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Horenstein in Gothenburg, Volume 3
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Brandenburg Concerto No 1 in F major, BWV 1046 [21:12]
Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No 6 in A major, WAB 106 [55:05]
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Jascha Horenstein
rec. live and in rehearsal 5 December, 1968, Gothenburg Concert Hall, Sweden

This is third release in which Pristine document Jascha Horenstein’s four visits to Gothenburg in 1968 and 1969. This disc preserves the second programme that he gave with the city’s orchestra in recordings made available from the archive of Jascha Horenstein’s cousin, Misha. However, as Misha explains in his characteristically valuable note, the performance of the Brandenburg Concerto stems not from the concert itself: the tape of that has not survived but fortunately Misha has in his possession a recording of the rehearsal, so that’s what’s on this CD.

The opening Allegro is taken quite steadily, at least in comparison with today’s HIP performances. However, Bach’s lines are clear and well-articulated, so the music has life. In the following Adagio, taken broadly, I’m afraid that the contributions of the soloists are not by any means infallible, especially as regards intonation. The orchestra sounds much more at ease in the third movement, though once again there are glitches among the soloists. The concluding Menuetto is very stately. At the end, Horenstein can be heard to say “Very good, ladies and gentlemen. Very good”. Then he adds some words of praise for the soloists. I think he was perhaps being a little generous but, surely, he was right to get the players on his side prior to the concert.

The other work on the programme was Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony. Last year I enjoyed a Horenstein recording of this same symphony, issued by Pristine. That was a 1961 performance which he recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra for broadcast by the BBC (review). It’s been interesting to make an A/B comparison of the two performances. In the first movement there is a bit more urgency in the Gothenburg performance. Perhaps the Swedish orchestra is less polished than the LSO, though the Londoners are not infallible. The Gothenburg performance is well-shaped and purposeful.

In the Adagio, the Gothenburg performance is a little swifter than the London performance though the difference is marginal. In both performances Horenstein gets it just right in terms of the space he allows the music. Bruckner’s paragraphs have sufficient room to expand and breathe, yet at the same time the conductor maintains impetus and focus. Climaxes are well prepared and open out nobly. The Gothenburg players do extremely well here; indeed, this movement shows them at their best on this disc, I think. In the Scherzo, not only is the London performance taken more swiftly than is the case in Gothenburg, but also the LSO’s playing is more fleet-footed. On both counts I prefer their performance. You may gain an idea of the difference in pace when I mention that the Trio is reached at 2:58 in the London performance but at 3:25 in Gothenburg. That’s not a huge difference on paper but it’s noticeable in comparison. There’s not much to choose between the two accounts of the Trio itself. The finale is taken at a fractionally quicker pace in Gothenburg and I prefer this. However, the conception of the movement is very similar in both cases. All in all, I like the greater sense of urgency that Horenstein brought to his Gothenburg performance of the finale.

As I hope I’ve shown, there are differences between the two performances, though overall I’d say honours are about even. If you already have the LSO recording of the Bruckner then I think you can rest content unless you’re intent on collecting a Gothenburg ‘full house’. Viewed in isolation, though, the Gothenburg performance is a good one and compared with the LSO version I have a slight preference for the pacing of each movement in Gothenburg, with the exception of the Scherzo where the LSO account is a clear winner. In choosing between the two versions, I wouldn’t take the Bach performance into consideration; it’s not sufficiently good to influence choice one way or the other.

The sound in which these Gothenburg performances are presented is good. Andrew Rose has transferred the recordings with his customary skill and the performances now appear in Pristine’s Ambient Stereo. Misha Horenstein’s note is, as always, worthwhile reading.

This Gothenburg mini-series encompasses four volumes. Volume 1 included Schubert’s Ninth Symphony (review). Volume 2, which I recently reviewed, consisted of a good reading of Mahler’s Fifth. I’ve yet to hear the 1968 performance of Mahler’s Fourth (Vol 4). It’s also worth noting that Pristine offer all four volumes as a set at a slightly discounted price (PABX034).

John Quinn

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