- Piano Quintet in F sharp minor
Bruno Walter achieved fame as one of the great conductors of the 20th century, though many listeners today are unaware of his early efforts to be a composer, following in the footsteps of his friend and mentor, Gustav Mahler. Yet Walter's "Violin Sonata in A major" (1908) and his "Piano Quintet in F sharp minor" (1904) show little of Mahler's influence -- not surprising, considering the complexity and uniqueness of his works -- but the presence of Johannes Brahms is immediately apparent. The dramatic power and poignant lyricism of the "Violin Sonata," Walter's last composition, grow out of Brahms' music, right from the opening chords. The sweeping melodic gestures and warm expressions are characteristic of late Romantic Viennese chamber music, though the date of composition makes it contemporary with Arnold Schoenberg's first experiments with atonality. The "Piano Quintet" is a less polished work, though it has many flashes of originality that make it more interesting than the "Violin Sonata," with its exploration of unusual string sonorities and unexpected modulations, and a macabre Scherzo (track 6) that is the closest Walter came to imitating Mahler. The "Violin Sonata" is thoughtfully interpreted and smoothly played by violinist Ekaterina Frolova and pianist Mari Sato, though in the "Piano Quintet," violinists Patrick Vida and Lydia Peherstorfer, violist Sybille Häusle, cellist Stefanie Huber, and pianist Le Liu play with more wildness and intensity, suiting the unpredictable nature of the piece.