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The Busch-Serkin Duo - Unpublished Recordings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 (violin)
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]

Busch 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 I’ll leave the Horn Trio until last but these are, in effect, all previously unpublished recordings and as such necessary additions for your collection.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.
The 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.
The 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 considerable clarity.
Need I add that this is an indispensable issue for Busch and Serkin collectors?
Jonathan Woolf





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