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Jascha Horenstein
Gustav MAHLER
(1860-1911) Symphony No.6 in A Minor Tragic (1904) [84:31]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868) Semiramide Overture (1822) [12:23]
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931) Symphony No. 5 Op. 50 (1922) [34:27]
BBC Symphony Orchestra (Rossini); Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (Mahler); New Philharmonia Orchestra (Nielsen)/Jascha Horenstein
rec. BBC Studios, 6 November 1957, Winter Gardens, Bournemouth; 10 January 1969, Albert Hall, Nottingham, 26 February 1971
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4191-2 [64:19 + 74:00]


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.
 
John Phillips

see also review by Tony Duggan
(RECORDING OF THE MONTH - Sept. 2006)

 

 


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