A tale of fine music and chocolate

Few people these days will recognise the man on the left in this photo. But his surname may stir memories – pleasurable ones. Pictured are the inaugural patrons of the Music Broadcasting Society (MBS) of New South Wales, appointed by the Board at its first meeting, on 12 November 1974.

At that time, FM in Australia was imminent: in a month 2MBS-FM would be on air, the first FM station. This was due in no small measure to the two men on the right of the photo, whose report to government earlier that year endorsed submissions to their inquiry from MBS’s experts. Sir Francis McLean is in the middle; to his left is Professor Cyril Renwick – they will be subjects of future blog posts. MBS made them its patrons because they gave their expertise and authority to what it wanted to do, on the technical side. The third man was a patron for lending a different kind of authority and support – a musical kind.

His name was Walter Dullo, and Sydney readers may link his name with chocolate, especially with distinctive wafer-shaped chocolates. Some chocolate fanciers also knew that the initials W.A.D. often to be found under the program notes at concerts of Musica Viva and Sydney Mozart Society stood for Walter Andreas Dullo. Chocolate, music…there was also law, and how these played out in his life is a fascinating story, ending at 76 Chandos Street, in the 2MBS building.

Committed to music

Dullo and his wife Annemarie came to Australia as refugees from Germany in 1937, bringing with them second-hand chocolate manufacturing equipment. Born in Königsberg, Dullo studied mathematics, then law in Berlin, and music in Heidelberg. Prevented by the Nazis from practising law (his mother was Jewish) he learnt chocolate-making. In 1939 the Dullos opened a small shop in New South Head Road, Double Bay, where they made and sold the chocolates.

The quality and novelty of the chocolates made the business prosper, but Dullo never expanded it, preferring to devote his leisure hours to music, his dominating passion. I vividly remember my first encounter with him, in a late evening master class at Musica Viva’s Mittagong Easter Festival in 1968. He rather gruffly asked the players who had just attempted Dvorák’s Dumky Trio if any of them knew what ‘Dumky’ meant – and when none did, used his vast store of musical learning to explain (whereupon they played the music again, with greater insight).

Dullo with Richard Goldner had been one of Musica Viva’s founders in 1945. He was also a leading figure in the Sydney Mozart Society. His career reminds us how much Australia owes to people who brought from Europe a deeply ingrained love of music. When Dullo was helping me, then a novice music administrator, he reminisced about how in 1921 (he was born in 1902) he attended a set of concerts in Berlin where he heard Ferruccio Busoni play six Mozart piano concertos.

It was hardly surprising that Dullo was an early supporter of the MBS enterprise (one of the 23 people attending the Society’s inaugural meeting in 1970) nor that he became more than merely one volunteer among many – though he was that, too. In addition to making him a patron, the members elected him a founding member of the Program Policy Committee. The significance of the ‘PPC’ is a broader subject – but for the moment it’s important to note that Dullo exemplified the kind of music lovers who founded 2MBS-FM because they wanted more of their kind of music to be heard, a wish that became the 2MBS slogan ‘your expanded record collection’.

Who would choose the music, and when tastes and personalities clashed, who would adjudicate? A program policy was needed. The founders recognised that the kinds of people who were good at technical things, at organisational things, even at presenting, might not be best at program philosophy. But people with authority in musical matters and radio programming might be persuaded to provide the fledgling station with advice. Dullo is the member of the first PPC who best fits such a description.

This story has a sad ending. Dullo devised programs for 2MBS and also lent the records to be broadcast, from his extensive collection. On his frequent visits to the station, he always went straight to the library, to bring in records and choose others for future programs. Librarian Jock Weir was there on 22 August 1978. He told how, as Dullo was leaving, a visitor came up the stairs, looking to become a volunteer. “I was in the middle of introducing her to Walter when he collapsed. He must have been dead before he touched the ground. We called for the ambulance immediately,” he said. Dullo’s Australian Dictionary of Biography entry records him as having died in Royal North Shore Hospital.

The MBS community consoled itself that Dullo died doing something he loved. The Society established various memorials to him. Perhaps the one he would have liked best was a recording (one of the early LPs on MBS’s own label). Dullo –as most people referred to him – had made his own completions of five of Schubert’s unfinished piano sonatas. He gave these to the distinguished pianist Romola Costantino, like him a stalwart of the Mozart Society, and she offered to record some of them for 2MBS, an offer gratefully accepted. The musician among the first patrons is remembered for more than Dullo chocolates – though his name is still used by the business today. Music lovers and classical music radio station listeners should remember him too.

David Garrett

David Garrett has been associated with Fine Music 102.5 since before it hit the airwaves 40 years ago. A regular on-air presenter, he is also a former Board member and Treasurer of the organisation. David is well known as a writer and speaker on music and history. His Ph.D. from the University of Wollongong explored how the Australian Broadcasting Commission became a presenter of concerts and builder of orchestras. David has taught history at Monash and Sydney Universities. For thirty years he was a music administrator and programmer, for Sydney Philharmonia, then for the ABC and Australia’s six symphony orchestras.

The research and writing for Fine Music: Forty Years of FM Broadcasting are made possible through a generous donation from station volunteer and former Chairman Ron Walledge.

For information on how to donate or subscribe to Fine Music 102.5 click here.

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