Busch at His Best: Guild and Pristine Produce Collections That Celebrate the Artistry of Adolf Busch

By Cowan, Rob | Gramophone, July 2014 | Go to article overview

Busch at His Best: Guild and Pristine Produce Collections That Celebrate the Artistry of Adolf Busch


Cowan, Rob, Gramophone


When assessing the value of important reissues, the music and its performers are paramount. But in the case of three recent four-disc sets from Archiv's 'Archive' series that Jonathan Freeman-Attwood reviews in the Reissues section (see page 86) I feel it only fair to mention product manager David Butchart: these are surely among the best planned, most attractively produced 'historic' collections of recent years.

My own favourite among the three is the collection devoted to August Wenzinger and his Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, which is valuable above all for the innate musicality of the solo playing. As it happens, Wenzinger studied with Paul Griimmer, who at the time (1927) was cellist of the Busch Quartet. Happily, Guild has just reissued the series of acoustically recorded discs that the quartet made in 1922, not long after it was formed, which catches all four players at the height of their powers in sound that, although primitive, is rather better than you might expect.

One work is played complete: an 'Op 3 No 5', long thought to have been composed by Haydn but which is in fact by Roman Hofstetter and includes an Andante cantabile second movement that was for many years billed simply as 'Haydn's Serenade'. Here Busch glides atop his colleagues with the most seductive, warmly drawn tone, a master of phrase-shaping, as always.

And yet for me the set's principal draw is in the various solos that Busch recorded at around the same time with Bruno Seidler-Winkler at the piano, valuable in that we otherwise have nothing of Busch in such sweetmeats as Dvorak's Humoresque (arr Wilhelmj), Slavonic Dances Nos 3 and 8 and Romantic Piece No 1 (mistakenly billed as No 4), Porpora's Aria in E, Gossec's Gavotte from Rosine, various Brahms Hungarian Dances, a Tartini Adagio, Kreisler's Tartini Variations and so on. These and numerous other tracks show Busch to have been as capable of charm as he was of profound interpretation.

That latter side of his personality is amply illustrated by his electrically recorded Berlin Bach recordings, including the G major Sonata, BWV1021, with Rudolf Serkin and the whole of the D minor solo Partita with alternative takes for the Sarabanda and Gigue, the former illustrating precisely why Busch was prized as one of the greatest musicians of his generation. …

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