Jascha Horenstein (1898-1973)
A CD Discography of the Great Conductor
Horenstein's family moved to Germany when he was a child. He studied with Max Brode in Königsberg and Adolph Busch in Vienna, and took courses in composition from Franz Schreker in Berlin. But while still a student at the Berlin Hochschule, Horenstein was conducting two Berlin choirs he had inherited from Hermann Scherchen, the Schubert Chor and the Gemischter Chor Gross-Berlin. In 1923, still at the Hochschule, he became assistant to Siegfried Ochs, the great choral conductor, teacher and founder of the Berlin Philharmonic Choir. He continued working with Ochs till 1925/6, and with the two choirs until early 1928. Ochs said that Horenstein was one of the few conductors who understood anything about choral singing.
Meanwhile, Horenstein had made his orchestral debut at two concerts in November 1922, having to get permission from the authorities at the Hochschule to go to Vienna. The concerts were given in the Musikvereinsaal, "where Mahler used to give his concerts," as Horenstein told an interviewer many years later. The first half of each concert included works by Bach, played on the organ, and Franz Salmhofer, conducted by the composer, and Horenstein came on after the intermission with the Mahler First Symphony.
In 1923 he was engaged for concerts with the Blüthner Orchestra, and conducted them regularly until 1928. This orchestra had been founded in 1907; it played in Blüthner Hall, an auditorium named after a piano manufacturer who had paid for its construction. It was conducted for some years by Oskar Fried, Mahler’s first champion and another of Horenstein’s mentors, and gave a number of important premieres, including the first performance in Berlin of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, in 1908. The orchestra toured Germany and was hugely popular in Berlin, and around 1925 was renamed the Berliner Sinfonie Orchester. Horenstein conducted it regularly. There were some memorable concerts during the Beethoven centenary year which greatly enhanced Horenstein's reputation. From 1926 he also conducted the Berlin Philharmonic, though not as often as the Blüthner/Berliner, and had become an assistant to Wilhelm Fürtwangler. In 1929 he became chief conductor of the Düsseldorf Opera, having been recommended by Fürtwangler, holding that post until forced by the Nazis to leave in 1933. (The Berliner Sinfonie Orchester was merged with the Berlin Philharmonic the same year, having been purged of its Jewish musicians.) Horenstein came to the USA in 1940, and never again held a permanent post. His subsequent peripatetic career took him all over the world, back to Europe, from South America to Scandinavia, and as far as Australia.
[We are indebted for some of this information to Misha Horenstein, the conductor's cousin.]
As well as conducting his own orchestral concerts, and operas from Beethoven, Wagner, Nielsen, Berg, Janacek and others, Horenstein accompanied many of the greatest instrumental soloists of the century: pianists included the legendary Josef Hofmann, Vlado Perlemuter, Robert Casadesus, John Ogdon, Malcolm Frager and Earl Wild; violinists Ivry Gitlis, Erica Morini, Peter Rybar, Nathan Milstein and Erich Gruenberg; cellists Pierre Fournier and Janos Starker; and many more. With some of these there were studio recordings; others keep turning up on old broadcasts. The concert with Hofmann and Milstein in New York in 1943 is rumored to exist somewhere on glass discs, but hasn't been uncovered yet.
Horenstein's commercial recordings break down into four main areas: German recordings 1928-29, those made for Vox in the 1950s, those made in the 1960s by RCA for Readers Digest (glories of the gramophone, produced by Charles Gerhardt and engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson), and for Unicorn from 1969. In addition, broadcast airchecks are still being issued on CD; indeed there have been multiple editions of many of them. More bits and pieces include a Strauss Metamorphosen & Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms in mono (Grand Prix du Disque 1954), still in EMI's vault. All of the early German recordings, all the Unicorns and all the Readers Digests have been on CD, the Voxes have all appeared at super-budget prices, and nowadays many of the broadcast recordings are being issued commercially. But it's important to remember that Horenstein's recordings were never easily available until recently. The Vox recordings were initially expensive special orders in most places, long before we got used to buying records through the post; then they were mishandled: the legendary Vox Mahler First was once remastered in phony stereo and accidentally issued with the second side ending in the middle of the last movement. A Vox collection of Beethoven overtures was very rare on vinyl. The Readers Digest recordings were available only in multi-disc boxes by post, and the BBC broadcast recordings were not commercially available at all for many years. It is as though the gods conspired to make a Horenstein cult necessary.
According to Mark Kluge, the problem of the names of the Vienna orchestra that recorded with Horenstein on Vox is simpler than we sometimes thought. The Vienna Symphony Orchestra signed a contract with Philips in April of 1952; after that, it was still free to record with other labels, but not under its own name. The name Vienna State Philharmonia was used for a short period by Vox to disguise Vienna Symphony recordings, but that resulted in a suit by the Vienna Philharmonic, objecting that the closeness of the pseudonym to their own name resulted in unfair competition. Vox thenceforward used the name Vienna Pro Musica for its Vienna Symphony recordings. Vox did not like paying for a lot of rehearsal time, however, so some of the recorded performances are a bit scrappy, nothwithstanding the excellence of the band.
Vox material was leased to an Orbis label on vinyl; this may have been for a partwork in Europe. Orbis and Marshall Cavendish are partwork publishers in England: a partwork is a series of magazines with no advertising which are collected to compile an 'encyclopedia' of gardening, cookery, football or whatever. There have been classical music partworks from both Orbis and MC including CDs; MC issues on CD of Horenstein recordings are found below under Brahms, Haydn and R. Strauss (see VARIOUS). Preludio in the USA and Tuxedo Music in Europe were identical reissues of Vox recordings from the same Swiss address with inaccurate documentation, and the transfers were not as good as the later Vox CDs. Vox promised in early 1998 that they would reissue the rest of the Horenstein in their vaults in that year: the first four in a new series of 11 CDs were issued in Japan in late 1999 and in the west in 2000 and everything seemed to be on CD by the end of 2002.
[In 2011 it was reported that Preludio and Tuxedo had been Vox distributors in Europe doing their own thing; and that a few Vox recordings were being recycled yet again by the German record shops www.zweitausendeins.de in very cheap 3-CD sets on a Concerto Royale label, cobbled together with recordings by other artists. Further, the Liszt Faust symphony was also said to be available on Documents, and the Brandenburg concerti on Archipel, a South German bootleg label. As the compact disc is breathing its last in competition with clouds of downloads, the bootlegs proliferate faster than we can make note of them.]
