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Although he was born in a Jewish family, he converted later to Catholicism. At an early age he learned to play piano and his musical talents were soon noticed. After theConservatory , he received his first appointment in 1893 in Cologne as conductor. In Hamburg was as a Rehearsal Director knowledge with the composer Gustav Mahler, whose confidant he was. Walter conducted in many German cities until he went to Vienna in 1901. After Mahler's death in 1911 Walter conducted the first performances of Das Lied von der Erde and the Ninth Symphony. From 1912 to 1922 he was Generalmusikdirektor in Munich. In 1917 Walter conducted the premiere of Hans Pfitzners opera Palestrina. Walter then established himself in Berlin, where he served as principal conductor of the Städtische Oper was. Except Walter also conducted opera concerts. He had a private concert series at the Berlin Philharmonic. He was also conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra to.
After the assumption of power by Adolf Hitler in 1933 Walter left Germany. He was principal guest conductor of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra and led the Vienna State Operain Vienna until 1936. Walter moved to the United Statesin 1939, where he among other things in New York at the Metropolitan Opera conducting. He got further the management of the Columbia Symphony Orchestracreated especially for him. After the war, Walter still often back to Europe. In particular his cooperation with the alt Kathleen Ferrier was a high point in his career. He accompanied her both with Orchestra (including Das Lied von der Erde) as at the piano. Walter made in California in the late 1950s a series of shots in which he knew a certain gentleness, combining zangerigheid and quiet precision. In 1959 he conducted for the last works of Mozart in Europe at the Vienna Philharmonic.
Walter had a preference for the Viennese classics (Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven), but carried out with equal authority works by romantic composers. In particular his recordings of the 9th Symphony of Bruckner and Mahler symphonies by Brahms and his now classic.