Horenstein Early Recordings = BACH (trans. Schoenberg): Gott, Schoepfer, Heiliger Geist, BWV 631; Schmucke dich, O liebe Seele, BWV 654; HAYDN: Symphony No. 94 in G Major “Surprise”; MOZART: Le nozze di Figaro – Overture, K. 492; La Clemenza da Tito – Overture, K. 691; SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, D. 485 – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/ Jascha Horenstein – Pristine Audio PASC 506, 69:02 [www.pristineclassical.com] ****:
Pristine restores Jascha Horenstein’s German-Austrian repertory of 1929 to the active catalogue.
Mark Obert-Thorn re-masters the 1929 Polydor recordings by Jascha Horenstein (1898-1973), his electrical performances of music to which he did return later in his recording career. Some collectors will recognize this program as having had prior issue on the Koch Legacy label (5-7054-2) in inferior sound. What becomes significant in this program lies in the fact that circumstances—mostly political—would prevent Horenstein’s access to the recording studio until Vox Records signed this versatile conductor in 1952.
Each of the performances presents a driven, committed interpreter of the Great German Tradition, rather linear in conception and quite brightly lit in the interior vocal lines, especially in the Mozart selections. The Marriage of Figaro Overture suffers no “romantic” distortion in what proves a vigorous, brisk reading. The more militant Titus score—also a favorite of Koussevitzky—enjoys a clean, liquid motion, favoring the woodwind articulation that assumes a chamber music sonority, set against the tutti response by the full ensemble. The layered polyphony benefits from the composer’s easy mastery of procedure. Much of the writing shares elements with the Overture to the Abduction from the Seraglio.
The Bach chorale transcriptions by Arnold Schoenberg—he BWV 654’s featuring cello solo work from Nikolai Graudan—virtually points the way the Leopold Stokowski treatment of this same repertory in orchestral terms. The low winds, brass, and harp colors converge in controlled dynamics while Graudan invokes a solemn prayer. The more festive BWV 631 resonates with a “Handelian” fervor, the orchestral sonorities’ easily invoking the positif—excepting the clashing of cymbals—of a grand organ.
The 1792 “Surprise” Symphony of Haydn maintains a subdued but respectable resonance, gently tipping in the opening Adagio cantabile; Vivace assai. This single-theme movement enjoys a sway and varied color line that moves efficiently and dramatically, without histrionics. The famous Andante—with its legendary sforzato, wakeup chord—contains a number of musical subtleties, including changes of key as the four variations proceed. Again, emotional restrain seems Horenstein’s order of the day, even as he crisply articulates the composer’s inventiveness. The mock-ponderous Menuet constitutes rather a German Dance in peasant style. The constrasting Trio section from Horenstein may prove too slow for some tastes. The Allegro di molto finale give us one of the many combinations of sonata-rondo form Haydn perfected. Haydn exploits his capacity for thematic development, both within the structure and at the coda; but under Horenstein’s guidance, the music moves without sag or self-conscious seriousness.
Horenstein’s reading of Schubert’s 1816 Fifth Symphony represents its first appearance on record. The realization, crisp and light, captures the youthful exuberance and uncanny, lyrical beauty of the score, touched as it is in places—the extended Andante con moto especially—with emotional darkness and tragedy. The history of this music, too, seems to reflect the fate of the conductor: after just one performance, the score disappeared until rediscovered in 1867 by Sirs Arthur Sullivan and George Grove in Vienna. After 1929, Horenstein had to wait a quarter century before receiving an invitation to return to the recording studio. Happily, this particular Past became Prologue.