BBC broadcast recordings were bootlegged from several sources. The Descant label was a child of the Berkshire Record Outlet; three Descant releases which had the support of the Horenstein estate were engineered by Jerry Bruck. The owners of Intaglio had originally been partners with Descant but pulled out after the first release, published their own material and soon got in trouble for their over-ambitious marketing of dozens of BBC broadcasts by many artists. Both Intaglio and Music & Arts cloned the Descant CDs without acknowledging the source or paying Jerry Bruck for the time and work he put in on the tapes, and he subsequently refused to work any more on the Descant project, so there were only three Descant issues of the six initially planned. The BBC airchecks are listenable and in some cases very good indeed; they are nearly all from the same source material. (Horenstein's family and friends, to say nothing of fans, seem to have taped nearly every broadcast.)
Recordings on the Carlton BBC Radio Classics label were the first made with the cooperation of the BBC and access to the original broadcast tapes; in 1998 the BBC Legends series finally appeared, in association with IMG Artists, bringing excellent 20-bit remasterings, many with notes by Joel Lazar, who was Horenstein's assistant. [Joel is now music director of the Symphony of the Potomac, and gets consistently good reviews for his programming and conducting.] The BBC Legends series itself has now disappeared, some of the slack taken up by ICA Classics, set up by Stephen Wright of International Concert Artists in 2010; ICA does a good job but the Horenstein material has become scarce once again.
With all this, there have been more Horenstein recordings available on CD than ever were available during his lifetime; at least four different Mahler Ninths, and four different editions of the same Bruckner Fifth. Many of the CDs listed below are already out of print, but all were commercially available at one time; there are still more broadcasts in unofficial circulation. Now that fans have their own CD burners, and even practice audio restoration at home, the words 'in print' are taking on new meaning. The Google group SymphonyShare has made Horenstein broadcasts available for download, and there is a Jascha Horenstein page on Facebook which once had a listening facility (but Facebook abolished its Music Player without explanation).
Here are the commercial issues. Be sure to check out VARIOUS below for miscellaneous goodies.
BACH: The Brandenburg Concerti on 2-CD VoxBox Legends CDX2 5519. Recorded for Vox in September 1954, this was the nearest thing to an authentic 'Cöthen sound' then attempted on record; the ad hoc 22-piece studio band (with Wolfgang Schneiderhan on solo violin and Nikolaus Harnoncourt on first viola da gamba) has been described variously as the Wiener Ensemble or the Chamber Orchestra of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. The original Vox LP edition was bound in imitation leather with a copy of the score and a facsimile of Bach's dedication.
BACH: for the Schoenberg arrangements, see VARIOUS
BARBER: Violin Concerto with Lola Bobesco: see VARIOUS.
BARTOK: Violin Concerto: See GITLIS; Concerto for Orchestra: see VARIOUS.
BEETHOVEN: Overtures: See VARIOUS and just below.
BEETHOVEN: Symphonies - The Third (twice), Fifth, Sixth and Ninth were all recorded by Vox. The Beethoven Eroica with the SW German Radio Orchestra of Baden Baden (1957 stereo) was reissued with the Haydn Clock symphony on Vox Legends VOX 7807. The mono Beethoven 5th and 6th symphonies and five overtures (Coriolan, Egmont, Creatures of Prometheus, Leonore No. 3 and Consecration of the House), made 1953-56 with the Vienna Pro Musica, were in a 2-CD set VOX2-7808. (The Sixth was said to have been recorded in 1958, but this is unlikely.) Finally, the mono 1953 Eroica with the Pro Musica, a better peformance than the stereo one, came out on VOX 7816 at the end of 2002, completing the CD reissue of Horenstein's studio recordings for Vox.
BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto, Schumann Piano Concerto - Chesky CD52. From the early '60s, with Erich Gruenberg/New Philharmonia, Malcolm Frager/RPO respectively. Chesky transfers are usually very good, but this one has a warbly tone at the beginning of the Schumann, perhaps a deterioration of the master tape. The Beethoven violin concerto was also available on Chandos CHA6521, with the Prometheus & Coriolan overtures by the Birmingham SO under Walter Weller.
BEETHOVEN: The Piano Concerto No. 5, the Emperor, with John Ogdon, on BBC Legends BBCL 4142. The CD also includes Ogdon playing Beethoven's 32 Variations on an Original Theme in C minor, and Schubert's Sonata No. 19 in C minor.
BEETHOVEN: Missa Solemnis, on BBC Legends BBCL 4150. Recorded at Maida Vale studios in 1961, with the BBC SO and soloists Teresa Stich-Randall, Norma Proctor, Richard Lewis and Kim Borg, notes by Joel Lazar. This CD was described by one fan as 'the most important BBC Legends so far.' It is filled out with Schubert's Unfinished Symphony (1972, a live concert by the BBC Northern SO) and the Wagner Faust Overture (1971, BBC SO), making its third appearance on CD.
BEETHOVEN: Fidelio, on Walhall WLCD 0352, a broadcast performance of Beethoven's only opera from the open-air Theater Erodou Atticou in Athens, overlooked by the Parthenon, in 1957, with the Orchestra of the Athens Festival, and the following cast: Don Fernando: Evangelos Markelos; Don Pizarro: Constantino Ego; Florestan: Giuseppe Zampieri; Leonore: Martha Mödl; Rocco: Dezsö Ernster; Zoe Vlachopoulou; Jaquino: Aristos Pantazinakos. Walhall is from Archipel Ltd UK, and this tape wasn't good enough to be issued commercially. There is some excitement, and the band sounds as though it's enjoying playing for JH, but the sound is poor, with quite a lot of distortion, and made worse by somebody playing with the volume control during the broadcast. One wonders what an expert restoration would do for the recording.
BERLIOZ: Symphonie Fantastique - Arkadia CDGI 744. Radio Symphonie Orchester, Berlin, 1963; very acceptable sound. Timings are longer than in the 1962 Charles Munch on RCA, for example, and 'Un Bal' has the most hypnotizing lilt. The fillers are overtures: Gluck's Ifigenia in Aulide and Weber's Oberon, with the Orchestra del Teatro San Carlo di Napoli (1956-7); the sound of these is poor. This CD was manufactured in a factory in Italy that had the same problem with chemicals as a factory in England; the disc turned bronze around the edges and began to suffer serious distortion.
BRAHMS: First Symphony - the Marshall Cavendish partwork 'The Great Composers' part 39 (1996-7 edition) includes the 1958 stereo Vox recording with the SouthWest German Radio Orchestra of Baden-Baden. This recording was finally reissued on Vox 7801 in 1999 along with the Variations on a Theme of Haydn, of the same vintage. The 1962 recording with the London Symphony Orchestra is on Chesky CD19 with Wagner's Bacchanale from Tannhauser, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra & Beecham Choral Society. For a third Brahms First recorded in France see VARIOUS.
