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Adolf Busch (violin)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Violin Concerto in D Op 61 (1806)
Ferrucio BUSONI (1866-1924)

Violin Concerto in D Op 35a (1896-97)
Adolf Busch (violin)
New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Fritz Busch, February 1942
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Bruno Walter, 1936


These performances have been in the catalogues before. The Busoni is on Music & Arts CD861 coupled with the Beethoven Romances and the Brahms Double Concerto (Iíve not heard the transfer). The Beethoven Concerto Iím less certain about (perhaps a reader can fill in the gaps). My copy is from a Brüder-Busch-Gesellschaft LP but itís doubtless made an appearance or two on CD. Coupling them on one CD does certainly make for an interesting conjunction though. One small point; the rather high-sounding Instituto Discografico Italiano claim the Beethoven is a "Live Recording" (as the Busoni most certainly is) but itís not. Itís an unissued commercial Columbia set recorded in New York. It was suppressed, I believe, by the violinist who took exception to the unacceptable balance between violin and orchestra. Maybe uniquely for a violinist, Busch objected that the violin was too forward in the balance, not a consideration that overly troubled, say, Jascha Heifetz.

There are tremendous qualities in the performance to which I respond with genuine admiration. That said it would be foolish to pretend that however moving it is there are not also a number of deficiencies. Buschís broken octaves sound effortful to my ears and tentative; his intonation is also not always secure. The sense of strain that he imparts to the line - and in this he is aided by his brother Fritz Ė is arguably an architectural-expressive component of his conception, but some of the passagework is less than ideally determined. His musical shaping in the first movement from 10.00 onwards is marvelously expressive however, even though I find his subsequent phrasing (from about 12.00) less convincing. It is in the Larghetto that he really illumines the performance; few can match him for rapt intensity and concentratedness, inner light. No one was less likely to skim over the surface of the music here than Busch. The finale is not the tidiest of performances though itís rugged and full of incidental interest (and a little bit of orchestral congestion). But Busch seems to gain here in elegance and eloquence as the movement develops and thereís assuredly much to admire.

There are some acetate thumps in the Busoni Concerto recorded in Amsterdam in 1936 with Bruno Walter on the rostrum. The sense of dim sounding acetates proves only partially correct, though, as the sound soon sharpens and ones ear adjusts (though worrying side joins remain). It is essentially an acceptable sound picture and manages to catches something of Buschís much-argued-over tone. The gorgeously rhapsodic opening (Brahmsian with superior solo trilling allusions to Beethoven) is splendidly delineated by Busch and Walter. The Quasi andante section (this one movement twenty-two minute work is divided into standard fast-slowish-fast sections) is expressive and rich and the fluttering Allegro impetuoso shows us Buschís good bowing and shifts, his wit and direction (if a little unsteady in passagework) but above all a rightness of conception that does much for this still seldom performed work.

Notes and production are serviceable and admirers of the violinist will require both works Ė if they donít already have them elsewhere.

Jonathan Woolf

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