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Jascha Horenstein, many have not heard of him. Those who have heard of him tend to worship him.

If you revere Bruckner and Mahler yet know not Horenstein--for shame. Horenstein was championing these composers before they were accepted and confirmed as musical oracles.

Horenstein was a conductor who never had a home orchestra. He did hold a post in Düsseldorf during the 1920’s but, as with so many musicians of that time, it was interrupted by National Socialism.

Horenstein was born in Kiev under the rule of the Tsars. His family moved to Austria in 1906 and then ended up in Vienna in 1911, the year of Mahler’s death. Horenstein was 13 and studied music there until 1920.

It could be this period in Vienna that shaped Horenstein’s aptitude for Bruckner and Mahler. At any rate, in 1920 he moved to Berlin and was an assistant to Wilhelm Furtwängler with the Berlin Philharmonic.

Horenstein said of Furtwängler, “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.”

Horenstein does not say it is important to find the meaning of the music, he doesn’t say it is important to look for the meaning of the music, he says it is important to search for the meaning of the music.

If there is one word to epitomize both Bruckner and Mahler, I think it would be searching. If you’re up to do some searching, Horenstein will point you in a direction.

In the YouTube clip, one of the comments emphasizes the 5:52 mark in the track. The sonority of the orchestra at this point is a sound that might never be witnessed again. There is a balance in the registration of the orchestra that is missing in almost all performances. We can actually hear the strings at the very top of the chord. It is a magical moment in the history of orchestral performances.

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Comments

saralola July 8, 2013 @ 12:09 a.m.

I really liked this article. The point about "searching" as opposed to "finding" or "looking" for the meaning of the music is right on the mark. Bravo!

[A minor correction: Horenstein's family moved to Koenigsberg (then part of Prussia), not to Austria, in 1905. They moved to Vienna only in 1911 "just after Gustav Mahler died", as he was fond of reminding his interlocutors].

Good work!

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