BRAHMS: Second Symphony - Unicorn UKCD2036. Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, recorded live in 1972. For more from this concert, see WEBERN, below. There is also a version with the Czech Philharmonic on Somm (SOMMCD037) from the 1966 Montreux Festival, coupled with Strauss's Don Juan.
BRAHMS: Third Symphony - Vox 7802 in 1958 stereo, with the SouthWest German Radio Orchestra of Baden-Baden. The CD also included Wagner's Prelude from Die Meistersinger and Tannhauser Overture with the Bamberg S.O. from 1954.
BRAHMS: Variations on a Theme of Haydn - the 1958 Vox was reissued with Horenstein's first recording of Brahms' First Symphony (see above).
BRAHMS: Piano Concerto no. 1 with Claudio Arrau and the French Rado & TV orchestra now known as l'Orchestre National de France, recorded at Montreux on 17 September 1964 (not 1962, as the label has it), has been issued on Archipel with a concert recording of Mahler's 3rd from London (see below). One commentator liked neither the sound nor the performance, as though JH and Arrau had not had time to prepare together.
BRAHMS: Tragic Overture - see VARIOUS
BRUCH: Scottish Fantasia Opus 46, with David Oistrakh, violin; Ossian Ellis, harp; and the London Symphony Orchestra. This gorgeous English Decca LP from 1962 (London in the USA) had Paul Hindemith conducting his own viola concerto on the other side, and has been reissued on CD by Classic Records: the transfer is marvelous, and so it should be: the audiophile CD cost $25. It was also available in a Decca 2-CD set of Oistrakh recordings, apparently already out of print.
BRUCH: Violin Concerto - See GITLIS
BRUCKNER: Third Symphony (1877 version) - BBC Northern Symphony from the Cheltenham Festival on 3 July 1963 was finally issued on BBC Legends BBCL 4219-2, with BUSONI: Tanzwalzer Op. 33 (RPO, 9 May 1966).
BRUCKNER: Fifth Symphony - Descant 03, Music & Arts CD-697, Intaglio INCD 7541, Phoenix PX 703 1: BBCSO broadcast of 1971. The Phoenix is from a different source tape, said to have better sound. The BBC Legends edition (BBCL 4033-2) was finally remastered from the BBC's tape in 2000 and sounded splendid.
BRUCKNER: Seventh Symphony - Berlin Philharmonic, 1928: the first electrical recording of a Bruckner symphony, originally on Grammophon/Polydor, had a decent transfer on Koch 3-7022-2 H1, and has also been issued on Berliner Philharmoniker BPH0602. A new transfer by Mark Obert-Thorn was published by Andrew Rose's Pristine Audio in France in 2009 (PASC 203), and Obert-Thorn described the original recording as one of the best of its vintage he had heard, also saying that he had a set of 78s to work with which had exceptionally quiet surfaces. The new transfer was splendid, its clarity and the sweetness of the string tone making it very listenable indeed.
BRUCKNER: Eighth Symphony - Vox Box CDX2 5504. Pro Musica, Vienna (c.1955), the 2-CD set including Liszt: Faust Symphony (Ferdinand Koch, tenor), and Wagner: A Faust Overture. The Faust and the Wagner are in stereo (c.1958) with the Southwest German Radio Orchestra. The BBC tape of Bruckner's 8th from 1970 with the London Symphony Orchestra, one of JH's greatest broadcasts, has been in a 2-CD Intaglio INCD 7272 (including a Simpson rehearsal session, see below), a 4-CD Music & Arts CD-785 (see VARIOUS), and best of all in a 20- to 24-bit transfer from the BBC master tape on BBC Legends BBCL 4017-2 (with the BBC SO Ninth, see below).
BRUCKNER: Ninth Symphony - The Vox mono with the Pro Musica has been issued on Tuxedo TUXCD 1059 (labelled 'Vienna Symphony Orchestra'), and on Vox CDX2 5508 with the Mahler First (see below). The Vox transfer is much superior. The BBC SO broadcast from 2 Dec. 1970 was on Intaglio INCD 7091 and Music & Arts CD-781, then on BBC Legends in a new 20- to 24-bit transfer from the BBC master tape (BBCL 4017-2, with the Eighth symphony). Music & Arts included the Wagner Faust Overture from 1972.
BUSONI: Horenstein made broadcast recordings for the BBC of virtually all of Busoni's orchestral music for a series of concerts celebrating the centenary of the composer's birth which would make a wonderful set, but the only thing commercially issued so far is the Tanzwalzer Op. 33, recorded 9 May 1966 with the Royal Philharmonic: a slow introduction and four waltzes later used in the Parma scene of the opera Doktor Faust. See Bruckner Symphony No. 3.
DEBUSSY: La Mer - for a wonderful performance made in France, see VARIOUS.
DVORAK: New World Symphony - The 1952 Vox mono recording was reissued on Vox Legends VOX 7805 (with Janacek's Sinfonietta), labeled as by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. (The original issue had the band described as the 'Vienna State Philharmonia'.) The Reader's Digest recording with the Royal Philharmonic orchestra from 1962 was digitalised on Chesky CD31; the CD also includes Wagner: Flying Dutchman Overture and Siegfried-Idyll.
FRANCK: Symphonic Variations, with Robert Casadesus and the French National Radio Orchestra. See SAINT-SAENS.
GITLIS, Ivry: Vox Box CDX2 5505 ('The Art Of Ivry Gitlis') collected the violinist's Vox recordings on 2 CDs: the Bartok, Bruch and Sibelius concerti conducted by Horenstein, the Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky with Hans Swarovsky and Heinrich Hollreiser respectively, all with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, and the Bartok Sonata for Solo Violin. Each CD was nearly 80 minutes long. [In 2010 a set of 3 CDs on Brilliant Classics (9145) added Gitlis's recordings of the Berg, Hindemith and Stravinsky concerti conducted by William Strickland, Hubert Reichert and Harold Burns respectively.]
GLUCK: see BERLIOZ and VARIOUS.
