Violinist Walter Barylli led the orchestra from 1939 to 1972


Walter Barylli © Historic Archives of the Vienna Philharmonic

Born in Vienna on 16 June 1921, Walter Barylli studied the violin at the Vienna Music Academy with the Philharmonic’s concertmaster at the time, Franz Mairecker, with additional studies in Munich with Florizel von Reuter.

In 1938, the 17-year-old Barylli was advised of the concertmaster vacancy at the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Preparations for the annexation of Austria were happening at the time of his audition, urging Barylli to secure an orchestral job, rather than work as a travelling soloist.

Barylli led the Philharmonic from 1939 until his retirement in 1972. In addition to his orchestral work, he founded the Barylli Quartet in 1945. The quartet developed a close association with the Vienna Musikverein, as well as performing at the Salzburg Festival and recording a complete Beethoven quartet cycle for Westminster Records.

Barylli reflected on his career during celebrations for his 100th birthday in June 2021. As concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic, he had the opportunity to work with composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949), who would conduct the orchestra. On working with Strauss, he said, ’He was quite an elderly gentleman by this time. He always sat there with one hand in his vest pocket while conducting with the other hand… It was always an experience to have him conduct.’

Listen to the Barylli perform Mozart Violin Sonata in F K.376 with pianist Paul Badura Skoda: