Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 6 - Jascha Horenstein, Stockholm Symphony Orchestra

Composer(s): Gustav MAHLER
Conductor: Jascha HORENSTEIN
Orchestra/Ensemble: Stockholm Symphony Orchestra
Label: Unicorn-Kanchana
Catalog #: UKCD2024/25
Format: CD (2 Discs)
Time: 86:39 min
(Recorded during live performances given in the Stockholm Concert Hall on April 15th and 17th, 1966)

By Tony Duggan from
(The texts below was extracted from his review of Horenstein's BBC Legends recording of the same symphony (BBCL 4191-2 2))
Horenstein also recorded the First and Third Symphonies of Mahler in the studio for Unicorn in 1969 and 1970 (UKCD2012 and UKCD2006/7). After his death the company also found a stereo recording of the Sixth Symphony at Swedish Radio with the Stockholm Philharmonic from 1966 (UKCD 2024/5, a concert on the same night that Bernstein conducted the Eighth in London with the Horenstein-trained LSO) and it later appeared on the Music and Arts label too (CDC 785). This Stockholm performance had much to recommend it but there was always, for me, the feeling of "stopgap" about it. It revealed enough to show that Horenstein saw the work as a strictly organized, classically rigorous drama that stressed its twentieth century foundations with a bleak, dogged, unforgiving outlook. The problem was the orchestra‘s playing. Whilst I think it is the case that the Stockholm Philharmonic gave their best for Horenstein, their best was just not good enough for his interpretation’s particular tenor. There is a corporate lack of concentration over the whole performance that renders Horenstein’s uncompromising vision of the work into mild anaemia and so causes what is a noble failure. To give what Horenstein clearly demands, as is borne out by the Bournemouth performance under review now, an unbending concentration across the whole immense work is needed and the Swedish orchestra is just not quite up to that. There were later plans for Horenstein to record the work in the studio in London with the LSO in 1973 but his death put paid to that...

By L. Johan Modée (
"Recommended despite some flaws"
Some critics hold the Stockholm live Mahler sixth to be Horenstein's weakest Mahler interpretation. The playing of the Stockholm PO is not without flaws, and the whole orchestra has been blamed for being slack.

But, as is the case with Barbirolli's Hallé Mahler recordings, even if the orchestra isn't first-rate, the interpretation - in my view - surely is. I am not a stubborn fan of Horenstein, but my first impression of this recording was a nice surprise. Actually I think it is far better than Horenstein's somewhat overrated account of the third.

In my view, then, Horenstein's conception of how to perform this symphony is second to none. And the weak playing... Well: there are differences between flaws and flaws, especially in the case of the brass department. Sometimes flaws are not real catastrophes but rather like spices, adding to the "sense of occasion" due to committed playing. A dull interpretation with stylish, perfect playing can be boring, but a committed and concentrated performance never is - with or without playing flaws. (The same holds for Horenstein's live performance of the ninth, which has more serious flaws than here.)

Moreover, in many parts of this performance we do get lovely playing from the Stockholm PO. Trombones are often excellent, with a perfect bite. String playing in the andante is overall very good. And the hammerblows in the finale are excellent. Add then that Horenstein's interpretation is intense and interesting, a well-behaving audience, and a pretty good recording quality, and we have to reject the common view that this disc is not worth serious consideration. Therefore I think it deserves at least four stars.

Now BBC Legends has released another live Horenstein Mahler sixth, with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, recorded in 1969. It is basically the same interpretation as in the Stockholm performance. Granted, it's better played, but the recording is in mono - a good one, though.

In my view, however, the Stockholm performance is still of great interest, partly because of better sound.


By A. Ruda (
"one of the finest recordings of this symphony ever made"
I first bought this recording as a college student at Univ of Mi in 1980.
It was an LP on the since-gone Nonesuch label. I own two of these LPs and consider them collector items. They were taken from acetate discs and still sound pretty good today on a decent turntable with a good cartridge.
The symphony is available on CD today on the Music and Arts Label out of Berkeley CA and it is combined with the Bruckner 8th. Jump on these if you can find them because they are reasonably priced and sound fine. True, this is not a polished orchestra like the Vienna Philharmonic or the Berlin Philharmonic but the production is very musical and Horenstein's interpretation is outstanding. I will put this recording of the Mahler 6th up against anyones out there today - Abbado, Bernstein, Kubelik - you name it. It can go toe to toe with anything out there and deserves to be counted among the top handful of Mahler Sixth recordings. Horenstein's tempo is neither rushed (like the Solti version) nor too slow or plodding. He gets some wonderful phrasing out of the orchestra . I find that I always come back to this recording. If you like Mahler, this symphony under Horenstein's baton needs to be in your collection.


    PW: Ficus religiosa

    Please feel free to make some comments, we'd appreciate hearing from you. ^_^

  2. Great post!
    Horenstein's Mahler is one of my favourites!

  3. This serie Horenstein-Mahler is wonderful.
    Thank you very much indeed.

  4. Thank you Yun-ming... these three disc are a great Horenstein's demonstration as heavy Mahlerian conductor.

  5. Thanks for another great post! I want also to tell you that Ice's Blog Classics is open again in a new adress

  6. Dear Friend, also here there's a problem with Megaupload Links. Sorry, but is really magnificent music

  7. Great!!
    The 6th is probably the best of Mahler's symphonies. I love the final.
    Many thanks, :-)

  8. Many thanks for this. Much better sound than my LPs of the same performance.