This is an outstanding
collection of modern symphonies conducted by Jascha Horenstein.
He has never had a large discography. In the ’seventies and ’eighties
he was somewhat of a cult figure. He did not have any major
record company contracts and operated principally on the continent
of Europe. We can therefore be grateful to BBC Legends for
making these performances available.
Horenstein had a particularly
fine reputation as a Mahler conductor and this performance
of the Sixth is outstanding. Apart from a modicum of background
hiss, the recording quality is good BBC broadcast quality,
and in general the audience is mercifully quiet. The performance
is fairly sober with no outlandish tempi, and it makes its
considerable impact via Mahler’s inspiration rather than any
histrionics from the conductor. The mighty andante moderato,
here played as the third movement, reaches its passionate climax,
not through any spectacular effects, but simple, good and straightforward
orchestral playing. At 84 minutes, it is too long to fit on
a standard CD, and so it had to be coupled with something else.
The coupling is Nielsen’s
fifth symphony. The sleeve-notes tell us that Horenstein prepared
the orchestra for Furtwängler, when he performed it in Germany
in Frankfurt in 1927 for the International Society for Contemporary
Music. Horenstein also recorded the fifth commercially, and
what I can remember from the vinyl copy which I used to own
was a performance which sounded a bit inhibited and was no
match for the Jensen (Decca) performance then available. This
live performance, recorded in Nottingham is certainly not similarly
affected. It has as much tingle as you would wish to have in
this modern masterpiece. Again recording quality is fine apart
from some slight tape hiss. I am more than happy to recommend
this performance along with the Mahler.
His Semiramide Overture
is less recommendable. It has a more obtrusive background hiss
than the other two works, and is moreover a bit straight-laced.
Rossini should sparkle a good deal more than is evident here.
I am afraid that Horenstein was patently unable to summon up
the requisite liveliness. It could have been an off-day for
the BBC Symphony Orchestra, but this shortcoming would in no
way prevent me from recommending this pair of discs very highly.
This is a very welcome
addition to the list pf recordings available from this very
able European conductor.
The disc is rounded
off by a short excerpt from an interview held between the
conductor and Deryck Cooke. This is interesting, but too
short to be of any lasting interest.
see also review
by Tony Duggan (RECORDING OF THE MONTH - Sept. 2006)