HAYDN Symphonies: For no. 100 Military and no. 94 Surprise see VARIOUS. Also, of the two Haydn symphonies in early stereo made for Vox, no. 101 Clock and no. 104 London, the former was issued in the UK with a Marshall Cavendish part-work: part 30 of 'The Great Composers' had a CD numbered CCD 30 in 1991 (also available on cassette); the other symphony on the disc was No 94 Surprise by Leopold Ludwig and the North German Radio Orchestra. The series was available in other countries; various editions of the CD label carried the legends 'Grosse Komponisten', 'Im Herzen der Klassik', 'Les Grands Compositeurs', 'Au Coeur du Classique', 'Los Genios de la Musica Clasica'. When the partwork was relaunched in 1996 the Haydn symphony number changed to part 15. Finally, the two Vox stereo Haydn symphonies were reissued on Vox Legends 2-CD sets: see Beethoven's Eroica (above) and Haydn's Creation (below). The Clock on the Marshall Cavendish CD mentioned above and the London on the Vox reissue with the Creation were labeled as by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra; the original Vox issue described the band as the Vienna Pro Musica. See also VARIOUS below for a French radio recording of the Symphony No. 100.
HAYDN: The Creation, Vox early stereo c.1958 with Julius Patzak, Vienna Volksoper Orchestra etc. has been on CD twice: with Mozart's Coronation Mass on Turnabout 30371 00087, a 2-CD set from Carlton Classics in England, and later with the London symphony on Vox Legends VOX2 7806.
HINDEMITH: Symphony Mathis der Maler - Chandos CHAN 8533, London Symphony Orchetra, 1972. The CD also includes Strauss: Death & Transfiguration; both were Unicorn recordings on vinyl. A recording of the Hindemith from Paris in 1954 with the Orchestra Radio Symphonique was issued on Doremi DHR-7998 in 2009, coupled with Shostakovich and Korngold.
JANACEK: Taras Bulba: Rhapsody for Orchestra with the Vienna Pro Musica, recorded for Vox in 1955, was reissued on Vox Legends VOX 7803 with Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony. The Sinfonietta, recorded the same year, was reissued with the Dvorak New World Symphony on VOX 7805 (labeled as by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra). For another Sinfonietta, see VARIOUS.
KORNGOLD: Horenstein recorded some bits of Korngold in 1965 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, for RCA and/or the Readers Digest, which did not receive much circulation on vinyl; the Prelude and Carnival from Violanta, Korngold's second opera, composed when he was 17 years old, was issued on Doremi DHR-7998 in 2009, coupled with Shostakovich and Hindemith. One can only hope that the Love Duet, Reine Liebe, will also someday be on CD. That a teenager could write such erotically passionate music is still incredible.
LAURO, Antonio: Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra, with the Orquesta Sinfonica Venezuela, Alirio Diaz, soloist. Horenstein conducted at least 14 concerts in Caracas 1954-57, and some of them have turned up on tapes of broadcasts; now Doremi has issued a Diaz compilation on DHR 7997 including the concerto and some solo work. We haven't heard it so we don't know what the sound is like.
LISZT: Faust Symphony - For the 1958 Vox recording, see the Vox Bruckner Eighth Symphony, above (and as we noted above there have been more European bootlegs in 2011). The BBC Northern Symphony and Singers broadcast recording from 1972 with tenor John Mitchinson, was on Intaglio INCD 7141 and Music & Arts CD-744; it was finally issued on BBC Legends BBCL 4118-2 in 2003 and the sound was much improved over the aircheck.
MAHLER: Kindertotenlieder - With Marian Anderson (1956): Music & Arts has issued this twice; see MAHLER: Ninth Symphony [below] and VARIOUS; see also MAHLER: Eighth Symphony [below]. With Heinrich Rehkemper (1928) on Pearl GEMM CDS 9929: a 2-CD set with the first complete recording of a Mahler symphony (no. 2, cond. by Oscar Fried, 1923, surprisingly good acoustic sound) and two songs (Mme. Charles Cahier, 1930); also on Naxos 8.110152-3 with everything on the Pearl set plus five more songs recorded 1915-31. With Norman Foster on Vox: see MAHLER: Ninth Symphony. With Janet Baker and the Scottish National Orchestra: see MAHLER: Ninth Symphony.
MAHLER: Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen - with Norman Foster on Vox: see VARIOUS.
MAHLER: First Symphony - The Vox mono circa 1953, with the Vienna Pro Musica, has been issued on Tuxedo TUXCD 1048 and Preludio PHC 3143 (both labelled 1958 and Vienna Symphony Orchestra), and on VoxBox CDX2 5508 with Bruckner's Ninth (see above). The Vox transfer is better. The 1969 recording with the London Symphony Orchestra was on Unicorn UKCD2012. In 2009 HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers) released a new transfer of the Unicorn recording made from a commercial tape that had been briefly commercially available; Tony Duggan wrote at MusicWeb that it was a huge improvement on the Unicorn CD. HDTT's recordings are available in two different downloads or as a physical CD, but the reissues of the Unicorn Mahler symphonies had to be dropped for legal reasons. In 2011 the Unicorn Mahler 1 was leased by Classic FM for a cover-mounted CD on its magazine, in a two-CD set including Beethoven piano sonatas played by Tamás Vásáry.
MAHLER: Third Symphony - Unicorn UKCD2006/7 from 1970 with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Ambrosian Singers, the Wandsworth School Boys' Choir and Norma Procter. As with the Unicorn Mahler First, above, HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers) released a new transfer of the Unicorn Mahler Third in 2009, but had to drop it from their catalogue. The broadcast performance of Mahler's Third from the Royal Festival Hall on 16 November 1961 with the LSO & LSO Chorus, Helen Watts, the Highgate School and Orpington choirs on Archipel/Naxos of America was announced for January 2014, a good performance in decent sound, combined with a not-so-good Brahms first piano concerto with Claudio Arrau from Montreux in 1964.
MAHLER: Fourth Symphony - LPO/Margaret Price, 1970. The first vinyl release on Classics for Pleasure in England was also on Monitor in the USA; the recording was made at a very low level for some reason and the British pressings were noisy. The recording was remastered by Simon Foster for a new vinyl edition in 1982, and was also available on an Angel LP in the USA in a digital transfer made in Germany, but not issued on CD. CfP said it was the worst seller they ever had (though Foster and Yakov Horenstein say that cannot be true). It was leased by EMI to a tiny private label for its first CD release: Chief CD 2 in 1990 was the best transfer yet, made by EMI at Abbey Road, though it had some hiss on it. Since then there were also a Seraphim CD in Japan (TOCE-8906), an EMI Classics in France (2 53841 2) and an EMI La Voce del Padrone in Italy (081 7243 4 7999123). It was finally issued on CfP in 2001 (7243 5 74882 2 8). And in 2010 EMI chose their "worst seller ever" for inclusion in a bumper Mahler box on the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth.
