BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in c minor; BRUCH: Scottish Fantasy in E-flat Major – David Oistrakh, v./ London Sym. Orch./ Jascha Horenstein – Pristine Audio

BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in c minor, Op 68; BRUCH: Scottish Fantasy in E-flat Major, Op. 46 – David Oistrakh, v./ London Symphony Orchestra/ Jascha Horenstein – Pristine Audio PASC 436, 76:18 [avail. in various formats from www.pristineclassical.com] *****:

The resplendent art of conductor Jascha Horenstein (1898-1973) finds ample representation in this release of a pair of 1962 inscriptions by the Ukrainian-born maestro.  The muscular Brahms First Symphony (29-30 January 1962) has the benefit of Charles Gerhardt’s original engineering, now buttressed by Andrew Rose and his patented XR sound processing. The London Symphony personnel, particularly French horn Barry Tuckwell (b. 1931), respond gorgeously throughout, especially in relation to Horenstein’s flexible sense of tempo. The combination of horns, winds, and strings proves especially lush in the course of “fate” motif as it evolves in the course of the first movement Allegro.  We feel the uncanny extension of the Beethoven Ninth’s colossal imperative – in “spite” of the Fifth’s rhythmic urgency – as a grand testimony to divine right. More classically contoured than the “typical” Furtwaengler reading, the Horenstein interpretation derives its impetus from the same fount of inspiration, tugging at and then compressing the elastic vocal line with inexorable, just proportion. No fewer kudos belong to the LSO tympani for his haunting contribution to the dramatic effect.

The E Major Andante sostenuto proceeds in the manner of a lush outdoor serenade. Horenstein seems to encourage his winds and strings to enjoy a degree of spontaneity in their collaboration, although we can hear the “fate” motif’s rumblings in the bass and tympani prior to the concertmaster’s winsome song in harmony with Mr. Tuckwell, the orchestral color’s replacing the keyboard part in the Op. 40 Horn Trio. Horenstein permits some dark clouds to enter the otherwise idyllic Un poco allegretto e grazioso third movement, its five-bar phrases no less infiltrated by the Beethoven Fifth punctuations. Some ravishing flute work here, supported by oboes and clarinets.

The Beethoven Ninth certainly receives a backwards glance from Horenstein at the inception of fourth movement Adagio. Titanic forces move into place, a true “convergence of the twain” of C Minor and its long road to C Major.   Once more, Barry Tuckwell invokes the Black Forest surrounded by some incandescent aura of orchestral fertility prior to the hymnal that has borne the Beethoven allusion since its 1876 premier. The noble leisure and heroic girth of the movement then belongs to Horenstein, who never relinquishes the vocal lyricism of the piece to sustain “mere” opulence of sound, which remains pungent.

The 24 September 1962 Bruch Scottish Fantasy with the brilliant virtuoso David Oistrakh (1908-1974) has received prior resurrection from HDTT in its original London Records coupling with the Hindemith Violin Concerto under the composer’s direction.  If memory serves me correctly, the wonderful harp work in Bruch comes from the deft fingers of Welsh veteran Ossian Ellis (b. 1928). Oistrakh had not performed the piece in some time, but his piercing, “symbiotic” collaboration with Horenstein – mostly in slow, broad tempos – allows a real sense of instrumental synthesis as the lush, national tunes blend and sweep us forward.  For those raised on the Heifetz/Sargent inscription of this happy work, the Oistrakh version will proffer an entirely different perspective, a dual partnership too often precluded by the Heifetz star mystique.

—Gary Lemco

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