Helen Traubel, Soprano with Bruno Walter and the Los Angeles Philharmonic – in concert from The Hollywood Bowl – August/September 1947 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
A holiday special this weekend. An All-Wagner Concert recorded at The Hollywood Bowl, from 1947 featuring the Los Angeles Philharmonic in their Summer Home, led by legendary Conductor Bruno Walter and featuring soprano Helen Traubel in scenes from The Ring and Tristan und Isolde.
On November 1, 1939, Bruno Walter set sail for the United States, which became his permanent home. He settled in Beverly Hills, California, where his many expatriate neighbors included Thomas Mann.
During his years in the United States, Walter worked with many famous American orchestras. In December, 1942, he was offered the music directorship of the New York Philharmonic, but declined, citing his age; then in February, 1947, after the resignation of Artur Rodzinski, he accepted the position but changed the title to “Music Adviser” (he resigned in 1949). Among other orchestras he worked with were the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the NBC Symphony Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. From 1946 onwards, he made numerous trips back to Europe, becoming an important musical figure in the early years of the Edinburgh Festival and in Salzburg, Vienna and Munich.
Helen Traubel was a dramatic soprano, best known for her Wagnerian roles, especially those of Brünnhilde and Isolde.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, she began her career as a concert singer and went on to sing at the Metropolitan Opera from 1937 to 1953. Starting in the 1950s, she also developed a career as a nightclub and cabaret singer as well as appearing in television, films and musical theatre. Traubel spent her later years in Santa Monica, California, where she died at the age of 73.
Now for the caveats – this batch of Armed Forces Radio discs are noisy in many spots, and even after hours of picking, tweaking and fiddling, the sound still isn’t the best it could be. But when the original recordings are in terrible shape to begin with, dragging any useful sound out of these beat-up and abused grooves is somewhat miraculous since AFRS was the only one broadcasting these concerts at the time (NBC did later – CBS did, occasionally).
It’s a historic concert performed by two icons of an earlier time and for that you have to make a few concessions here and there.