Bruno's last babe

Bruno's last babe


norman lebrecht

June 17, 2010

I was sad to read of the death of Maurren Forrester at 79, after a long, debilitating illness.

I met her only once, during the Cardiff sessions for Gilbert Kaplan’s first recording of Mahler’s second symphony in July 1987. Although slightly over the hill, she had recorded the work in 1957 with Mahler’s disciple, Bruno Walter, and brought along a kind of secondhand authority that she bore with consummate solemnity.

‘Doctor Walter did it like this,’ she pronounced in orotund tones, or ‘Doctor Walter said that’. It would have been inappropriate to remind her that Walter had left at least three recordings of the work – his arch-rival Otto Klemperer made six (see Why Mahler? for comparisons) – and that hers was by far the smoothest and most benign of the bunch.

Walter understood that performing Mahler is a matter of mood. Mahler told interpreters to follow momentary feeling. There is no cast-iron rule in the Resurrection. Maureen never quite got that, but she was lovely to have around and her slightly faded grandeur remains, for me, unforgettable. The recording, with the LSO and Benita Valente, is pretty good, too.


  • bobman says:

    Way back in the previous century I was a member of the Temple University Choir that sang with Ormandy and the Philadelphia. I fondly remember Forrester in Bach’s Easter Oratorio (recorded on Columbia)and Casals’ “El Pesebre” with the then octogenarian conducting and the then quite young Marta Casals anxiously hovering around. Forrester was a huge woman…a huge voice and a lot of fun.