New Classical Tapes from Horch House


May 24, 2010
SF Bay Area
I treated myself to several new tapes this Christmas. (I reviewed several of Ed Pong's new tapes in a separate thread).
This post is about the tapes I bought from Volker Lange and Horch House. Volker is located in Austria and the tapes arrived quite promptly from across the pond, very well packaged and none the worse for wear. Horch House was having a sale, reducing their already quite reasonable prices. As many of the sources I buy from, they use SM468 (which unfortunately has gone out of production) and record at a relatively high level (510 Nw/m) which maximizes the signal to noise level and to my ears does not overload the tape in any way.

I bought the following tapes:

Bach Mass in b excerpts with Peter Schreier conducting the Leipzig New Bach Collegium with several soloists including soprano Lucia Popp 2 reels
Beethoven Diabelli Variations with Frederick Gulda piano 2 reel
Beethoven Missa Solemnis with Kurt Masur conducting the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra 3 reels
Chopin Complete Nocturnes with Arthur Rubinstein piano 4 reels
Elgar Cello Concerto and Sea Pictures with Jacqueline duPre, cello and Janet Baker, soprano 2 reels
Mozart Arias (Der Odem der Liebe) with Peter Schreier tenor 2 reels

The Bach, Beethoven Missa Solemnis, and Mozart Arias were licensed from Eterna (East German Label).
The Chopin is from RCA.
The Elgar is from EMI.
The Beethoven Diabelli Variations is from Horch House.

These are all great recordings, from the 1960's and 1970's with internationally famous artists. The performances are uniformly excellent and I don't think there are any commercial tape sources of any of these pieces played by anyone else. The Chopin Nocturnes and Elgar Cello Concerto/Sea Pictures are generally regarded as the best performances available and I was super impressed by the sonics, even though the recording are around 55 years old. Rubinstein was famed for his Chopin and the Nocturnes may be his best recordings. Jacqueline duPre made her recording debut with the Elgar Cello Concerto and it has never gone out of circulation.

I really like both the Bach Mass in b minor and the Beethoven Missa Solemnis. The Bach is considered by many as the greatest Mass ever composed. The recording here is of excerpts, since it is three records for a full performance. Although it says it is in the key of b minor, most of it is in the relative major key of D, making it quite a joyous piece. One of my favorite sopranos, Lucia Popp, is a featured soloist. The Beethoven Missa Solemnis, one of his later pieces. It definitely challenges the Bach Mass in b minor as one of the greatest masses. Conductor Kurt Masur was famed for his conducting of Beethoven and this is a great performance with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (which Mendelssohn had conducted in the mid 1830's). Masur was the music director for 26 years. There are definite similarities between parts of the Missa Solemnis and the choral movement of Beethoven's ninth symphony.

The Mozart tenor arias come from Mozart's great operas and Peter Schreier is one of the great Mozart tenors. Wonderful sonics. Beethoven's Diabelli variations are near the top of Beethoven's piano music, written in his late period, like the Missa Solemnis. The music publisher and composer Anton Diabelli held a contest for composers to write a variation on a waltz he had written. He had many submissions that he published in a volume. Instead of one variation, Beethoven decided to compose 33 variations and they were published in a separate volume by Diabelli. The famed pianist Alfred Brendel calls it "the greatest of all piano works." Frederick Gulda plays the variations with great power and passion. The recording was in the same venue as the tapes that Horch House released by Oscar Peterson.

Thanks Larry. I went to the Horch House site and noticed that they have the two Brahms piano concertos played by Emil Gilels. Gilels was my idol, and these two recordings are pretty much definitive for these pieces. I am definitely going to buy these. I am also interested in the Bach B minor mass, but I don't have much experience with Eterna recordings. I have the Carmina Burana tape, and I find the chorus a bit compressed in places. The soloists sound fabulous. I wonder what the recording for the B minor mass is like.
Hi Adrian, the Bach Mass in b is highlights - so the equivalent of 1 record, not the 3 records for the entire piece. The Bach is actually mostly in D major, so it is more joyous than it appears to be in b minor. I think the recording is quite good. I don't think there are any other tape versions of the Bach mass. The Bach is up there with his St. Matthew Passion as among the best pieces of religious choral music ever written. I don't have the Eterna Carmina Burana, so I don't have a comparison for you there. I have a tape of the Gilels Jochum Brahms Piano Concerto 1 from a different source and Gilels playing the second concerto on RCA, not with Jochum. The two concerti with Jochum on DGG is quite famous for being among the top recordings. However, I don't have the Horch House copies of those tapes.


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