Sunday, 8 April 2012

Jascha Horenstein

I have a deep respect for Jascha Horenstein. A wandering figure, he never worked with any major recording company, and most of his available studio recordings come from Vox in the 1950s, or Reader's Digest in the 1960s. Horenstein went from Russia to Austria to Germany to the USA, to South America, back to Vienna, then England during the 1950s and 60s. Some of his better (sound-wise) recordings come from the archives of the BBC, but there must be other treasures lurking in the radio archives of Europe.

The Horenstein approach to music making I would characterise as: “right”. He had a special gift for taking minor orchestras and making them sound special. I have just been listening to his BBC recording (molto coughing from the restive audience) of Bruckner's fifth symphony, and it is “right”. I also have a special place for his recordings of Bruckner's 9th symphony, and also of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (BBC, again and, in my view, one of the best recorded performances ever of this work). Another special place for his 1959 performance in the Albert Hall in London of Mahler's eighth symphony; special because I was there in the audience, applauding away, and my father was on the platform with the London Symphony Orchestra. I don't much care for the work, but it was a special occasion, captured again by the valiant BBC.

And recently I listened to Earl Wild playing Rachmaninov's second piano concerto. The piano playing was fine, but it was the orchestral music that really caught my attention: the Royal Philharmonic was conducted by – Jascha Horenstein. Not often a conductor upstages a soloist in a Rachmaninov piano concerto!

A tragedy for us he wasn't captured in more recordings, with good sound. However the Horenstein recordings that are still available are almost all major examples of the art of a great conductor.


Misha said...

I share your admiration for Jascha Horenstein. I attended many of his concerts during the last 8 years of his life, some of which remain my most powerful musical memories. There are many non-commercial recordings of his out there, mostly radio stuff but also privately made recordings, on YouTube and blogs like MetroGnome. I invite you and your readers to join my Horenstein page on Facebook.

Lee said...

I love Wild's Rachmaninov PC with Horenstein. I think the sound is very good and also love Horenstein's contributions. An interpretation that is set in the Rachmaninov-Ormandy mould (in terms of tempo and not too much dawdling).