String Quartet in G, op.161, D.887 [39:49]
String Quartet in B flat, op.168, D.112 [25:03]
String Quartet in D minor, "Death and the Maiden", D.810 [33:06]
Fantasy in C, for violin and piano, op.159, D.934 [21.09]
Piano Trio in E flat major, op. 100, D. 929 [38:44]
Busch Quartet (Adolf Busch (violin I: all); Gösta Andreasson
(violin II); Karl Doktor (viola); Hermann Busch (cello)); Rudolf
rec. Abbey Road Studios, London, 16 October 1936 (D.810); 22-30
November 1938 (D.887, D.112); 23 October 1935 (Trio); Small Queen's
Hall, London, 6 May 1931 (Fantasia). ADD
REGIS RRC 3012 [3 CDs: 65:19 + 54:34 + 38:44]
This is yet another re-issue of some of Schubert's finest chamber
music performed by the famous Busch Quartet and Rudolf Serkin.
These are rather ancient, yet well-preserved and surprisingly
serviceable recordings of historical significance, re-mastered
from original shellac 78s.
The music will likely be familiar to music-lovers everywhere.
There must be hundreds of recordings of some of these works,
and they are as frequently performed today as they ever were.
The liner-notes doubt there can be many recordings to rival
the musicianship of the Busch Quartet and Rudolf Serkin, and
there may be some truth in that. Certainly, critics are pretty
unanimous in their appraisal: for example, when the D minor
and G major Quartets appeared in EMI's 'Great Recordings of
the Century' series (review),
one reviewer claimed that these Busch accounts "will never be
equalled, for range of expression and depth of insight."
Nevertheless, competition is immense. Taking just the famous
D minor 'Death and the Maiden' Quartet, the Quartetto Italiano
(Philips Duo 4461632), Takács Quartet (review),
Lindsay Quartet (review),
Borodin Quartet (review)
and the Alban Berg Quartet (EMI 7473332) are all in the front
rank by most accounts. Others of substantial merit include the
Kodály (Naxos 8.550590), Mandelring (review),
Melos (Harmonia Mundi HMA 1951408), Belcea (review)
and Jerusalem (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901990). Many of these recordings
may be found on other labels too, and different listeners will
have other front-runners.
Whether or not any of these can be considered alternatives
will very likely come down to personal preference. Those who
cannot enjoy great musicianship in sub-normal sound can forget
these Busch recordings, just as those who want an outstanding
reading of some of Schubert's key works without needing to understand
the history of recordings can select at will from the above
list and ignore Busch. On the other hand, for those who are
able and willing to focus solely on the impassioned but unsentimental
performances of musicians at the peak of their prowess, and
a composer at the summit of his, these readings will be documents
of significant historical and sentimental value.
The recording in poorest shape is the oldest, the 1931 Fantasy
in C, which has a fair amount of inherited surface noise, an
inherent tinniness and a somewhat recessed piano. The Trio sound
too is rather threadbare in places. On the whole, however, all
the recordings are perfectly listenable, processed but not over-processed,
with the B flat Quartet actually emerging almost reasonable.
In all cases the most jarring factor by far on modern ears is
likely to be the monophonic sound. The light intrusion of motor
vehicle noise at certain points is a bit of a surprise!
As usual, Regis have not exactly gone to town on the 'booklet'
or notes: just the front-cover picture, back-cover track-listing,
and two sides of unattributed information between the two. The
notes are well written, with about a third on the Busch chamber
ensembles and the rest on Schubert's music. Regis's somewhat
laissez-faire approach is typified by a couple of uncorrected
Though this set is slightly less of a bargain that it first
appears - by putting the Piano Trio with the G major Quartet,
and the B flat Quartet with the D minor and Fantasia, these
three CDs could just have been squeezed onto two. It can nonetheless
be had at almost give-away prices on the internet; for less
than the price of a single Naxos CD on some sites. For those
not already in possession, cheapness is likely the main reason
to go for this reissue.
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