> Fritz Busch: Great conductors [CF]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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FRITZ BUSCH - A much loved master
Great Conductors of the Twentieth Century
BEETHOVEN Overture: Leonore No. 2 Op.72
MOZART Symphony No. 36 in C ‘Linz’ K.425
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 4 in A ‘Italian’ Op.90
BRAHMS Tragic Overture Op. 81
WEBER Overture: Der Freischütz
HAYDN Sinfonia Concertante in Bb Hob.1.105
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D Op. 73
STRAUSS Don Juan Op. 20 *
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra/London Philharmonic Orchestra *
Conductor: Fritz Busch
Recorded in London 1936 and Copenhagen 1947-1951
EMI 7243 5 75103 2 5 - 2 CDs [157’15"]
lower midprice

As part of their series entitled Great Conductors of the Twentieth Century (each disc of which purports to ‘contain rare material previously unreleased on CD’) it comes as no surprise to find that Fritz Busch is included. He is probably best remembered in Britain as Glyndebourne’s first Music Director between the years 1934 and his untimely death at 61 in 1951. Busch, brother of violinist Adolf and cellist Hermann, had a meteoric rise in opera houses in the first two decades of twentieth century Germany and was a driving force in that country’s Verdi revival (whose Macbeth he introduced to Britain before the Second World War). Summarily dismissed by the Nazis from Dresden in 1933, he worked in Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Britain and Sweden. He spent the war years in North and South America, and then four years conducting at New York’s Met, returning to Glyndebourne in 1950 and taking its productions to Edinburgh’s new Festival in 1950. Unsurprisingly he was a fine Mozart conductor (bringing both Idomeneo and Cosi fan tutte out of virtual obscurity), but he also had an affinity with the operas of Richard Strauss, who dedicated Arabella to him after his conducting the premieres of Die ägyptische Helena and Intermezzo to the composer’s complete satisfaction. Busch was a keen promoter of new works by such composers as Busoni, Weill, Hindemith, Schoeck, Reger, Schoenberg, Bartok, Stravinsky, Berg and Honegger much to the displeasure of the Nazi régime.

This highly satisfying compilation is entirely representative of the art of Fritz Busch. The two overtures capture the drama of the opera house where he worked so predominantly. The Brahms works remind us that he was only a step away from the composer himself for his teacher was Fritz Steinbach, a conductor much favoured by Brahms. Mendelssohn and Mozart sparkle in his hands while the Haydn (another work he helped to resurrect) radiates the joys and intimacy of chamber music (a pity his two brothers, who played the concert, could not make the recording which followed in January 1951). It all ends with a blazing account of Don Juan, the one track from pre-war days and featuring the LPO from that distant era.

This reviewer felt Fritz Busch’s influence on two counts, studying in Cologne with one of his pre-war assistants, and then in Glyndebourne where even in my first year of twelve on its music staff (1971/2 and 1977-86) his presence was still felt, and where he was often spoken of particularly by John Pritchard, who began his career as Busch’s right hand man. He was renowned for his humour, humility and utter sincerity, qualities easily discernible in the results on this invaluable record of a conductor much loved by his players. If a conductor can achieve that, then the rest is comparatively straightforward.

Christopher Fifield


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