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Horenstein in Gothenburg - Volume 1
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Idomeneo: Overture (1781) [5:48]
Camille SAINT-SANS (1835-1921)
Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor, Op 22 (1868) [23:13]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No 9 in C, D 944 "Great" (1825-8) [50:23]
Philippe Entremont (piano)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Jascha Horenstein
rec. in concert, Gothenburg Concert Hall, Sweden, October 1969

This 1969 concert is identified, not as a broadcast, but as a private archival recording. Andrew Rose's remastering of it is excellent, as usual. The tutti punctuations at the start of the concerto betray a touch of distortion, but otherwise the sound is both clear and solid. Solo woodwinds, again in the concerto, occasionally sound recessed; on the other hand, the trombone choir in the Schubert registers with gratifying depth, especially at forte.

The big surprise here is the Saint-Sans concerto. In his CBS (now Sony) recordings, Philippe Entremont's playing always sounded clattery and harsh, the embodiment of the stereotypical French "top of the keys" technique. But, from the piano's resonant bass octave at the start, this aircheck captures him in altogether finer form, or perhaps the recorded perspective is simply more flattering. He layers the textures nicely in the first movement's Chopinesque passages, articulating a singing melody over an arpeggiated accompaniment; the second theme, despite the composer's squarish rhythms, sings out sweetly. Only the movement's big climax finds Entremont without any reserves of tone. Horenstein, in support, gets the melodramatic bits just right and daubs in orchestral details with an unexpected delicacy.

The timpani at the start of the second movement belie the (literally) light-fingered Scherzo that follows; the heavier second theme "galumphs" just strongly enough, without losing its underlying buoyancy. The finale's cascading, coruscating runs remind us that Entremont's lightly supported technique allows for crisp, light articulations at a dazzling clip. Horenstein again seconds the pianist firmly and musically.

Schubert's Great C major -- I won't get into the whole fracas about the numbering -- gets a rugged performance. The opening horn solo is oddly dispirited, but the answering woodwinds over pizzicatos soon brighten things up. Horenstein encourages a vibrant singing tone from the strings, and moves into the weighted, buoyant Allegro without the traditional unmarked acceleration. Similarly, the final brass restatement of the opening theme steps smartly in tempo, with no pullback. The Andante con moto is con moto indeed: severely brisk, as if Horenstein were actually conducting it in two. The trombone staccatos threaten to impede momentum leading back to the return -- where the players don't quite get back to that initial tempo -- but there's more of that vibrant cantabile along the way.

By the second half of the symphony, players and conductor sound audibly fatigued, though, in the powerful Scherzo, a quick woodwind fumble in the second phrase is hardly cause for alarm. Horenstein's well-placed rhetorical distensions are disconcerting after the rigor of the first two movements; the Trio has a hearty Viennese swing. The finale, alas, suffers two distinct opening attacks; the winds come unstuck from the whirling strings early in the recapitulation; and the final several pages distinctly lose momentum. It remains a fine conception, but the execution isn't quite all there.

With the longer works prefaced by a balanced, propulsive big-orchestra Idomeneo overture, and despite my reservations, this remains a worthy addition to the Horenstein discography.

Stephen Francis Vasta

Previous review: John Quinn

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