Horenstein: Haydn and Mozart Symphonies, Vol. 1 – Pristine

by | Dec 12, 2022 | Classical CD Reviews, Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Horenstein: Haydn and Mozart Symphonies, Vol. 1 = HAYDN: Symphony No. 101, “Clock”; MOZART: Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter’ – Vienna Symphony Orchestra/ Jascha Horenstein – Pristine Audio PASC 676 (56:54) [www.pristineclassical.com] ****: 

Andrew Rose and Misha Horenstein continue to collaborate in the extensive restoration of recordings featuring conductor Jascha Horenstein (1898-1973) and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, these studio readings made for Vox 1956-1957. This disc marks the first of a triptych of such releases. Though widely considered the master of the Romantic and early 20th Century musical idioms, Horenstein reveals his idiosyncratic, effective approach to the Classical masters, Haydn and Mozart. 

Portrait of Franz Joseph Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn

The so-called “Clock” Symphony of the Salomon series for London (rec. 27 April 1957, in stereo) of 1794 receives a deliberate, D Minor Adagio, portentous, especially in the winds and low strings. Suddenly, Horenstein invokes a 6/8 Presto scamper that bursts with explosive energy. We can note that Haydn’s orchestra has enlarged, including pairs of flutes and a new addition, the clarinet, along with trumpets, horns, and an active timpani. This opening movement enjoys a breadth of evolution, longer than many of Haydn’s similar structures, given the intricacy of his transitions between themes.

The wonderful ostinato that defines the “Clock” motif institutes a structure that offers a rondo intertwined with variations. The VSO bassoon adds his distinctive color to a development rife with variants in accent, counterpoint, and dynamics, as the clock assumes more imposing girth. The flute and bassoon, two octaves apart, delight us with their contribution. Haydn’s clever modulations keep the key changes active along with the wily agogics, and Horenstein milks the strains of timbre for eight minutes’ worth of musical innovation. The Minuet indulges Haydn’s love for rustic color, here in his most protracted contribution to the genre. What becomes a clever parody of village, bagpipe or hudy-gurdy music enchants us with the brilliant application of wrong harmonies and off-accent drone effects. The implications for Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony seem imminent. The Trio brings in an enchanted flute that ushers in a potent response from the tutti, whose cadences somewhat conflict with the harmonic movement.

Having amused us in studied detail in the third movement, Horenstein moves to Haydn’s patented rondo-sonata Finale: vivace, a rather unvaried presentation of three notes whose capacity for polyphonic sonorities will soon reveal itself with determined force. The potent textures erupt with a fervor quite anticipatory of Haydn’s epic successor, Beethoven, perhaps to the chagrin of stylistic purists. The contrapuntal lines in this movement receive clear, enunciated realization from Horenstein’s VSO, whose discipline has not wavered in a performance of vital, defined character.  

Horenstein leads Mozart’s final effort in his symphonic oeuvre, the 1788 Jupiter Symphony, in a performance from 3-4 February 1956. Assertive authority marks Horenstein’s Allegro vivace, the brass installing a sense of pageantry as the music moves through a series of pedal points from C to the central E-flat Major. If this rendition lacks the mania of the Albert Coates interpretation, it resonates with a vibrant, colored energy. Both composer and conductor relish the various, timbral elements that drive the music forward, the counterpoints hued by wonderful woodwind touches. The huge swoops in the strings, answered by chattering woodwinds, prompts us to think of this powerful, contrapuntal blend as something intrinsically rustic in nature, despite the forward, driven intensity. 

Portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeua Mozart

The muted strings that open the second movement Andante cantabile establish an immediate, emotional foil to the throes of the first movement. Horenstein imbues its hazy coloring with an antique disposition, an introspective sarabande in ¾, accented on the second beat. The sensibility seems more empfindsamkeit than Baroque, moving in the “emotional” style attributable to C.P.E. Bach. The sudden thrusts in the string line, with its chromatic descent in the bass, appeal to a romantic sense of spirit, even a tragic awareness. The ensuing Menuetto has always possessed a haunting effect, descending in the upper line and then converting the progression into a clever canon. Mozart’s takes a page from Haydn’s 1787 “Frog” Quartet in D, Op. 50/6, for his manipulation of the end of the main theme to begin its reappearances. Horenstein’s silken transition to the swaggering da capo bears repeated listening.

Much ink has been spilled to extol the virtues of Mozart’s last effort in symphonic finales, this Molto allegro in high contrapuntal style. A four-note pattern sets of course for what Blake calls “fearful symmetry.” The presence of passing Mannheim rockets only increases our rapt attention to the startling intricacy of orchestral manipulation, climaxed by a five-voice fugue in the coda. The ease of transition into the most “learned” of orchestral movements proceeds with grandeur and graceful economy from all participants. Given what Mozart has achieved in cosmic, mathematical design that sounds so gratifying, the miracles abound, reverberating long after the final chords.

—Gary Lemco

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Album Cover for Horenstein - Haydn and Mozart Symphonies, Vol. 1