mother never quite got over it when my sister virtually furnished
her new house from the local “Collectables”, “buying up all
the junk I’ve been throwing out year after year”. The record
industry is finding a new use for the records that had fallen
out of the bottom of the market: turning them into “Collectables”.
Already when I started dipping my toes into the record world,
the Vox Boxes of the past that had bundled together sandpapery
recordings of just about everything were being recycled as the
supplements to glossy but cheap volumes in the “Great Composers”
series, to be sold at newspaper kiosks. While Music for Pleasure
were drawing upon old EMI recordings to drive the likes of Fidelio
and Allegro out of business, with their mysterious orchestras
conducted by Henry Havagesse and Fred Yoonohoo. The Turnabout
label did bring back some Vox issues, including Horenstein’s
Bruckner and Mahler. Horenstein’s Brahms found few takers in
those days – there wasn’t a cycle but there was a no.1 as well
as this third. But of course, Horenstein was still alive and
his many admirers were dreaming of the day when a major company
would take him up and he could set down his repertoire with
great orchestras in fine sound.
far as Brahms 3 is concerned, this is all we’ve got. And I must
say the beginning does take me back to the days when the first
two chords of this symphony distorted and you wondered if your
needle was going to fly off when the whole orchestra came in.
You’ll also notice that in the second chord the trumpet dominates
quite blatantly. I don’t know if he was the one that put up
the money, but he got a microphone all to himself for whatever
reason and blares away during all the tutti passages.
You will also notice that the strings are hardly unanimous in
their enunciation of the principal theme. But, before you turn
away, you will also notice that there is a quite extraordinary
passionate commitment to it all. Horenstein takes a swiftish
tempo and does not dawdle during the yodelling wind themes,
presenting a challenging, urgent view which is quite overwhelming
in the coda.
Andante, on the other hand, is taken spaciously and all but
grinds to a halt as Horenstein analyzes the doleful impact of
those repeated notes spread around the orchestra. The third
movement is also slow. Furthermore, there is a phrase towards
the end of the main theme which seems to interest him so much
that he slows down every time it comes. But since he doesn’t
go back to his original tempo the music gets slower with every
reappearance of this theme and is very slow indeed by the end.
The trio is rather fascinating at this tempo, though the orchestra
don’t immediately cotton on to what he wanted. These two middle
movements are often sumptuously phrased and clearly deeply felt,
but they are rather odd all the same.
finale is more in line with Horenstein’s later reputation. Fairly
broad, it has a rugged energy and an impressive rhythmic grip.
You may be wondering how all this adds up, and I’m wondering
too. It’s assuredly not a “safe” recommendation, but if you
think a “dangerous” recommendation might be more exciting, give
it a go.
get a terrific Meistersinger overture. The Bamberg Orchestra
was a better band, if only slightly, and the recording is actually
better balanced and quite reasonable for its date. I suppose
recording in mono meant that there weren’t any spare microphones
to stick in front of the trumpet. Horenstein starts quite broadly
but with a very articulated, buoyant style. He doesn’t daisy-pick
in the love music and forges on as the apprentices come back
on the scene. In spite of the old recording the contrapuntal
details are perfectly clear and there is an almost Bachian joyousness
as the threads are gathered together for the final pages. The
cymbal crash is thrilling and after this Horenstein broadens
slightly for an emphatic close.
is almost as fine. The opening is mobile rather than solemn,
but Horenstein luxuriates as the strings enter. The trombone
seems a little weak as he takes up the theme, but evidently
Horenstein didn’t want to give the game away too soon, for he
is immensely powerful when this theme returns at the end. After
a promising start the Venusberg is vital rather than orgiastic,
but it too builds up and propels the listener towards an overwhelming
final statement of the pilgrims’ music.
never wanted to be thought of as a Bruckner and Mahler specialist.
Yet outside those composers he tended to offer an interesting
individual take on the music rather than a definitive view.
Still, as “Collectables” go, this is, well, collectable.