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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No. 1 in C minor Op. 68 [44:49]
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Scottish Fantasy in E flat major Op. 46 [31:29]
David Oistrakh (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra/Jascha Horenstein
rec. Walthamstow Assembly Hall, 29-30 January (Brahms) and 24 September (Bruch) 1962

There is now a good selection of recordings by Jascha Horenstein, although as he was never taken up by any of the major recording companies during his lifetime they tend to come from many different sources.

This disc has been produced using recordings from the collection of Misha Horenstein. Of the two works coupled here the Brahms was made for Reader’s Digest by the Decca engineer Kenneth Wilkinson and the Bruch for Decca with Alan Reeve as engineer. Both sound good in their original state, but are now superb as restored by Pristine Audio. It strains credulity to believe that they were recorded as long ago as 1962.

Like other recordings Horenstein made of his music that I have heard, the Brahms Symphony here is simply magnificent with all the many awkward moments handled with real mastery. This is a really red-blooded performance that at the same time never allows the listener to forget the underlying structures of the music in its purposeful phrasing. Balance is well managed and speeds are well chosen throughout.

The Bruch was originally issued with the unlikely coupling of the Hindemith Violin Concerto conducted by the composer. It fits much better with the Brahms, and is quite simply glorious from start to finish. Oistrakh plays with great sensitivity and poetry but without excessive histrionics or exaggerated virtuosity, although there is never any doubt about his technical abilities. His sympathetic collaboration with the orchestra is remarkable, with soloist and orchestra apparently encouraging each other in the elegance and subtlety of their phrasing.

We are often in Pristine Audio’s debt for making an apparently impossibly flawed recording listenable. On this occasion the originals were never less than acceptable, but they have been made much better. With performances and recording of this quality this is in every way a self-recommending disc.

John Sheppard



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