MAHLER: Sixth Symphony - There are two recordings. Unicorn UKCD2024/25 and Music & Arts CD-785 (see VARIOUS) by the Stockholm Philharmonic was recorded live in 1966. It sounded unrehearsed, and has been superceded by a better performance with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, recorded in the Winter Gardens 10 January 1969 in very good mono sound, issued on BBC Legends BBCL 41912 in a 2-CD set with ROSSINI: Semiramide Overture and NIELSEN: Symphony No. 5. Horenstein also discusses Nielsen with Deryck Cooke.
MAHLER: Seventh Symphony - a 1969 BBC broadcast with the New Philharmonia, on Descant 02, Intaglio INCD 7531, Music & Arts CD-727 and BBC Legends BBCL 4051-2. The master tape is lost and the BBC used an aircheck to issue the recording, so it doesn't sound much better than any of the others; some say the Music & Arts sounded the best. Jerry Bruck had provided the BBC with his own audio restoration but they unaccountably didn't use it.
MAHLER: Eighth Symphony. This historic performance broadcast by the BBC from the Albert Hall, with Joyce Barker, Beryl Hatt, Agnes Giebel, Kerstin Meyer, Helen Watts, Kenneth Neate, Alfred Orda, Arnold van Mill, six choruses and choirs and the London Symphony Orchestra, electrified London in 1959 and is regarded as the beginning of the revival of Mahler's music in England. A 2-CD set on Arlecchino ARLA 54/55 ('The Art Of Jascha Horenstein Vol. 2') included the 1956 Mahler Kindertotenleider; the transfer of the Eighth was a dub from the BBC's vinyl and the sound was very poor. The performance was broadcast in the UK by Radio 3 in February 1997 and the sound was very good for for a live stereo broadcast of this vintage; in 1999 the recording was finally issued in an excellent new 20- to 24-bit transfer in the BBC Legends series (BBCL 4001-7) revealing an incredibly good recording for the era. The set also includes the longest version yet issued of the interview with Alan Blyth, over 19 minutes long.
MAHLER: Ninth Symphony - There are at least four extant Horenstein recordings. The legendary mono with the Vienna S.O. from c.1952 is on Vox CDX2 5509 with Kindertotenleider by the Bamberg S.O. with Norman Foster c.1955. (There was room for the Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen with Foster as well but Vox put it on another set; see VARIOUS). A BBC broadcast recording with the London Symphony Orchestra was on Music & Arts CD-235 again paired with a Kindertotenlieder, this one the French National Radio Orchestra with Marian Anderson from 1956 (this Kindertotenlieder appears to be the same performance as on the Paris concert with the 'Orchestre National de France'; see VARIOUS). Deryk Barker, our reliable friend from the Mahler-list, says that the M&A Mahler 9th is not the same performance as that issued by BBC Legends [below], and thinks it may be the 17 April 1966 performance from the Royal Festival Hall. This would make five different Horenstein Mahler 9ths on CD. The 15 September 1966 performance from the Royal Albert Hall is now on BBC Legends (BBCL (4075-2) with yet another Kindertotenleider, this time with Janet Baker and the Scottish National Orchestra from 1967: the only known copy of this was an aircheck in mono; Jerry Bruck did the best he could to restore it. A 1967 recording of M9 with the Orchestre National de France was on Disques Montaigne (TCE 8862) coupled with Strauss's Don Quixote with cellist Janos Starker. Finally, a 1969 recording with the American Symphony Orchestra was on Music & Arts CD-785 (a 4-CD set; see VARIOUS).
MAHLER: Das Lied von der Erde - Descant 01, Intaglio INCD 7501 and Music & Arts CD-728 were bootleg issues of an aircheck, the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra with Alfreda Hodgson and John Mitchinson at Manchester, 1972. Descant includes a short interview with Horenstein. The BBC Legends edition in 1999 (BBCL 4042-2) was a proper reissue of the original BBC tape and sounded wonderful, with notes by Horenstein's assistant Joel Lazar; it also included the interview. It is one of Horenstein's finest achievements.
MARTINU: Duo Concertant for two violins and orchestra, with Peter Rybar and Kurt Conzelmann, violins, and the Tonhalle-Orchester Zurich was recorded live in 1960, issued on Telos TLS 023 in The Peter Rybar Edition Vol. II. The CD also includes the 6th string quartet played by the Winterthurer String Quartet and the Cancerto da Camera for violin, piano, percussion and strings, by Rybar, Marcelle Rybar on piano and the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande, cond. by Urs Voegelin. The Horenstein item has the worst sound on the disc, but it's listenable, and the performance is white hot.
MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 4 - see VARIOUS
MOZART: Symphonies - see Coronation Mass, below.
MOZART: Requiem - Preludio PHC 3141. The Vox recording, labelled 'Vienna Symphony Orchestra' 1973 but made c.1952, with Wilma Lipp, Murray Dickie, Elisabeth Hoengen, Ludwig Weber. The transfer has some distortion from the master tape but is quite listenable. A new issue on VOX 7811 in 2001 was even better.
MOZART: The Coronation Mass K317, Vox early stereo from 1957 with Wilma Lipp, Christa Ludwig, Vienna Pro Music Orchestra etc was issued on a 2-CD set with Haydn's Creation on Turnabout 30371 00087 from Carlton Classics in England. Vesperae solemnes de confessore K339 made the same year was on Turnabout 30371 00522 in the UK, combined with Haydn's Paukenmesse conducted by Hans Gillsberger; and the Kaudate Dominum section of the Vesperae was used as a filler on 1PSR90053 (whatever that is) which contains the Mass K427 conducted by Grossman. Finally, the Coronation Mass, the Vesperae and and symphonies no. 38 Prague, 39 & 41 Jupiter made in mono in 1955, were all in 2-CD VoxBox Legends CDX2 5524. All were originally Vienna Pro Musica Orchestra, correctly described on the Turnabout disc above perhaps because it used the original cover art, but on this new VoxBox described as Vienna Symphony Orchestra.
MOZART overtures: see VARIOUS
NIELSEN: Third & Sixth Symphonies - Intaglio INCD 7381. 1970, with BBC Northern SO and Manchester Hallé respectively. The Third has Alexandra Browning (soprano) & Colin Wheatley (baritone); the Sixth was also on Music & Arts CD-784 (see VARIOUS). The Third has been issued on BBC Legends (BBCL 4249) with the Sibelius Fifth (see below) in much better sound.
