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Jascha Horenstein in electrifying form in this 1961 Mahler 5th with the Berlin Philharmonic
Elusive recording finally transferred and XR remastered from off-air broadcast recording
I was contacted earlier this year by Misha Horenstein, cousin of the great conductor, with the idea of remastering and releasing rare and special recordings from the Maestro's career. The Mahler Fifth was the most notable gap in Horenstein's extensive recorded legacy and this off-air recording of a blazing Edinburgh Festival concert with the Berlin Philharmonic was regarded as by far the most promising place to start a new Horenstein series at Pristine.
I've pulled out all the stops to try and bring out as much of the passion and brilliance of the performance as remains in the recording, whilst eliminating or reducing crosstalk, interference, a good deal of hiss, swish and other defects. A very short sequence towards the end of the piece was missing from the original source, and here we've patched in one of the other Horenstein recordings, matched as closely as possible to this in order to maintain the musical flow.
The circumstances under which this recording was made are worth retelling. Between November 1957 and August 1958 George Mendelssohn of Vox Records was negotiating with the London Symphony Orchestra for a series of studio recordings with Horenstein, to be synchronized with concert appearances featuring the same works. In June 1958, as a result of these discussions, the LSO engaged Horenstein for two concerts, a performance of Mahler 5 in Leeds on Nov. 1st and another appearance in London on Nov. 9th featuring works by Bartók, Prokofiev and Berlioz. However by the end of August 1958, after equivocating for months, Mendelssohn had already pulled out of both projects leaving the LSO, at that time in dire financial straits, with no recordings and stuck with two concerts they could not afford nor wanted to promote alone. Following Mendelssohn's exit, repertoire and soloists were rapidly changed for Horenstein's Nov. 9th concert, but the Mahler symphony was kept in the program for Nov. 1st after the BBC, on the initiative of Robert Simpson, stepped into the time slots previously reserved for Vox. Following five rehearsals, the first for strings only, Mahler 5 was recorded by the BBC at a single session during the afternoon of 30th October 1958 and documents the first-ever LSO performance of the work. The recording of what was essentially a dress-rehearsal was followed by the concert in Leeds two days later, the orchestra's first public performance of the symphony (not broadcast or recorded) that attracted an enthusiastic crowd and favorable reviews. “At the end”, a surprised Horenstein told Deryck Cooke, “the large audience acclaimed it as though it were some accepted masterpiece”, which at that time was clearly not the case.
Mendelssohn's withdrawal from the project exacerbated an already strained relationship with Horenstein who some months later categorically refused to work with him or with Vox Records ever again, but there was another player in this saga: Everest Records. In August 1958 Everest began making a series of commercial recordings with the LSO that initially featured Walter Susskind and Eugene Goossens conducting contemporary music. Then in September the LSO's manager John Cruft wrote to Everest with more repertoire and conductor suggestions including, among others, a recording of Mahler's Fifth with Rudolf Schwarz. In his letter Cruft did not mention Horenstein, already one of the LSO's regular guest conductors and about to tackle the Fifth (and later the Eighth) with the orchestra. Whether this omission was accidental or deliberate is unknown, but, according to the LSO's official discography, Everest's recording of the Fifth Symphony with Schwarz, the orchestra's first commercial recording of any music by Mahler, was made on 10-11 Nov. 1958, just ten days after Horenstein rehearsed, recorded and performed it with the same orchestra in London and Leeds! Free from his obligations to Vox Records by the end of August 1958, there were no contractual issues nor any prior engagements to prevent him from accepting the Everest recording job had it been offered. Why the LSO and Everest chose Schwarz for their recording, fine effort though it is, remains a mystery, to be classified as another example of Horenstein's unfortunate career as a recording artist. Published here for the first time in any form and the first of three preserved recordings of Mahler's Fifth under his direction, this version, taken from its lone broadcast in June 1960, goes some way towards redressing that injustice.
This release is the second in a series published by Pristine Classical chronicling the concerts conducted by Jascha Horenstein during his visits to the Swedish city of Gothenburg in the late 1960s. On all three occasions, first in January 1968, then in December of that year and finally in October 1969, Horenstein was asked to conduct works that would challenge the recently expanded Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and its newly engaged personnel, particularly in the brass section. It was for this reason that his program choices settled on Mahler’s 4th, followed by Bruckner’s 6th, Schubert’s 9th and finally Mahler’s 5th symphonies, good tests of the orchestra’s mettle and its ability to handle large-scale romantic music. These were performed in four carefully selected and attractively constructed programs that also included works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Liszt and Saint-Saëns, all of which were recorded in-house and will be remastered for publication on this label. The present recording reproduces the last of the four Gothenburg programs conducted by Horenstein, an evening that opened with a gripping performance of Liszt’s symphonic poem Mazeppa, aptly programmed as a warm-up piece for the Mahler symphony that will be published separately.
This recording of Mahler’s Fifth, documenting the last of many occasions that Horenstein conducted the work, is the third under his direction to be published on this label following those with the Berlin Philharmonic (PASC 416) and the London Symphony Orchestra (PASC 567). The tough and tensile Gothenburg Mahler 5, not in the orchestra’s repertoire at that time, stands somewhere between the former’s "barbaric Mahler, struggling with and howling at God", and the latter’s lucid, carefully pointed, carefully controlled reading. In all three performances the spacious formal outlines are clearly and firmly profiled, with the symphony’s multitudinous details kept coherent, proportional and in context. All three performances also emphasize the strong fibers in the music while underplaying its softer centers, with Mahler’s expressionist roots clearly recognizable. The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, which had not played the work since the 1940s, responds to Horenstein’s demands with great feeling, sensitivity and dedication if not with the greatest executive refinement or precision, while the performance itself, with many felicitous details revealed, is another fine example of his unique capacity for getting the most out of his players in a short period of time.
- MAHLER Symphony No. 5
Recorded Edinburgh Festival, 31 August, 1961
Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland
Live broadcast recording
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Jascha Horenstein - conductor
HORENSTEIN conducts Mahler: Symphony No. 5
Previously unissued recording
1. BBC RADIO Introduction (1:34)
MAHLER Symphony No. 5
2. 1st mvt. - Trauermarsch (12:41)
3. 2nd mvt. - Stürmisch bewegt, mit größter Vehemenz (16:06)
4. 3rd mvt. - Scherzo (19:49)
5. 4th mvt. - Adagietto (9:54)
6. 5th mvt. - Rondo-Finale (16:51)
London Symphony Orchestra
Solo Horn: Barry Tuckwell
conducted by Jascha Horenstein
XR remastering by Andrew Rose
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Jascha Horenstein
Recording from the archive of Misha Horenstein
Recorded 30 October, 1958
BBC Maida Vale Studio 1, London
Total duration: 76:55
MAHLER Symphony No. 5
1. 1st mvt. - Trauermarsch (13:22)
2. 2nd mvt. - Stürmisch bewegt, mit größter Vehemenz (16:16)
3. 3rd mvt. - Scherzo (18:26)
4. 4th mvt. - Adagietto (10:29)
5. 5th mvt. - Rondo-Finale (16:44)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Jascha Horenstein
XR Remastered by Andrew Rose
Live concert recording, Gothenburg Concert Hall, Sweden, 16 October 1969 from the Misha Horenstein Archive.
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Jascha Horenstein from the collection of Misha Horenstein
Total duration: 75:17