no previousno next

Professor Walter Bricht

Walter Bricht, esteemed professor of Indiana University's School of Music, departed this life Friday morning, March 20, after a long and heroic battle with emphysema. Those who were fortunate to have known him as a person, as a musician, as a teacher and as a warmly affectionate friend know that his passing is a great loss to all of us. He leaves his wife, the former Donna Kuhn; two daughters, Dana and Wendy; and a sister, Frances de Zuccari, of London, England.

Walter Bricht was born in Vienna on September 21, 1904, the son of two distinguished musicians. His father was a noted critic; his mother, Agnes Bricht-Pylleman, had been friends with Brahms, and was a well-known singer, famous for her first performances of songs by Hugo Wolf. Walter Bricht began his education at the Akademisches Gymnasium in Vienna, then attended the famed Vienna State Academy of Music. Here he studied piano, conducting and composition. He was graduated with high honors. In these early years, he was recognized as a superior musician and was officially given the task of teaching others at the Vienna Academy who were nearly his own age. Today, his pupils occupy strategic positions in the great schools of music in the United States and the world.

In Vienna, his life and work were important and exciting. His home was a musical center, and he knew and was known by all that were famous in the Vienna of his youth. This background, plus his own great talent, gave a resource from which he drew for composing, formulating standards of musical taste, and teaching. Perhaps his greatest distinction came as a composer. He wrote a hundred or so songs, big choruses, ensemble works and symphonies, and these compositions were performed by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the Rosé quartet and many well-known soloists. His conducting created a sensation in Vienna, that city of musical tradition, when he presented a cyclic performance of all Brandenburg Concertos, cleansed of 19th Century Romantic patina, yet vibrant and full bodied. Fine opera singers came to him for guidance; instrumental virtuosos chose him as their favorite collaborator; his ability to play from score, to rehearse and to coach determined the success of many first performances.

Walter came to the United States in 1938, a refugee from Hitler's persecutions in Austria, although neither Walter nor his parents were Jewish. He could have looked back with more nostalgia for what he had lost than most refugees, yet he left Vienna with confidence in the future and with the full intention to contribute all that was in him to the haven he found here. And Heaven knows, it was not always easy for him and for those like him, who came without fanfare and were by nature unable to be their own press agents.

American citizenship was granted to Walter Bricht in 1944. From 1939 to 1944 he was musical director of the Mason College of Music in Charleston, West Virginia. In 1944 he was appointed to the faculty of the New School of Music and made his residence in New York City. Here he had his own studio and taught piano and voice. At this time he also performed extensively as a concert pianist and soloist with chamber groups throughout the United States.

He joined the faculty of Indiana University in the summer of 1963. He came as a professor of piano and also taught the course, "History of Piano Literature." Later he became a member of the voice faculty. Most importantly, under the influence of the academic freedom he found here, Walter began to compose again. His work shows that he remained true to his deepest musical convictions and was up-to-date at the same time. His last compositions, written after a silence of some twenty years during which personal grief and world disasters made creativity impossible for a nature like his, are miraculous because they show that while outwardly silent, the composer's subconscious assimilated all the innovations of expanded tonality, musical organization and palette of timbres. His "Chaconne for String Quartet"; "Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano" and "Sonata for Flute and Piano" are as true to the contemporary idiom as anything that is likely to be of lasting value. A concert of the compositions of Walter Bricht was presented in Recital Hall a short time ago, introducing us to at least a minute portion of his composition.

We will always remember the depth of Walter Bricht's knowledge of his subject. He was acquainted with all there was in music for the voice and the keyboard. He could discuss, quote, demonstrate, on the spur of the moment, from memory, any theme, text, passage, or harmony in any selection, even recall any inner voice of a symphonic texture. And we will also remember the other delightful side of Walter's personality - Walter Bricht the wit, the story-teller, the collector of puns, the eagle-eyed sleuth of newspaper misprints. And we will remember how carefully he treated the ideas and opinions of his friends, colleagues and students. Walter Bricht gave unstintingly of his knowledge, talent and wisdom to help others, and he also gave great respect for the individual.

Toward the last, when his physical problems made just plain getting around painful, Walter Bricht's devotion to his own high standards of the art of teaching went all the way to self-sacrifice. His many students and friends throughout the world will recall with us his distinguished achievements. They will keep his memory alive by word and deed, dedicating themselves anew to Walter's ideal of the musician who serves his "Holy Art" with all he has to give.

Professor Walter Robert, Piano
Professor Carl Van Buskirk, Chairman, Voice Department
Assistant Professor Harry Houdeshel, Flute

no previousno next