Foster, bass-baritone/ Vienna Symphony Orchestra/ Bamberg Symphony
Orchestra (Songs)/ Jascha Horenstein
Preiser 90669 (Mono) 73:09 (Distrib. Albany)****:
Conductor Jascha Horenstein (1898-1973) remains a cult figure to
collectors as a purveyor of multifarious classical traditions, but whose
penchant for the German-Viennese tradition wrought performances as
compelling as those realized by his colleagues Furtwaengler and Schuricht.
Like Schuricht, Horenstein held few tenured posts, the Dusseldorf Opera
being the rarity, 1929-1933. Horenstein had made his conducting debut in
1924 with this same Mahler Symphony and this same Vienna Symphony.
Horenstein later (1929) inscribed the Songs of a Wayfarer with Rehkemper.
The Vox label granted Horenstein a liberal range of music in the early
1950s, and it is from 1952 (Symphony) and 1953 (Songs of a Wayfarer)
sessions that this Preiser CD derives. While the remastering of Vox LPs
has expanded the interior and bass lines, there is a palpable sense of
acoustical compression in these discs, and the spatial aspects of Mahler’s
music suffers. Still, as a paean to Nature and to the power of a young
composer’s mastery of orchestral discipline, the D Major has a girth and
nobility of Viennese line that warrant our attention and admiration.
Horenstein’s pacing, his canny and graduated sense of rhetorical climaxes
in the last movement alone more than justify the price of admission.
Serving as a supplement to the classic readings of this symphony by
Walter, Mitropoulos, and Kubelik, Horenstein’s conception has a
bitter-sweet color and austere grandeur quite its own. Norman Foster
intones the lyrics of unrequited love with clear diction and unmannered
pathos. The world is lovely; the sun shines and the birds chirp, oblivious
to my personal anguish. Winds, horn and harp combine most effectively to
intensify the existential irony. Horenstein’s tempos are quick for the
Burning Knife song, but the colors, especially in the flute, are
exquisite. The last song, with its evocation of the linden tree of
forgetfulness, its “Ade” an homage to Schubert, gives us a funereal dirge
for lost love, qualifying as a definitive Horenstein sound-byte.