Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Adolf Busch plays Brahms
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Violin Concerto in D major Op. 77 (1878)
Clarinet Quintet in B minor Op. 115 (1891)
Adolf Busch (violin)
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York conducted by William Steinberg (18 July 1943)
Busch Quartet with Reginald Kell (clarinet), New York, 19 December 1948
MUSIC AND ARTS CD 1107 [66.04]


In his notes Tully Potter speculates that there may have been external reasons for the relative speed of this previously unissued performance of Buschís Brahms Concerto but itís really barely faster than, say, Erica Moriniís similarly live traversal in New York with the same orchestra and George Szell nearly ten years later. We are indeed fortunate to have this performance and to be able to contrast it with the sprightly live recording of the finale that has circulated amongst collectors for years and the valedictory 1951 performance of the complete work with Hans Münch in Basel. That was Buschís last ever performance. He died the following year and it was two minutes slower and eight years later than this vibrant 1943 performance. In the circumstances the discrepancy in timings seems quite explicable.

The first movement is fast though surely not unconscionably so though Busch rushes a couple of bars early on either out of perceived haste or technical limitation. But he plays with enviable colouristic sagacity, using contrasts and shadings, utilising the right hand to good effect. There is a constant sense of dynamic anticipation in the performance, aided by Steinbergís volatile directionality. There are imperfections itís true but these are passing heat-of-the-moment things and add to the sense of communing realism (Iím thinking of the patch of very rough bowing from about 10.00 onwards in particular). Though in quick passagework he comes under pressure in the main he is an enviably acute exponent of a work with which he was much associated Ė and he plays his own cadenza. He exhibits some very quick and expressive portamenti in the second movement at a generally fast tempo but one which is well and quite movingly sustained with a deal of eloquence. His finale isnít quite as lavishly exultant as the long semi-available live performance - this one is slightly too over-emphatic at times but the strongly personalized New York woodwinds more than make their presence felt.

The Clarinet Concerto derives from a New York concert given for the New Friends of Music in 1948. By now all five players, the Busch Quartet members and Reginald Kell were living in America (Kell had only recently arrived and this was his local debut). Their recording of the Brahms Quintet of 1937 was a glorious one of course and this live performance is a delightful adjunct to it, though one reflecting a generally unchanged sensibility. The first movement is very slightly quicker in the live performance but itís the Adagio in which one detects a distinct directional pull in the live performance Ė it takes nearly two minutes off the commercial disc of nearly a decade earlier. The other two movements are broadly the same, though predictably very slightly tighter in live concert (a matter of seconds). The unison subject material in the first movement is splendidly done, as is the counterpoint if sometimes there is a slight muddle in the inner voicings of the quartet. I admired the expressive string passages in the Adagio, the impressive string colouration (the Quartet incidentally now composed Busch-Straumann-Gottesmann-Busch) and Kellís handling of the piu lento section, full of passion with its analogues in Hungarian dance music. The lead back to the opening phrases is raptly done. Lyrical intensity is properly maintained in the Andantino and the variations in the finale unfold with seamless affection Ė with Adolf Buschís vibrato intensifying in his exchanges with Kell.

The transfers sound excellent. As to whether this thrusting and propulsive Concerto performance or the more withdrawn and introspective 1951 was more consonant with Buschís idealised conception of the work I canít say. Iím glad to have heard both.

Jonathan Woolf

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