> Fritz Busch: Berlioz, Reger, Schumann [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Fritz Busch
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)

Overture; Benvenuto Cellini
Max REGER (1873-1916)

Variations on a theme of J A Hiller
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Symphony No 4
NWDR Symphony Orchestra
Fritz Busch
Recorded 25 and 26 February 1951 in the Musikhalle Hamburg
TAHRA 447 [70’07]


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As the War in Europe ended Fritz Busch was conducting at the Metropolitan Opera with whom he was to tour for four years. He also conducted in Chicago, later returning to a favoured haunt, Copenhagen, where he always enjoyed great success. In 1950 he returned to Glyndebourne, scene of some of his pre-War operatic triumphs. Meanwhile his gradual return to Austro-Germanic music making came about after earlier implacable refusals (personally declining Adenauer’s entreaty) – but he did consent to appear at the Vienna Staatsoper and in 1951 he revisited West Germany, conducting the orchestras in Cologne and Hamburg. These radio recordings date from six months before Busch’s untimely death – he died in London on 14th September 1951, shortly after having conducted Don Giovanni in Edinburgh. Repertoire is well chosen to exploit Busch’s enthusiasms – the Berlioz as an example of his operatic panache, the Reger because of his association with the composer (violinist Adolf Busch was equally adept at Reger and recorded him with remarkable results) and the central Romantic German literature is represented by Schumann’s Fourth Symphony.

He brings a jubilant energy to the opening of Benvenuto Cellini, lines shaped with operatic finesse, though one not entirely matched by the orchestra; trumpets are shrill and strident, balance awry. In the first of Reger’s Variations he brings a romantic impulse but one that is at all times freely moving graced with sensitively responsive string playing and woodwind. There are some splendidly blistering trombones in the Fourth Variation and a sense of real, unforced and organic rhythmic momentum under Busch’s lead. He lavishes weight of string tone on the central variations whilst vesting the Eleventh with a remarkable sense of amplitude and depth. It has the span of an arc and the corresponding significance of a tightly compressed tone poem, as it swells and coalesces, shaped with superb rubato, string lines and woodwind aurally blended. In Schumann’s self-called Symphonic Fantasy, the Fourth Symphony, Busch expertly makes good use of, but never fusses over, the tightly argued thematic material as it resurfaces at varying points in the first movement’s development. There is a distinct sense of foreboding in Busch’s first movement with dramatic motion and stygian trombones, the horns’ snapping the thematic material onwards, all the while a sense of construction and evolution being maintained through a sustained structural control. The Romanze is fluent, mobile, avoiding of undue sentiment whilst the Scherzo has a swaggering drive and sense of delicacy in close proximation. The Finale is certainly vigorous but there is some superbly observed detail – listen to the shapely rubato from 2’10 onwards, little agogic displacements and dynamic variations and it’s in this sense that the movement takes form and shape and cumulative structural meaning. Part of Tahra’s recent series of single CD releases devoted to favoured conductors to celebrate the company’s tenth anniversary there are bilingual notes. An admirable release.

Jonathan Woolf


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