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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No.2 in D major Op.73 (1877) [37:34]
Broadcast commentary [1:30]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1823)
Symphony No.3 in E flat major Op.55 Eroica - scherzo (1803) [3:34]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
The Marriage of Figaro K492 - overture [3:36]
German Dances K600 Nos.1, 2, 4 and 5 [7:36]
German Dance K602 No.3 [1:40]
German Dances K605 Nos 2 and 3 [3:23]
German Dances K571 - Nos 1, 5 and 6 [4:36]
Contredances K609 - Nos 1, 2 and 4 [3:42]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Variations and Fugue on a theme of Mozart, Op.132 - Theme and variations 1, 6 and 7 (1914) [9:54]
Orchestra of the State Theatre, Stuttgart
Staatskapelle Dresden (Brahms)
Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra (K571, K609)/Fritz Busch
rec. 1919 except, Brahms, recorded live in Berlin February 1931; Mozart K571, recorded Copenhagen October 1948 and K609, recorded Copenhagen January 1951
GUILD GHCD2371 [77:01]

Experience Classicsonline

Guild has been reissuing live and studio recordings made by Fritz Busch at a welcome rate. With this one they reach right back to the conductor’s first forays into the recording studios. I wasn’t at all au fait with the c.1919 series of discs made with the Orchestra of the State Theatre, Stuttgart - or what was then the Orchester des Württembergischen Landes-Theaters.
They are the usual kind of thing; extracts from major symphonic repertoire - in this case the scherzo from Beethoven’s Eroica - and a series of Mozart’s German Dances, followed by a filleted version of Reger’s Mozart variations. Regrettably, Guild doesn’t provide either matrix or issue numbers - a bit of a blot, though they are unfortunately hardly alone in this respect these days.
The recording is invariably boxy and there are the expected battalions of lower brass reinforcements to cover for the string basses, which didn’t record well and were too far from the acoustic horn - I should have mentioned that these are all acoustic discs. Still, it’s good to hear this body of musicians, one that doesn’t sound too weedy in number, and enjoys corporate sonority; there’s amplitude in the violins, for instance, confidence in phrasing too, even though this was probably their first experience of recording at all. Conductor and players certainly dig into a Busch speciality, the overture to The Marriage of Figaro, though there’s a disparity between the dynamism of the upper string voices and the brass reinforcements retarding the rhythm. This brass-heavy quality afflicts the Mozart Dances the most. The ‘bonus’ features include two sets of Dances recorded in 1948 and 1951 in Copenhagen, and provide a sense of continuity as well as being interesting to hear.
In the Reger we hear the Theme itself, phrased very tenderly, and then variations 1, 6 and 7, enough to be aware of Busch’s obvious sympathy for the idiom and his sensitively moulded concern for phrasing and especially dynamics - the clarinets and harp are happily audible, doubtless due to placement near the horn, but also because of Busch’s ear for balance. In the summer of 1919 Busch had become chairman of the Max Reger Society, a position he held until 1930. Both he and his brother Adolf were fervent promoters of the composer’s music.
The most important music here, however, is one of the very first preserved German orchestral radio recordings. It was made in Berlin on 25 February 1931. Busch directs the Dresden State Orchestra in Brahms’s Second Symphony. Two different recordings seem to have been in existence of this performance. This one has come down on tape, presumably dubbed from a disc original. Hänssler Profil has already released its version, which is without applause and broadcast commentary - both of which Guild includes. There is quite a lot of swish in this rare survivor and constricted sound, and hum, with one or two dropouts too. That said, whilst it would be trying for a general listen, for those interested in Busch it’s clearly a must to hear his volatile phrasing, and his powerful conception going at full tilt in this concert.
It completes a necessarily specialised programme of broadcasts and acoustic recordings, with those Copenhagen recordings added to bring the total timing almost to the maximum. Good notes complete the package.
Jonathan Woolf





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