NIELSEN: Fifth Symphony - BBC Radio Classics 15656 91492. New Philharmonia, 1971. (With Sym. No. 2 and Symphonic Rhapsody in F by the BBC Welsh SO conducted by Bryden Thomson, 1981) In a new series from Carlton Classics in 1995 ('A division of Carlton Home Entertainment Limited') leased from the BBC, this was the first example we had of a Horenstein broadcast recording transferred from the source material. It sounds good, a recording made for broadcast rather than a broadcast of a live performance, so there's no applause; some say it's a better performance than the Unicorn (below). This Nielsen 5th has also been issued on BBC Legends in 2008; see MAHLER Symphony no. 6.
NIELSEN: Fifth Symphony and Saga Drøm - Unicorn UKCD2023. New Philharmonia, 1969 (the studio recording).
NIELSEN: Saul & David - Unicorn DKP(CD)9086/87. Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, John Alldis Choir, Boris Christoff, Elisabeth Soderstrom etc. 1972. In English. Some rerecording was done after Horenstein's death by his assistant Joel Lazar.
PANUFNIK: Tragic and Heroic overtures, Nocturne and Autumn Music - Unicorn UKCD2016, London Symphony Orchestra, 1970. The CD includes Sinfonia Rustica conducted by the composer with the Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra.
PROKOFIEV: First and Fifth symphonies with the Concerts Colonne Orchestra (a French band formed by Édouard Colonne in 1873), ballet suite Chout and Lt Kije suite with the Paris Philharmonia, all recorded for Vox in mono, were finally reissued in a 2-CD set Vox Legends VOX2 7810 in October 2001. The transfers of the symphonies were disappointing, that of the Fifth apparently a dub from vinyl, complete with what may be a jumping stylus in the last movement. Another Fifth symphony, from a live concert in Paris in 1956, has been on Music & Arts twice; see VARIOUS.
RACHMANINOFF: The four piano concerti and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with Earl Wild and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (1965) are on the 2-CD set Chandos CHAN 8521/2. Chandos CHAN 6507 is a single CD combining the Second and Third concerti, as in the set. On Chesky these recordings have been spread onto three discs with additions: Chesky CD2 has the Second Piano Concerto and the 20-minute tone poem Isle of the Dead, by Horenstein and the RPO and not otherwise available at this writing, plus Wild piano solos (Schubert-Tausig March Militaire & Weber-Tausig Invitation to the Dance). Chesky CD41 combines the First and Fourth concerti and the Rhapsody, and CD76 the Third concerto with Wild's recording of MacDowell's Second Piano Concerto, Massimo Freccia conducting.
RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G Major, Piano Concerto for the Left Hand - Vox CDX2 5507, with Vlado Perlemuter, piano, and the Concerts Colonne Orchestra, Paris. The 2-CD set includes Perlemuter in Ravel's music for piano solo. For another Ravel G Major concerto with Monique Haas as well as a Boléro, see VARIOUS.
ROSSINI: Semiramide Overture, recorded 6 November 1957 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. See MAHLER Symphony No. 6 and NIELSEN Symphony No. 5.
ROUSSELL: Le Festinde l'arainee - see VARIOUS.
SAINT-SAËNS: Piano Concerto No. 4 with Robert Casadesus and the French National Radio Orchestra, on Music & Arts CD 1133. The CD also contains the Franck Symphonic Variations from the same broadcast (from Montreux, 1961), as well as Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, Casadesus accompanied by the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra and Eduard Van Beinum (1946).
SCHOENBERG: The version for string orchestra of Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) and the Kammersymphonie Op. 9 (Chamber Symphony No. 1) were recorded for Vox in early stereo with the Sudwestfünk Baden-Baden orchestra (see VARIOUS below for the Vox 2-CD reissue). Schoenberg's version for full orchestra of the Chamber Symphony (Opus 9b) was recorded with the BBC Northern S.O. in 1970, pirated on Intaglio INCD 7331 (also with the Sibelius Fifth, below). Yet another recording of the Chamber Symphony was made in Denmark in 1972, but this had not been issued on CD as of late 2001, notwithstanding a mislabeled Arlecchino pirate (see WEBERN below for that story). See VARIOUS for 1929 recordings of Schoenberg's arrangements of Bach.
SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 Unfinished, recorded live in 1971 by the BBC SO, on BBC Legends BBCL 4150, filling out a CD with Beethoven's Missa Solemnis (see above) and Wagner's Faust Overture.
SHOSTAKOVICH: Cello concerto - Cascavelle VEL 2009. Orchestre de la Suisse Romande with Pierre Fournier, 1962. The CD also includes the Schumann concerto (with Fricsay '57) and the Martinu (with Sawallisch '78) with the same orchestra and soloist.
SHOSTAKOVICH: First Symphony, recorded in the Albert Hall in Nottingham in 1970 with the Royal Philharmonic, was issued on Carlton's BBC Radio Classics in the UK in 1996, coupled with Leopold Stokowski and the London Symphony Orchestra in Shostakovich's 5th, from a 1964 Prom. This recording of Shostakovch's 1st was also issued on Doremi DHR-7998 in 2009, coupled with Korngold and Hindemith.
SHOSTAKOVICH: Fifth Symphony, recorded in 1952 with the Vienna Pro Musica, is regarded as one of Horenstein's all-time greatest recordings; its reissue in 1999 on Vox 7803 (with Janacek's Taras Bulba: Rhapsody for Orchestra) was an occasion for rejoicing.
SCHUBERT: see VARIOUS
SCHUMANN: piano concerto - see BEETHOVEN violin concerto
SIBELIUS: Second Symphony - see VARIOUS. Fifth Symphony - Intaglio INCD 7331. BBC Northern SO, 1970 (with Schoenberg: Chamber Symphony). Violin Concerto - See GITLIS. The Sibelius Fifth has been issued on BBC Legends (BBCL 4249) with the Nielsen Third (see above) in much better sound.
SIMPSON: Third Symphony, Unicorn UKCD2028, London Symphony Orchestra, 1962. Horenstein championed the music of British composer Robert Simpson (1921-1997); tapes exist of Horenstein broadcasts of the First, Second and Third symphonies. On the Unicorn CD the filler was Simpson's Clarinet Quintet (by the Aeolian Quartet with Bernard Walton), and the CD was later reissued on the British contemporary music label NMC (NMCD 109).
SIMPSON: A Third Symphony rehearsal session was included on Intaglio INCD 7272, 37 minutes from 1966 (for a broadcast with the Royal Philharmonic, not the Unicorn studio recording) filling up the LSO Bruckner Eighth, above.
STRAUSS, Johann Jr: waltzes etc - Chesky CD70; Volume II: The Return of Horenstein Chesky CD95. Vienna State Opera Orchestra (1962). A few of the Strauss pieces were included on a Zanicorn CD called 'Music for Cats'.
