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"I deplore the linking of Mahler and Bruckner. I think the culprit was my old friend Hans Redlich. who wrote that book tying them together. I liken them to Marks and Spencer. When I come to London to make plans with the orchestras I say to them, 'What do you want me to do this season, Marks's Sixth and Spencer's Fourth?'. Today, when someone asks me what works I would like to conduct, there are very few pieces by these two composers among them. You know, I also conduct Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms, not to mention Sibelius, Nielsen, Janácek, Roussel, Berg and Webern.”
Jascha Horenstein talks to Alan Blyth , The Gramophone, November 1970
History has denied Horenstein's wish not to be typecast as a Bruckner and Mahler conductor and in later life, as well as posthumously, his wider reputation rested almost exclusively on this repertoire. Bruckner first entered his consciousness at age 14 when, in June 1912, he attended a concert in Vienna conducted by Artur Nikisch that included the Ninth symphony. The experience left a life-long impression: “It probably influenced me to become a conductor”, he declared many years later. During the Weimar era Horenstein's fame rested to some extent on his readings of Bruckner after several enthusiastically received performances of the Ninth in Berlin and Frankfurt contributed to his meteoric rise among young conductors of the day. However his performance of the Ninth in Leningrad in April 1932 turned out to be the last time he conducted any music by Bruckner in public for the next 25 years, an inexplicably long period of time. This may have been due to some reluctance on his part to program music promoted by the Nazis, or, more likely, to a general lack of enthusiasm for the composer outside of the German speaking world he had been forced to abandon. It was only in 1957 that Horenstein reintroduced Bruckner into his repertoire when he included the Third Symphony at a concert in Caracas, but thereafter and until his death in 1973 he conducted all the numbered symphonies in various places, some of them inspired and inspiring occasions that, happily, have been preserved on disc.
Aside from his three commercial recordings, the Seventh for German Polydor ( PASC 203 ) and the Eighth and Ninth for Vox ( PASC 429 ), those of all the other Bruckner symphonies derive from copies of radio transmissions, including the present publication taken from its sole broadcast on May 3rd 1964 (the master tapes were later destroyed by the BBC during one of its periodic spring cleaning operations). The occasion marked the first time Horenstein conducted music by Bruckner with the LSO, which had not played the Sixth since a performance conducted by Sir Hamilton Harty in 1936, and was also the orchestra's first recording of any music by this composer. The symphony entered Horenstein's repertory in March 1931 when he was engaged for a radio broadcast with an unidentified Berlin orchestra and was his favorite of the canon after the Third, if the number of times he performed it following this recording is any indication. The composer Robert Simpson, an authority on Bruckner, wrote that Horenstein “instinctively solved the problems of the Sixth as finely as those in the others.”
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 6 in A major, WAB106
1. 1st mvt. - Majestoso (16:07)
2. 2nd mvt. - Adagio. Sehr feierlich (16:52)
3. 3rd mvt. - Scherzo. Nicht schnell - Trio. Langsam (8:46)
4. 4th mvt. - Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell (14:44)
London Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Jascha Horenstein
XR remastering by Andrew Rose
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Jascha Horenstein
Bruckner Symphony No. 6
Recorded 21 November 1961
BBC Maida Vale Studios
Source recording from the archives of Misha Horenstein
Total duration: 56:29
Bruckner Festival, BBC Third Programme
by Andrew Porter, Financial Times, 4th May 1964
On Sunday evening, in the eighth of the B.B.C. Bruckner concerts, Jascha Horenstein conducted a cogent performance of the Sixth Symphony, which also stops suddenly, after some splendid pages of brass fanfares. It was not a sumptuous performance in that we were not bathed in rich, warm Viennese tone, but rather a strong, shapely one in which the fertility of Bruckner's invention came to the fore. The long Adagio is a nobly sustained movement, reaching forward into Mahler. In the Scherzo Bruckner's melodic fancy - and his scoring - are light and delicate. The finale opens with bold "white-note" harmony whose consecutive ninths still sound surprising today. The rounded pizzicato tone of the LSO basses is always a distinct pleasure.
Although as a young man Horenstein found Bruckner “a bore”, his later affinity came from two sources. Firstly, he began studying Indian philosophy, a subject which fascinated him throughout his life and which awoke in him a feeling for spiritual matters: “it teaches us the importance of the spiritual life and how that should dominate everything we do.” The second crucial influence was that of Wilhelm Furtwängler, whom he met after the Great War and whose rehearsals he began to attend. After following Schreker, his teacher, to Berlin, Horenstein became Furtwangler's assistant. “I think I learned from him the importance of searching for the meaning of the music, rather than being concerned with just the music itself; to emphasize the metaphysical side of a work rather than its empirical one. I think he impressed me more than any other interpreter except Nikisch.”
