The Busch-Serkin Duo - Unpublished Recordings Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonata No.5 for violin and keyboard BWV 1018 [21:02] Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No.1 in G major Op.78 (1879) [26:43]
Trio in E flat major for piano, violin and horn Op.40 (1865) [29:31] Adolf Busch
Rudolf Serkin (piano)
Aubrey Brain (horn)
rec. Library of Congress, live, March 1939 (Bach); Broadcasting
House London, live October 1936 (Brahms Sonata); Studio No.3
Abbey Road, London, May and November 1933 (Brahms Horn Trio) APR 5528 [77:09]
and Serkin collectors – do not pass by without reading the
recording details thoroughly; especially the recording locations.
I’ll leave the Horn Trio until last but these are, in effect,
all previously unpublished recordings and as such necessary
additions for your collection. Fortunately an awful lot of
live Busch material – both solo and with his quartet – has
been emerging of late and this is a state of affairs that
can only help to consolidate his powerful reputation. I’m
not an uncritical admirer but an admirer nonetheless.
The Bach is new to the
discography. It was recorded live at the Library of Congress
in March 1939. Fortunately the long series of live recordings
made there has enriched the discography no end – think of
the Bridge Budapest Quartet recordings for example. Yes,
the transcription discs have rumble but that’s no impediment
to a collector who finds the viola-like richness of Busch’s
tone so hypnotic in sustaining the long line in the F minor
sonata. The slowness and intensity of the playing are truly
formidable; perhaps as impressive is the way in which Busch
brings to bear such a wealth of implied meaning to the many
sustained and repeated lines. With many performers one feels
a certain impatience: with Busch, never.
Brahms Op.78 joins the commercial recording made in 1931
which is on APR 5542, in the Busch-Serkin European Recordings
series. You’ll find that the copy that APR used in that 1931
performance was a vinyl pressing from the original masters
and not a shellac transfer – so it has an unusually high
number of clicks but a much greater sense of presence. The
1936 performance derives from a rather swishy set of twelve-inch
transcription acetates made off-air from a BBC broadcast.
The live performance doesn’t differ materially from the commercial
one – it’s slightly tighter in the first movement and very,
very slightly more expansive in the slow movement – but the
differences in strictly temporal terms are negligible. The
playing is vibrant, utterly convincing and survives the imperfections
of the broadcast.
Horn Trio performance needs a little more explanation. In
effect there were two recordings for HMV in 1933. In the
first, in May, Serkin played on a Bechstein and Aubrey Brain
on a Labbaye horn. When they returned in November Serkin
now played a Steinway and Brain his new Raoux horn – his
old one having been squashed under the wheels of his car.
It was the newer, November performance that was issued, a
long time classic of the gramophone. This APR one is derived
form the violinist’s own test pressings and is a composite – we
hear the May performance with one side from the slow movement
derived from the commercially published November recording;
thus we can hear two different horns and two different pianos.
For those with acute hearing this is generates a real frisson
- and Tully Potter’s notes explain the whole business with
I add that this is an indispensable issue for Busch and Serkin
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