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Beethoven Missa Solemnis
Schubert Unfinished Symphony Wagner Faust Overture

BBCSO/BBCNSO cond. Jascha Horenstein with Teresa Stich -Randall, Norma Proctor, Richard Lewis & Kim Borg

BBC Legends BBCL 4150-2 [123 mins]

IMG/BBC Legends is gradually building up an invaluable collection of historic live broadcast performances which will give some support to older readers who bore their younger relatives with nostalgic memories of the days of yore.

One of my most treasured early memories was of Horenstein marshalling the thousand for Mahler 8 in the Albert Hall; here we have his wise overview of the Missa Solemnis which is a cause for gratitude that this studio recording has survived in the archives (was it before an audience, as was often the case then at Maida Vale Studio 1?).

It was a sequel to a greatly praised Leeds Festival performance, with Richard Lewis replacing Peter Pears. The interesting notes by Joel Lazar document Horesnstein's care in preparation and his skill in unifying the different musics coherently. One is struck by a (deceptively) firm pulse, which underpins the large scale modelling of the work. Yes, it is 1961 mono, but really stereo separation is the least important of all recording parameters and it should take only moments to adjust to the sound and to the BBC engineering as remastered by Tony Faulkner. Collectors should have more than one interpretations of Beethoven's great Mass, but this is a good one with which to start.

Likewise Horenstein's flowing account of the Unfinished soon erased recent memory of an unexpectedly lack-lustre and routine account of this univerally loved masterwork in the concluding concert of this year's Lucerne Festival (Muti and the La Scala orchestra) which had left me wondering if the fault was mine, and feeling that maybe I should ration hearings of the most popular canonic masterworks.

A comparative rarity nowadays to complete this double-CD; Wagner's Faust Overture given with elucidation of the structural implications of thematic detail, Horenstein's steady pacing displaying transformation of the basic material in a way that can sometimes elude listeners.

© Peter Grahame Woolf