On the face of it, Horenstein’s Bruckner was less metaphysical, certainly less wayward and volatile, than that of his mentor. Like his slightly older Viennese contemporary Erich Kleiber, Horenstein was an example of a new generation of conductors who took a more even-handed, less interventionist approach to music, characterized by greater textual fidelity and, above all, a more integrated approach to tempo. Yet Horenstein’s Bruckner, like Kleiber's Beethoven, lacked nothing in intensity or elasticity for this approach, and from very early on it had about it a remarkable maturity.
In 1928, just five years after his conducting debut, Horenstein made his first Bruckner recording: the Seventh Symphony with Furtwängler's Berlin Philharmonic on Polydor. This was the first electrical recording of any Bruckner symphony, and both recording and performance still sound amazingly fresh today. String textures in particular are remarkably clear, the never intrusive use of portamento a constant joy. Speeds are faster than we are used to today, but without any hint of the youthful impatience one might expect from a mere 30 year old in this music. The first movement is beautifully unfolded with some fascinating and entirely convincing tempo modifications, and the reading is rounded off by a wonderfully mercurial finale.
In the 1950s, the emergence of George Mendelssohn's tiny Vox record company brought Horenstein to the attention of a wider public. Though not numerous by today’s standards, his Vox recordings, made over a period of seven years, covered an enviable range from Bach to Stravinsky. Among these, pride of place inevitably goes to Mahler and Bruckner, including the latter’s Eighth and Ninth symphonies made with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. The playing may not be in the first rank technically, but as with the 1928 Berlin Seventh, the timbres sound splendidly idiomatic, the readings direct yet flexible and, in the best sense, unfussy. The Ninth possesses a drive and urgency which, especially in the Adagio, underscores the disquieting elements in the music, while in the first movement, the fortissimo outburst at rehearsal letter N really catches fire, in a way surely reminiscent of Nikisch. The performance of Bruckner’s Eighth is conceived along broader lines, but without any hint of luxuriance, the tensions being maintained through a noble and sustained account of the great Adagio and right through to the work’s closing pages. Here the Viennese horns, well balanced in both these recordings, cut gloriously through the texture with the final statement of the Adagio theme. In both symphonies, Horenstein’s unerring sense of space and his sensitivity to the long line help to place these among the greatest Bruckner recordings.
But although he made no more commercial recordings of Bruckner, three live performances have found their way onto disc, and they confirm Horenstein’s place among an elite handful of great Brucknerians. The BBCSO Ninth from December 1970 is appreciably broader than Horenstein's Vienna account and slightly less high-voltage. It is still a gaunt affair, an aspect emphasized by the acerbic quality of the stereo recording in the Royal Festival Hall. As well as more breadth, Horenstein achieved a greater plasticity, the pulse more pliant without any loss of long-term control or trajectory. At rehearsal letter G in the Adagio, for example, the exchanges between first and second violins become gradually more fevered and animated, and then pull back in the bar before the tutti outburst: a marvelous example of how carefully controlled tempo modifications can add to the already powerful effect of this great music.
The same combination of sustained control and inspired insight is evident in the LSO Eighth and the BBCSO Fifth, recorded in 1970 and 1971 at Promenade concerts in the Royal Albert Hall. Both prove to have been remarkable occasions and by any but the most clinical standards must count among the most memorable recorded performances of these masterpieces. Speeds are steady and spacious but never sluggish. The London orchestras may not know the scores as intimately as their colleagues in Vienna and Berlin, but the sound (particularly in the Fifth where the BBC horns excel), is magnificent with resplendent breadth and gloriously forthright timpani; and occasional fluffs are easily overlooked in readings of such power, spontaneity and insight. Evident above all is that Horenstein had not only an exceptional feel for the architecture of these works but an unmatched sensitivity to their sensual aspect, to the timbral as well as the temporal space. The arching horn phrases in the first movement development of the Fifth Symphony can rarely have soared so magnificently! It is not merely that the dynamic range is vast: Horenstein also pays greater attention to the detail of Bruckner's dynamic markings, the careful layering and shifting perspectives in the music, than any other great Bruckner conductor. The cumulative result, in the Eighth Adagio and Finale and particularly in the great peroration of the Fifth, is at once overwhelming, shattering even, and deeply calming, a sign of real insight into this music.
Mark Audus, Jascha Horenstein: A Great Bruckner Interpreter (edited)
The Bruckner Journal, July 1999, www.brucknerjournal.com