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one of Berlioz greatest works

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tension-filled work

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Pristine Classical

Jascha Horenstein: Early Recordings
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele, BWV 654 (trans. Schoenberg) [5:33]
Komm Gott, Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist, BWV 631 (trans. Schoenberg) [3:41]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 94 in G Major “Surprise” Symphony, Hob.I.94 (1791) [24:20]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Le nozze di Figaro – Overture, K. 492 (1786) [4:16]
La Clemenza da Tito – Overture, K. 691 (1791) [4:57]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D. 485 (1816) [25:52]
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Jascha Horenstein
rec. Berlin, 1929

Horenstein was something of a Furtwängler protégée. He was the older man’s assistant at the Berlin Philharmonic and it was at Furtwängler’s recommendation that Horenstein won the position of chief conductor of the Düsseldorf Opera. Doubtless the closeness of the professional relationship between the two men was responsible for this tranche of studio recordings, made in 1929 with Furtwängler’s orchestra. Horenstein never subsequently returned to any of these works in the studio, as Mark Obert-Thorn clarifies in his note.

The Schoenberg arrangements of the Bach Chorale Preludes are rare repertory, then and now, and among the very earliest recordings of any Schoenberg, even hyphenated as here, on disc. The first, Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele, features the orchestra’s principal cellist, Nikolai Graudan, who plays with eloquent directness. A splendid quartet player he was to reach even greater heights after his emigration to America where he was a member of the Festival Quartet alongside such small fry as Szymon Goldberg and William Primrose. Komm Gott, Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist is festive and uplifting, lower brass pitched against high winds, the strings and all sections powerful and rich.

Haydn’s Symphony No.94, the Surprise, receives a strong, uncontentious reading; there are no exaggerations or excessive dynamics or dramas. The slow movement is well phrased, the Menuet nicely pomposo and whilst one wouldn’t necessarily adduce any particular affinity for the composer, one certainly can’t fault the reading or playing. The mechanical noise in the set has been better masked in this transfer than in the previous one on Koch 3-37054-2H1. That CD offered the same programme as this, though the running order differed, and whilst there was a full booklet note the transfers were not nearly as good as Pristine’s – not least when it came to the pitch lurches, most noticeable in the Mozart overtures, that rather plagued the Koch.

The ‘bell peals’ effect in the overture to La clemenza di Tito is elegantly evoked in this reading; the ‘flip side’ of this was the Marriage of Figaro overture. Which leaves Schubert’s Fifth Symphony, in its premiere recording on disc. I think they were still employing bass reinforcements here, to ballast a reading that is again devoid of expressive point-making; direct, unsentimental, and thoroughly efficient. If that makes the reading sound a touch remote, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree.

It's good to have Horenstein’s complete 78rpm legacy now neatly and well transferred (Bruckner 7 is on PASC203).

Jonathan Woolf



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