HAYDN: Symphony No. 104 in D Major “London”; MOZART: Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K. 543 – Vienna Symphony Orchestra/ Jascha Horenstein – Pristine Audio PASC 687 (57:15) [www.pristineclassial.com] ****:
Commentator Mischa Horenstein concisely supplies the rationale for this last release of Classical symphonies by Jascha Horenstein (1898-1973) and the Vienna Symphony for Vox records: “The present release is the third and final volume of a series devoted to Haydn and Mozart conducted by Jascha Horenstein. The collection covers all of his commercial recordings of the symphonies originally released on the Vox label during the 1950s, as well as two recordings taken from live broadcasts of works he did not record commercially. Previous releases in this series have featured the “Clock” and “Military” symphonies by Haydn, and Mozart’s “Haffner,” “Prague” and “Jupiter” symphonies.”
The Haydn 1795 “London” Symphony (rec. 27-29 April 1957) receives a decidedly idiosyncratic reading: a stodgy – or “regal,” if you prefer – Adagio in D Minor leads to a carefully articulated Allegro whose consistent, marcato approach will not appeal to traditional tastes. The grave clarity of line would have easily aroused controversy among contemporary auditors; and comparing the reading to that by another, contemporary German conductor of generally anti-Romantic bias, Hans Rosbaud, we hear a leaner approach (rec. 19-21 March 1956) in the first two movements and only slightly trimmed tempos in the last two movements.
The broad, indulgent realization of the Andante second movement from Horenstein, with intense clarity in the interior lines, establishes this music’s pre-eminence in the emotional construct. The drama of Haydn’s antiphonal treatment of the martial air rings in this (stereo) performance with etched authority. The VSO woodwinds prove especially resonant in the last pages. An aristocratic largesse fills out the third movement Minuet – Allegro, the strings, flute, and timpani particularly alert. The Trio section, especially from the bassoon and bass harmonies, reveals a dark hue in Haydn’s otherwise amiable persona. The concluding Finale: Spiritoso moves with athletic, fleet lightness, despite Haydn’s learned counterpoints. Horenstein has shed his considerable gravitas for Haydn’s exhilarated, colorful sense of energized invention.
Horenstein’s Mozart Symphony No. 39 derives from sessions 3-4 February 1956, recorded monaurally but here augmented by Pristine’s XR process. Dire intensity marks the initial Adagio, its chromatic, descending lines punctuated by brass and timpani, clarinets in lieu of oboes. The solemnity of the occasion extends into the ¾ Allegro, its melodic contour tragic and proud. The energetic development includes palpable Mannheim rockets and an explosive in the otherwise lyrical melody. A dramatic thump ushers in the recapitulation, and the menaced beauty evolves once more, ending in three, fateful chords.
Mozart used a sketch for his prior “Prague” Symphony for the second movement Andante con moto in A-flat Major, which discards sonata development for variations in tonal and dynamic color, along with shifts in meter. The VSO woodwinds maintain our interest while the strings, low and high, establish a resonant expressivity worth the price of admission. The dramatic third movement, an Austrian Ländler with a folk thrust and a lilting, clarinet-led Trio, exhibits an earthy, robust energy, surpassed in intensity only by Furtwaengler and the Berlin Philharmonic. The last movement Allegro seems to possess unlimited, kinetic energy, the music’s having evolved from an ascending and descending scale. Its simplicity of means does not prevent its abrupt, non-coda ending from affecting us with its dramatic impact.
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