STRAUSS, Richard: Death & Transfiguration - see HINDEMITH. Don Quixote with Janos Starker - see MAHLER Ninth Symphony on Disques Montaigne. For the three Strauss tone poems on Vox see VARIOUS. For another Don Juan with the Czech Philharmonic see BRAHMS Second Symphony. For another Death & Transfiguration and a Metamorphosen see VARIOUS.
STRAVINSKY: The Firebird Suite (version 1919) and Le Sacre du Printemps were recorded by Vox c.1957, probably both in stereo, with the SWF Orchestra (Symphony Orchestra of the West German Radio, Baden-Baden). The original mono edition squeezed both onto one LP, but the stereo Le Sacre seems to have been issued later on an LP by itself. On CD the Firebird Suite was combined with a stereo Le Sacre said to be by the Philharmonica Slavonica conducted by Hanspeter Gmür on Pilz CD 325 from Kranzberg Germany, and on Tring SYM049 from England with a stereo Petrouchka, also Gmür/Philharmonica Slavonica. The Pilz CD carried no annotation and was labeled DDD; in the spring of 1996 it was said that Pilz had gone bankrupt. Information about the super-budget Pilz and Tring labels was impossible to obtain; the Tring carried the legend 'licensed from Long Island Music Co. Ltd.' Horenstein's mono Sacre and stereo Firebird Suite were reissued together on Vox 7804 in 1999; perhaps the stereo tape of Le Sacre had been mislaid. For another Firebird and a Symphony In 3 Movements, see VARIOUS.
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 - Chesky CD94. New Philharmonia Orchestra, c.1962; combined with the Swan Lake ballet suite, with Sir Adrian Boult and the New Symphony Orchestra of London.
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 - Royal Classics ROY 6458, London Symphony Orchestra c.1967; combined with the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture and the Sleeping Beauty waltz, by Sir Malcolm Sargent and the Royal Philharmonic. Royal Classics is a budget series of EMI reissues made in Holland for the Music Discount Centre chain of London record shops in 1995. The booklet note on this number recycles the silly story of the 'secret' court condemning Tchaikovsky to suicide because of a homosexual scandal.
TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto - a 1957 broadcast made in Paris with soloist Erica Morini and the National Radio Orchestra was issued on Music & Arts CD 1116 in 2003; the filler was the Brahms concerto broadcast by Morini with George Szell and the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall in 1952.
VARIOUS: Koch 3-7054-2-H1. With the Berlin Philharmonic in 1929: Mozart overtures Marriage of Figaro and La Clemenza di Tito; Schoenberg transcriptions of two Bach chorale preludes; Haydn's Surprise Symphony and Schubert's Fifth. Good transfers. The Bach/Schoenberg will be turgid to some tastes; the rest is delightful.
VARIOUS: Vox CDX2 5529 includes the following Vox recordings: Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration; Wagner: Lohengrin Prelude to Act 1, Tristan und Isolde (Prelude & Liebestod); Mahler: Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen (with Norman Foster), all made 1954 with the Bamberg Symphony; and Schoenberg: Transfigured Night and Chamber Symphony Op. 9, made 1956 with the Southwest German Radio S.O., Baden-Baden. This recording of Till Eulenspiegel was also included in Marshall Cavendish's 'The Great Composers' part 46 (1997 edition) in honest mono, the transfer different from the VoxBox CD, lighter but cleaner (also on the MC CD: Also Sprach Zarathustra by the St Louis S.O. with Walter Susskind, and Don Juan by the Cincinnati S.O. with Thomas Schippers, both in stereo). The Vox recordings of the Prelude from Die Meistersinger and the Tannhauser Overture were reissued with Brahms' Third Symphony (see above).
VARIOUS: Music & Arts CD-784 The Complete Paris Concert of 22 November 1956 with the Orchestre National de France included Haydn's Military Symphony (no. 100), Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (with Marian Anderson, also on Music & Arts CD-235, with Mahler's Ninth), Gluck's Alceste Aria 'Divinités du Styx' and Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony. The two-CD set begins with Beethoven's Egmont Overture (1969, with the American Symphony Orchestra) and ends with Nielsen's Sixth Symphony (1970 with the Hallé, also on Intaglio). This set was going out of print in mid-2004, replaced by the following 9-CD set of French radio recordings:
VARIOUS: Music & Arts CD-1146(9) Jascha Horenstein: Broadcast Performances From Paris, 1952:1966, all with the National Radio Orchestra. CD 1: Ravel: Piano Concerto (Monique Haas), 11 Feb. 1952. Beethoven: Symphony No. 7, 1 June 1966. Roussel: Le Festin de l'araignee, Op. 17, 1 June 1966. CD 2: Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra, 19 Dec. 1961. Beethoven: Symphony No. 8, 11 Feb. 1952. CD 3: Sibelius: Symphony No. 2, 19 Nov. 1956. Stravinsky: Firebird suite, 3 Apr. 1964. CD 4: Debussy: La Mer, 1 June 1966. Stravinsky: Symphony in 3 Movements,19 Dec. 1961. Strauss: Tod u. Verklärung, 26 Sept. 1961. CD 5: Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (Pilar Lorengar, Marga Hoeffgen, Josef Traxel, Otto Wiener) 31 Oct. 1963. Mozart: Don Giovanni Overture, 11 Feb. 1952. CD 6: Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4, 26 Sept. 1961. Brahms: Symphony No. 1, 12 or 19 Dec. 1957. CD 7: Beethoven: Symphony No. 1, 31 Oct. 1963. Mahler: Kindertotenlieder (Marian Anderson), 22 Nov. 1956. Strauss: Metamorphosen, 3 April 1964. CD 8: Beethoven: Egmont Overture, 27 May 1954. Ravel: Bolero, 1 July 1966. Janacek: Sinfonietta, 11 February 1952. Haydn: Symphony No. 100 in G, 22 Nov. 1956. CD 9: Brahms: Tragic Overture, 19 November 1956. Samuel Barber: Violin Concerto (Lola Bobesco), 13 November 1950 Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5, Op. 100 22 November 1956. Sound restoration: Maggi Payne (2004). Notes: Joel Lazar. Photographs courtesy of Peter Horenstein.
VARIOUS: Music & Arts CD-785 was a four-CD set including the Bruckner Eighth (London 1970), Mahler Sixth (Stockholm 1966) and Mahler Ninth (1969, American Symphony Orchestra).
VARIOUS: See also GITLIS, above, for JH's recordings with the violinist.
