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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op.61 (cadenzas by Adolf Busch) [40:18]1
Romance in G major for Violin and Orchestra, Op.40 [6:18]2
Romance in F major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 50 [7:44]2
Adolf Busch (violin)
Statsradiofoniens Symfoniorkester/Launy Grøndahl1
WOR Radio Orchestra/Alfred Wallenstein2
rec. radio broadcasts: Radiohusets Koncertsal, Copenhagen, 17 March 19491; WOR Studios, Newark, 21 February 19422
GUILD GHCD 2395 [54:39]

Many violin aficionados will be more than pleased with this release of an unpublished performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto by the great German violinist Adolf Busch. The performance is a radio broadcast from the Radiohusets Koncertsal, Copenhagen 17 March 1949. The orchestra is that of the Danish State Radio under their regular conductor Launy Grøndahl. This now makes available on CD three performances from one of its finest interpreters. The other two consist of the studio recording from the Liederkranz Hall, New York, with the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra, conducted by his brother Fritz Busch (9th February 1942) , and a concert performance given the night before at Carnegie Hall which, according to the discography in Tully Potter’s two-volume biography (Adolf Busch. The life of an honest musician: Toccata Press, 2010), is available on a Music and Arts CD (CD 1183). The studio recording I am familiar with; the latter Carnegie Hall performance I have unfortunately never heard.
According to Potter, the Beethoven concerto is a work Busch played more often than any other, and there are up to 400 concert performances documented. How wonderful it would be to hear his collaborations with such stellar conductors as Toscanini, Furtwängler, Mengelberg, Monteux, Barbirolli and Klemperer. We can only hope that some of these may surface in the future.
Adolf Busch was born in Siegen, Westphalia in 1891 and had two brothers who were also distinguished musicians: Fritz the famous conductor, and Herman the cellist. He studied the violin with Willy Hess and Bram Elderling at the Cologne Conservatory. He also studied composition under Fritz Steinbach. In 1912 he played the Beethoven Concerto under Max Reger who told Busch’s fiancé Frieda Gruters that Busch was taking the place of Joachim and that he had never heard the concerto played in such a way before. This was great praise indeed. After the First World War, he founded the Busch Quartet, which continued until 1951, a year before his death at the relatively young age of sixty-one. In the late 1920s Busch became disillusioned and unhappy at the political situation that was emerging in Germany, and moved with his family and Rudolf Serkin, whom he regarded as a son, to Basel, Switzerland in 1927. A man of great integrity and moral conviction he was appalled by the Nazi’s treatment of the Jews when they came to power in 1933. From then on, until after the war, he boycotted performing in Germany, and in 1938 Italy also. As a result of his high principles, his income was thus halved. At the outbreak of the Second World War he emigrated to the United States and settled in Vermont. In the States, together with Serkin, who married Busch’s daughter, he founded the Marlboro School and Festival. Counted amongst his students were Stefi Geyer, Erica Morini and Yehudi Menuhin.
At the time of this performance, Danish Radio had only one disc-cutting turntable, and music was lost at each change of disc, resulting in five gaps in the performance. At the suggestion of Tully Potter, who has written the excellent accompanying notes, the producer of the CD, Anthony Hodgson, has inserted the missing passages, using the studio recording of 1942.
This is a truly eloquent performance in extremely good sound for its age. There is an excellent balance between the violinist and players, and you get the feeling that the soloist, conductor and orchestra are at one, in genuine sympathy with each other. Like his pupil Menuhin, Busch can make the violin speak and express a phrase; the violin sound has a life to it. His tone is warm, glowing and radiant, and you feel you are transported to a another world, especially in the first movement’s G minor episode (11:41). The first movement cadenza is Busch’s own and is also used in the 1942 studio version. It is completely idiomatic. This is truly aristocratic and noble playing.

The second movement Larghetto shows Busch at his most intimate and fervent. There is an almost improvisatory element to his playing yet, all the time, he plays within himself, letting the music speak, without any hint of ostentation. The Rondo finale has a rhythmical vitality to it and Busch, considering he was, at this time, in his 50s and not in his absolute prime, is on good technical form.
Comparing the sound of this recording with that of the 1942 studio performance, I did not find a great deal of difference. I noted also that his interpretation of the concerto had not altered significantly over the seven intervening years.
The two short Romances are a welcome addition to the CD, having been issued previously on the Music and Arts CD mentioned above. They date from 1942 and were recorded for the WOR radio station in New York. They are conducted by the station’s own music director Alfred Wallenstein, a former cellist. Apparently, Busch was very fond of th Romances and would often include them in his concerts.
This is a wonderful addition to the Busch discography.

Stephen Greenbank