> Handel-Bach-Gabrieli-Scutz (Busch) [JW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Concerto Grossi Op 6
J S BACH (1685-1750)
Orchestral suite No 1
Giovanni GABRIELI (1557-1612)
Canzon’ a dieci
Heinrich SCUTZ (1585-1672)
Die teutsche gemeine Litaney SWV 428
Christine Johnson, soprano
Lukas Foss, continuo
The Busch Chamber Players
Adolf Busch
Recorded Handel 1946. Remaining items from a live concert at Town Hall, New York March 1943
PEARL GEMM CDS 9296 [3 CDs: 217.31] Budget


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Much less well known than their Bach the Busch Chamber Players’ Handel dates from 1946 and was recorded in New York. As the producers make clear this set of the Op 6 Concerto Grossi is exceptionally rare and in fact copies used in this transfer were borrowed from Adolf Busch’s widow as were the acetates from the 1943 Town Hall concert, the by no means trifling appendix to this three CD collection. The live performance of the Bach Violin Concerto from the same concert is on Pearl Gemm CD 9298.

Busch wasn’t the first to record the complete set of Op 6 – Boyd Neel’s had been issued in piecemeal fashion between 1936 and 1938, and in fact earlier than their Neel set, Decca had issued half of Op 6 with their own orchestra, led by no less than William Primrose, under Ernest Ansermet. Busch employed an expensive harpsichord player in Mieczyslaw Horszowski, who is for the most part almost entirely inaudible. Neel had used the excellent Arnold Goldsborough and his subtle and apposite playing gives a fillip to the Neel discs. Busch tends to expressive extremes in Handel – though Neel also takes and extends tempi to breaking point - and there are times, it has to be said, when in both sets tempos congeal. Busch’s phrasing is generally crisp, string tone is firmly focused - though never unpliant – and portamenti are restrained and, where employed, well judged. As a pendant we can hear a live performance of the First Orchestral suite of Bach, somewhat weightier and slower than their famous 1936 commercially recorded set. Christine Johnson makes a good showing in the Schütz – piano continuo by the young Lukas Foss. Presentation is excellent and given the rarity of the originals the sound is of remarkable fidelity.

Jonathan Woolf

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