Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Op. 28 [14:01]
Don Juan, Op. 20 [15:42]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 36 in C Linz KV 425 [24:37]
Overture, Don Giovanni KV 527 [6:06]
Overture, Le nozze di Figaro KV 492 [3:51]
Overture, Cosi fan tutte KV 588 [4:06]
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Busch (Till Eulenspiegel and Mozart Symphony)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Fritz Busch (Don Juan)
Glyndebourne Festival Orchestra/Fritz Busch (Overtures)
rec. London, Abbey Road Studios, 5-6 March 1934 (Till); 6-8 July 1936 (Don Juan); 5 March 1934 (Linz) and Glyndebourne Festival Opera House, 29-30 June 1936 (Don Giovanni); 28 June 1935 (Figaro and Cosi).
GUILD GHCD 2356 [68:49]
Although he had a long association with the Glyndebourne Festival, Fritz Busch made relatively few recordings in England, and those in a very short span of just under three years. Among these efforts though are the first ever complete recordings of Cosi fan tutte and Le nozze di Figaro, recordings that are regarded as benchmarks to this day.
This outstanding compilation from Guild, prepared with their customary meticulous care for sound quality and presentation gives us some Mozart samples along with two works from Strauss. Despite Busch’s tenure at Dresden, where many of Strauss’s works received their first performances, recordings of his music by Busch are rare. That these recordings were made with a mere five hours of rehearsal time and over the span of only two or three sessions gives us an indication as to just what a refined and precise conductor he was, and how efficiently he was able to prepare his forces.
There is little to disappoint here in the Strauss works, and even the age of the recordings is quickly forgotten given the outstanding remasterings by Peter Reynolds and Dr. Jürgen Schaarwächter. The performances are taut and spirited although there is a bit of blurriness from the strings in the more complex passages of Till Eulenspiegel. Don Juan comes off with all the youthful assurance that the young Strauss put into the score.
Less fulfilling is the Mozart symphony which suffers from barbiturated tempi and a certain lack of elegance of phrasing. Too many downbeats are thumped and there is little grace in the dance movements. Far too equal weight is given to each beat and we lose the sense of line that is so essential in making Mozart’s music sing. The final movement comes off with much more panache. It seems that Herr Busch ate his Wheaties during a session break and got the lead out.
The three overtures are given spirited performances with sprightly tempi and a lot of forward motion. The performances are worthy of comparison with some of the more recent period instrument efforts for their drive and energy.
Guild as always pays careful attention to production values and this release is no exception. Sound quality is superb and the engineers manage to bring out tremendous warmth from these old masters. Occasionally the tone gets a bit boxy, but these moments are rare and fleeting. Documentation is interesting with a number of photographs from the conductor’s diary and a reproduction of a letter between Busch and his wife Grete.
Historic recording fans will find much to savour in this amply stocked disc.
Kevin Sutton
With the exception of some turgid tempi in the Linz there’s little here not to enjoy. … see Full Review