This is by no means the first incarnation of the 1951 Glyndebourne
performance on CD. Its previous appearance was on Guild GHCD
review) in which Richard Caniell and his team presented
the performance in the best sound then available. Now, in
with the Bruder Busch Archive, another and better sounding
recording of the work has appeared. Interpolations have also
As before, the opera was recorded on acetates but these were
much quieter and, as Caniell notes, clearer. Unfortunately
overture was not preserved in good sound and one from 1940
with Busch - I assume the Stockholm performance - has been
Other interpolations use the 1950 commercial recording with
Jurinac and Lewis and there’s a brief interpolation
from the 1935 Glyndebourne recording of Un aura amorosa (as
sung then so beautifully by Heddle Nash). The total timing
such interpolations we are told is three minutes in all.
One effect of the substitution of the overture is that we lose
the excited applause that follows immediately it ends; it sounds
vital and theatrical in its previous incarnation. Here we move
straight on. Privately, to me, this is no great loss, but though
he doesn’t mention it in his notes I’m curious how
Caniell feels about its excision. I must note that the 1940
recording is quite rough in places - rougher than the new transfer
that follows. I will also note the changed tracking. CD 1 track
12 now has a separate tracking for the chorus Bella vita
What follows is largely a reprise of my previous review.
Fritz Busch’s Glyndebourne Così was recorded
in 1935 but this live broadcast dates from the period of the
conductor’s post-War return. It’s interesting to
note that Spike Hughes’ history of Glyndebourne mentions
this 1951 Così almost by default; none of the
other three Mozart operas ever took wing in the same way as
[the same season’s] Idomeneo Only Così,
dominated by the triumphant Fiordiligi of Sena Jurinac, had
anything of the quality which had made this Glyndebourne’s
particular show-piece. This may or may not be true - it’s
probably more true than not in terms of all-round ensemble -
but it’s certainly true that Busch retained, up to the
very end of his life, a very special command of Mozartian tempo
relations. Hughes always credited him, Bruno Walter and Richard
Strauss as the greatest Mozart opera conductors he had heard.
Would that Strauss had left behind his own Così or
Now there is the cast to consider. First there is indeed Jurinac.
Right from the off in the Scene II duet Ah guarda, sorella
she is right on the note; finely nuanced, characterful,
beautiful of tone. Rightly her Act II Scene II aria Per pietà,
ben mio stops the show - frantic applause here. Here and
elsewhere she marries intimacy with declamation and rides over
the aural limitations with ease, showing fascinating understanding
of her role. Lewis hasn’t a predecessor such as Nash’s
minstrelsy of tone but he has liquid ease and fine tone production.
His mezza voce (hear Un aura amorosa but note that this
is a splice from both surviving editions so sound varies) is
excellent. At first he seems over parted by the Guglielmo of
Marko Rothmüller but this is doubtless a question of stage
management and balance is regained later in the Act. Sesto Bruscantini’s
Don Alfonso is a strong though not really characterful presence
in specifically vocal terms; it’s not an intrinsically
beautiful voice but it’s well focused and doesn’t
spread. His impersonation on the other hand is special, character
acting that comes across the years and across, indeed, the degraded
grooves. The American mezzo, Alice Howland, is also not in the
first league and her aria Smanie implacabli che m’agrite
doesn’t ignite as it should. The Despina of Isa Quensel,
on the other hand, fits securely and appositely in terms of
vocal colour and quick-wittedness, into the ensemble. Busch
employs a piano continuo as was customary with him. He zips
along the recits and he and Carl Ebert convey the horseplay
on stage as well as the darker occluded elements. Above all
else Busch is the wizardly presence on the rostrum.
Is this an essential purchase and is it an essential purchase
even for admirers of Busch? Given that the 1935 commercial set
is widely available I would answer ‘no’ generally
and ‘yes’ for Busch admirers. The much improved
sound is a distinct plus though it’s still not the equal
of contemporaneous German off-air recordings; this will probably
rule it out of court for the generalist and for all the IP team’s
proselytising the fact of the matter is that the rest of the
cast isn’t quite up to Jurinac’s consistently inspired
level. Given the sonic improvements the caveat level is strongly
reduced, but this is still obviously a specialist acquisition.
Dear Mr. Woolf,
Thanks for your varied and interesting reviews.
I quite agree with your regrets that the disc numbers were omitted
from the Vinogradov album. We had them on our listings but an
earlier version was erroneously sent for replication. We are
enclosing them with each album we send out and have asked The
Record Collector, which recently reviewed this album, to present
it in their next edition. I attach the numbers here.
About the loss of applause after the Cosí
overture. Our first edition (for Guild) had the overture missing
sections, including the conclusion. I used the Glyndebourne
1935 performance and imagined there would have been applause
so I added it. When we entered an association with Busch Bruder
and I heard the original overture (which was similarly very
poor, but complete) there was no applause (surprise!); the performance
went into the opening scene without a murmur from the audience.
That being so, I duplicated what this new illumination dictated.
Voila tout, as they say.