C0133. JASCHA HORENSTEIN Cond. BBC Northern S.O., w.Alfreda Hodgson & John Mitchinson: Das Lied von der Erde (Mahler). Music & Arts 728, Live Performance, 28 April, 1972. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 017685072826
"Music and Arts, a label based in Berkeley, Calif., has led the way with eight Horenstein disks, predominantly Mahler. A 1969 performance of the Seventh Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra (CD-727) probes the darkest corners of Mahler's Expressionist masterwork without losing sight of the larger plan. And in a glorious DAS LIED VON DER ERDE with the BBC Northern Symphony (CD-728), Horenstein rouses a minor group to heights that have been matched only by Bruno Walter and Klemperer in their classic readings. John Mitchinson and Alfreda Hodgson are not the greatest soloists ever to attempt this piece, but they do moving work.
Why did this major musician not receive his due? Perhaps because he deliberately avoided the obvious path to posterity. He never sought a permanent appointment, and his temperament would have prevented it. The repertory that meant the most to him became fashionable only in his last years. The selflessness of his devotion to certain precious scores is rare among conductors, for whom the buttressing of the ego at all costs is usually paramount. Devotion shines through many of these recordings, and it colors the famous sentence the conductor uttered on his deathbed: ‘The saddest thing about leaving this earth is never to hear 'Das Lied von der Erde' again’."
- Alex Ross, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 16 Oct., 1994
“Here at last is Jascha Horenstein's BBC studio recording of Mahler's late masterpiece, made under ideal conditions a year before his death. The BBC Northern Symphony had never played the work before so Horenstein was given time to rehearse them thoroughly. The result is an expansive performance that repays repeated listening because the degree of space he gives the music, allied to the familiar fingerprint of modular tempi to suit entire movements, takes us deeper than ever. Horenstein's view of this work is dark and tinged with tragedy.
It's hard to find words adequate to describe the final pages. Taken at as slow a tempo as could be dared, soloist, conductor and orchestra sustain a line that is unutterably moving. Indeed, there are passages in this last song where time almost stands still. According to John Mitchinson, most of the orchestra were in tears at the close.”
- Tony Duggan, MusicWebInternational
“A champion of modern music and an intellectual and philosophical conductor of a sort not much encountered any more, Jascha Horenstein moved to Vienna with his family at age six. He went on to study violin with Adolf Busch, Indian philosophy at the University of Vienna, and music at the Vienna School of Music. By 20 he had already decided to become a conductor and left Vienna for study in Berlin, where he conducted the Schubert Choir and became an assistant to Furtwängler. In 1924, he made his début with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, conducting Mahler's then-little-known First Symphony. From 1925 to 1928, he conducted the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, and in 1929, as guest conductor, he led the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in the premiere of Alban Berg's LYRIC SUITE. As a young man he made the acquaintance of Schönberg, Webern, Stravinsky, Rachmaninov, Richard Strauss, Busoni, and Janácek, and frequently programmed their music for the rest of his life.
On Furtwängler's recommendation, Horenstein was appointed director of the Düsseldorf Opera in 1929, and remained there until, as a Jew, he was forced to leave Nazi Germany. In the 1930s he lived in Paris and traveled extensively, conducting in Brussels, Vienna, and the USSR, visiting Scandinavia with the Ballets Russe, and touring Australia and New Zealand. He settled in the U.S. in 1942, became a U.S. citizen, conducted many of the leading orchestras of both North and South America and was one of four conductors, including Toscanini, to conduct the newly formed Palestine Symphony Orchestra. Though in great demand from the 1930s onwards, Horenstein did not actively seek a permanent conductorship; he appeared to prefer to work on his own terms.
After the Second World War, Horenstein returned to Europe and lived in Lausanne, Switzerland. Highlights of his renewed European career came in 1950, when he introduced Berg's WOZZECK in Paris and in 1959 when his performance of Mahler's Eighth Symphony for the BBC did much to stimulate a Mahler revival in Britain. After 1964, when he presented Busoni's DOKTOR FAUST in New York, he gave many concerts in London with the London Symphony Orchestra and in Manchester with the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra. In his later years, he appeared frequently at London's Covent Garden.
From Furtwängler, Horenstein learned the importance in searching for the metaphysical rather than theoretical meaning of music, and that outlook coincided with his own interest in Eastern philosophy. As a conductor, Horenstein greatly admired Stokowski for his broad repertoire and the sense of occasion he brought to every performance. He was intolerant of routine performances, even from the greatest orchestras, and in rehearsal he would run through large sections of a work to establish coherence and continuity before proceeding to finer details of interpretation. In the words of his assistant Lazar, ‘[t]he exceptional unity and cohesion that characterized his performances arose from the way he controlled rhythm, harmony, dynamics and tempo so that each individual moment might achieve the most vivid characterization, but the overall line and cumulative effect would not be lost’."
- Roy Brewer, allmusic.com