsa Korneck. Though she lived until the early 1940s, she remains a shadowy figure, and the papers hold scant evidence of her existence (though Mahler did address two cards to her).
Walter's appointment to Vienna ended in 1913 when he became the Music Director of the Munich Opera. His departure from Munich in 1922 was cause for an outpouring of public expression. Following this tenure, Walter made guest appearances several orchestras. From 1925-1929 he was Music Director of the Berlin Städtische Opera -- a position that was not without a certain amount of friction between him and the Generalintendant Heinz Tietjen. In 1929 Walter succeeded Furtwängler as Music Director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus.
With the rise to power of the Nazi party in 1933, Bruno Walter was removed from his post at Leipzig and made Austria the center of his activities for the next few years. The Anschluss of 1938 forced Walter to emigrate to France where he became a citizen in 1940. The subsequent occupation of France led Walter to find his home in the United States, where he settled in 1941, in Beverly Hills. He obtained United States citizenship in 1945.
Despite a brief stint as Acting Music Director of the New York Philharmonic (1947-1949), Walter was engaged primarily as a guest conductor with orchestras in North America and in Europe. He became acquainted with Rudolf Bing while the latter was in charge of the Edinburgh Festival. When Bing became General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera in 1950 he was able to entice Walter into leading several operatic performances, most notably a revival of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in 1956.
Though his public appearances became less frequent during the 1950s, his recording activity assumed a major place in his life. A mild heart attack in 1957 led Walter to curtail many of his appearances. Even after his final public performances in 1960, Walter continued to record for Columbia Records, and plan for future recording projects.
Bruno Walter died in his sleep at his home in Los Angeles on February 17, 1962.
Content: The bulk of the collection dates from 1938-1962. It had been supplemented (through Lotte Walter Lindt's efforts) with reproductions of Walter's correspondence to various recipients. Most of Walter's pre-1938 correspondence was lost during wartime bombing (Lindt, Bruno Walter Briefe, p. 1). Correspondents with more than 10 items include Paul Badura-Skoda, Rudolf Bing, Karl Böhm, Adrian Boult, Van Cliburn, Kathleen Ferrier, Lotte Lehmann, Goddard Lieberson, Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler, Thomas Mann, Daniel Gregory Mason, David Oppenheim, Hans Pfitzner, Wolfgang Streseman, Heinz Tietjen, Arturo Toscanini, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Columbia Records, Decca Record Company, Gustav Fischer Verlag, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, and Wiener Philharmoniker.
Ownership: Formerly in the possession of Lotte Walter Lindt, Walter's daughter. Upon her death, the papers were held by the Bruno Walter Foundation.
Acquisition: After Bruno Walter's death in 1962, his surviving daughter, Lotte Walter Lindt, was custodian of his papers. Upon her death in the 1970s, ownership of the collection went to The Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation, administered by Walter's lawyer, Victor Jacobs. The Foundation donated the Bruno Walter Papers to the New York Public Library in 1978.
Extent: 7.5 linear feet (32 boxes + additional material)