The ensemble takes its name from the
musicians' mutual admiration for the work of the conductor Jascha
Horenstein, who also had a strong connection with Berlin, often
conducting at the State Opera and the Berlin Philharmonic.
The Horenstein Ensemble aims to show
chamber music's breadth of scope by combining different groups of
instruments, such as strings, woodwind and harp. Its exciting and varied
programmes bring together the old and the new, both standard works and
rarely performed pieces.
Different and occasionally unusual
combinations define the character of the ensemble, which does not limit
itself to a specific musical period. Further combinations are made
possible by the addition of guest musicians.
The ensemble's repertoire extends from
Rameau, Mozart and Beethoven through Ravel, Debussy, Roussel, Brahms,
Reger and Spohr to Messiaen, Eisler, Widmann and Yun.
The ensemble is also dedicated to the
performance of British chamber music, which is rarely heard in Germany,
including compositions by Williams, Bax, Elgar, Somervell, Arnold and
The conductor Jascha Horenstein
unique artistic profile of the conductor Jascha Horenstein, whose importance to
the history of performance in the 20th century was recognised in his lifetime
by only a few, manifests itself almost completely in his gramophone recordings.
The wealth of live recordings, fortunately preserved in mostly clear-sounding
CD transfers, help to complete the picture of a conductor ‘who was of a type completely incompatible with the conventional
kapellmeister, [and] for whom music became an explosive' (Adorno).
Kiev on 6th May 1898, as a child Horenstein knew life on the move. In 1907 the
Horenstein family moved first to Königsberg, where his mother began to teach
him the violin and the city music director, Max Brode, fostered his talent. In
1911 came the next move, to Vienna. Adolf Busch became Horenstein's violin
teacher, and he studied composition with Franz Schreker at the Konservatorium.
He also studied philosophy at the university. In 1920 Horenstein followed
Schreker to Berlin and joined the circle around Ferruccio Busoni.
conducting career began as successor to Hermann Scherchens with the
Arbeiter-Chor Groß-Berlin and the Berlin Schubert-Chor. He gave his debut as
orchestral conductor in 1923 with the Vienna Symphony in Gustav Mahler's 1st
symphony. Wilhelm Furtwängler noticed the talented young conductor and made him
his assistant. For Furtwängler concerts he studied Béla Bartók's 1st piano
concerto with the composer at the piano and led the rehearsals for Carl
Nielsen's 5th symphony with the composer present, a work which would later find
a central place in his own repertoire. Horenstein first conducted the Berlin
Philharmonic in 1926, and only two years later he made with them an incredible
series of pioneering recordings, including Anton Bruckner's 7th symphony the
first ever electrical recording of a Bruckner symphony.
Furtwängler, in 1928 Horenstein became first principal conductor and one year
later general music director of the Düsseldorf Opera. During five years at one
of the most important opera houses in Europe, he established himself with
spectacular success as a Wagner conductor and made a name for himself as a
champion of contemporary opera - as conductor of the Düsseldorf premiere of Wozzeck, for example, with Alban Berg
present. The young conductor also attracted international attention,
particularly through his concerts in Paris.
Düsseldorf would remain the only directorship Horenstein held during his long
career. In 1930 the National Socialists had already begun stirring up public opinion
against the ‘Russian Jew from Kiev', in spite of the fact that Horenstein had
held Prussian citizenship since 1929. When the situation became threatening for
himself and his young family and the Nazis drove him from his position at the
opera, he fled to Paris in March 1933.
followed what could be described as Horenstein's odyssey around the world -
Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Palestine, Venezuela, Mexico. The brilliant
conductor could be found everywhere and nowhere. In 1947 he returned to Europe.
In 1950, for the first time since 1929, he was again in a recording studio. For
the American company VOX he made a host of recordings over a period of 10
years, many of which are regarded today as definitive, such as Béla Bartók's 2nd
violin concerto with the young violinist Ivry Gitlis, or Gustav Mahler's 9th
symphony with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.
Horenstein conducted the first French performance of Alban Berg's Wozzeck in Paris, in 1959 in London's
Royal Albert Hall Mahler's 8th symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra, a
legendary performance with 756 performers and an audience of over 6000, and
whose importance for the Mahler renaissance in England cannot be over-stated.
Horenstein became one of the most sought-after conductors in Britain. He
regularly conducted the London orchestras and became (unofficially) permanent
guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. Exemplary recordings of
Mahler's 1st and 3rd symphonies or Tchaikovsky's ‘Pathetique' document clearly
Horenstein's intense relationship with this orchestra. Thus the unconventional
philosopher with the baton, who never really put down artistic roots anywhere,
finally established himself with a top international orchestra.
Horenstein, that great outsider among the significant conductors of the 20th
century, nowadays receives more and more the recognition that was often denied
him during his lifetime. He died on 2nd April 1973 in London. The aura of his
masterly interpretative ability manifests itself in an extensive discography,
the absolute epitome of which is the recording of Gustav Mahler's 3rd symphony
with the LSO - to this day unequalled and living proof of Horenstein's
exceptional status as an interpreter of Mahler.
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