WAGNER: All of the Wagner recorded for RCA/Readers Digest in the '60s has been reissued on Chesky; see BRAHMS First Symphony and DVORAK New World Symphony. The 1958 Faust Overture on Vox was reissued with the Bruckner Eighth, above. For more Wagner recorded for Vox see VARIOUS. The Faust Overture broadcast with the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra in 1972 was on Intaglio INCD 7231 with Walton's First Symphony, on Music & Arts CD-781 with Bruckner's Ninth and on BBC Legends BBCL 4150 with Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Schubert's Unfinished Symphony.
WALTON: First Symphony - Intaglio INCD 7231, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, 1971. With Wagner: Faust Overture, above.
WEBER overture: see BERLIOZ.
WEBERN: Arlecchino ARLA 34 ('The Art Of Jascha Horenstein Volume 1') contained Webern's Five Orchestral Pieces Opus 10 and Schoenberg's Transfigured Night and the Chamber Symphony No. 1, all described as a broadcast from April 1964 with the Sudwestfünk Baden-Baden; in fact Arlecchino had pirated the Webern performance with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, from the same 1972 trip that resulted in the Brahms Second, the Nielsen opera Saul & David and Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 1 (a performance not yet on CD: Arlecchino took their Schoenberg from the Vox studio recordings.) Our thanks to Chuck Nessa for sorting all this out.
compiled by Donald Clarke
I am often asked how I happened to issue Horenstein's 1970 Mahler 4th on my own Chief label. I was living in England (1973-98) and after publishing the Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music in 1989 (the material now available on my website) and looking around for something to do, I decided to put out six CDs on my own label, which I called Chief. I am not much of a businessman and had no idea what I was doing, but it was fun, and good karma. I did not produce any recordings, but wanted to issue stuff that deserved to be on CD and was not.
Here are the notes I wrote more than 20 years ago for my Chief edition.GUSTAV MAHLER (1860-1911) wrote symphonies and songs at the end of a thousand years of European history, just before the horror of the First World War, which was the beginning of our terrible century (Mahler's niece, the daughter of his beloved sister Justine, perished at Auschwitz). Mahler's obsession with death and his repeatedly triumphant resignation to it through the beauty of art are more meaningful than ever as our century draws to a close, cluttered as it seems to be with increasing pointless violence.
The old orthodoxy was that Mahler was the last Romantic composer, while his friend and colleague Richard Strauss was the first of the modern era. Now we know that it was the other way around. Among the qualities Mahler's works offer to modern music, they are often intensely rhythmic: in the Fourth symphony there are patterns within patterns, so that bar lines sometimes seem fluid. His style is strongly contrapuntal, in the best tradition of European art music, but also 'impure': full of bird calls, fanfares, marches and references to 'cheap' music, such as folksongs and sentimental tunes. The music does not fear to deal with the contrast between the squalor of the world and the peak inhabited by the artist -- or by God. As Flannery O'Connor liked to put it, 'Everything that rises must converge.'
Knowing Mahler's music as we do today, it is hard to imagine a time when it was rarely heard. Few artists have created such a seamless body of work: it is difficult, really, to consider the symphonies separately from one another, perhaps especially the first four, all inspired and informed by the anthology of German folk-poems he discovered in 1887, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (compiled by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Bretano), and all using tunes which he also used in settings of the poems. The Second and Third symphonies are two or three times as long as the typical 19th-century symphony; the Fourth cost him perhaps fully as much trouble, yet it became one of his shorter works in the end: a sort of pendant or coda to the gigantic and successful heaven-storming of the others, yet utterly complete and satisfying in itself.
The last movement of the Fourth is a Wunderhorn song, originally called by Mahler 'What The Child Tells Me' and intended to be the last movement of the Third (which already had six movements). Much of the thematic material in the Fourth grew out of the song, which was written as early as 1892, yet the finished work is an entirely traditional structure. Deryck Cooke describes it as 'neo-rococo'--it uses the smallest orchestra of any of Mahler's works, and is the only one with no trombones at all--yet this momentary reaction against the scale of much Romantic music is balanced by his progressive tonality, to say nothing of instrumental effects and musical surprises unique even in Mahler's work.
The Fourth was completed in the summer of 1900. As Cooke has pointed out, too much is made of its relatively 'untroubled' nature: none of Mahler's works is without layers of interpretive questions, like a picture which becomes richer and more meaningful each time we look at it. Mahler said that the first movement is meant to render 'the uniform blue of the sky...Occasionally, however, it darkens and becomes phantasmagorical and terrifying: not that the sky becomes overcast, for the sun continues to shine eternally, but that one suddenly takes fright; just as on the most beautiful day in a sunlit forest, one can be seized with terror or panic.'
The scherzo, with its solo violin tuned higher than the rest of the violins, 'will make your hair stand on end', wrote Mahler; perhaps it doesn't quite do that, but then it isn't Satan playing the fiddle, but only Friend Hein, a minstrel who will lead us to the beyond if we follow him: a reminder of the tune to which we shall each dance one day. And the scherzo's trio section is a sunny Austrian Landler.
The adagio is one of Mahler's most beautiful, and is said to have been his own favourite among all his works; it contains the symphony's only full orchestral fortissimo, followed by a marvelously comforting decrescendo, which Mahler described as having an 'almost Catholic and religious atmosphere.' Cooke wrote that upon first hearing the adagio he was reminded of a line from Thomas Hardy: 'I seem where I was before my birth, and after death may be.'
The last movement's song is a vision of Heaven as a place where the angels bake the bread and the wine costs 'not a heller' (a small coin), in the same folk tradition as Brueghel's painting 'The Land of Cockaigne' (1567), and the American song 'Big Rock Candy Mountain' (and perhaps also a song recorded by Danny Kaye called 'Handout On Panhandle Hill'). But here the story has its darker side: the butcher Herod is lurking; we lead a guiltless, patient lamb to its death. We mortals cannot imagine even Heaven without death, and Mahler's song can be interpreted as a childlike vision...or as an anxious plea. In fact, the whole symphony has an anxious sharpwards movement; nominally in G major, it ends in E major--albeit in blissful resignation.
JASCHA HORENSTEIN was born in Kiev in 1898; he died in London in 1973. He made his debut in Vienna in 1923 [actually 1922]; he was an assistant to Wilhelm Furtwangler in Berlin and a guest conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. He was chief conductor of the Dusseldorf Opera from 1929 until forced to leave in 1933.
Chief Records gratefully acknowledges the use of the following works in the preparation of these notes: Mahler, by Henry-Louis de La Grange (1973)