Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 3 in D Minor
Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15 (*)
Helen Watts (contralto), Claudio Arrau (piano), Highgate School Choir, Orpington Junior Singers, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion-Télévison Française (*), Jascha Horenstein (conductor)
Live recordings: London (November 16, 1961 [Mahler]) and Montreux (September 17, 1962 [Brahms]) – 140’53
Archipel ARPCD 0557
It’s astonishing to learn that the first complete public performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony in Britain did not occur until February, 1961. This live performance occurred later that year. This recording, never before released, is now available on Archipel as part of their “Desert Island Collection”. If I really were on a desert island and could have only one version of Mahler’s Third, I would probably be fairly satisfied with this persuasive, well-knit reading of the lengthy work (just shy of 90 minutes here), in spite of some uncertainties in the exposed brass lines in the final movement. (Perhaps it was these flaws that kept this recording in storage for over 50 years.) Helen Watts does a masterful job with her “O Mensch! Gib Acht!” and the children’s choir is just fine in their bouncy bit from Des Knaben Wunderhorn.
Jascha Horenstein (1898-1973) was one of so many Jewish musicians who had his career disrupted by the rise of Nazism. He relocated to the US where he taught and conducted. He also conducted in Europe but never headed and orchestra nor had a recording contract. Thus in his lifetime he was somewhat under the radar while since his death his recordings seem to be viewed with ever greater admiration. His admirers will find this recording of no small interest.
The really strange feature of this recording - and there is no indication on the front cover - is the bonus item that fills up disc two: Johannes Brahms’ Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 with Claudio Arrau and a French orchestra (the one now known as l’Orchestre national de France) performing in Montreux, Switzerland. Its boomy sound and pacing that can only be described as lugubrious give the impression of trying to swim in a vat of glue. Thus the bonus is not much of a bonus at all.
There are no notes whatsoever accompanying this recording. The venues are not mentioned, but I assume the LSO performance was in the Royal Festival Hall.