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Adolf Busch - The Berlin Recordings 1921-29 
Adolf Busch (violin)
Bruno Seidler-Winkler (piano), Rudolf Serkin (piano) in the Bach sonata; Busch String Quartet (Adolf Busch (violin), Gösta Andreasson (violin), Paul Doktor (viola), Paul Grümmer (cello)) 
rec. 1921-29, Berlin
Track-listing at end of review 
GUILD HISTORICAL GHCD2406-07 [56:16 : 65:53] 

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 from 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.
 
The Swiss label Guild is to be commended for bringing together for the first time, on this two-CD set, the complete recordings Adolf Busch made in Berlin between 1921 and 1929. The first recordings were made for the independent label Deutsche Grammophon Aktiengesellschaft, after it separated from HMV following the First World War. He would probably have begun his recording career earlier if it hadn’t been for world events which coincided with the launch of his professional career. He was twenty-nine at the time and initially contracted to record six items, but their success and popularity lead to a further twelve and eight more with his string quartet. For the piano-accompanied items, the pianist employed was Bruno Seidler-Winkler (1880-1960), none other than the company’s musical director. All the sessions took place in Berlin, where Busch lived at the time.
 
The earliest discs were acoustically recorded and sonically are constrained by the restrictions that this primitive recording method imposed. Considerable allowances have to be made by the listener. They are also limiting in their failure to convey the full splendour of the violinist’s tone and personality. For these acoustic recordings Busch uses his 1716 Strad, which has a less full-bodied and opulent tone than his 1732 ‘ex-Wiener’ Strad employed in the later electrical recordings. When we come to the electrical recordings from 1928-9 on CD 2, one is immediately struck by the dramatic improvement in sound quality.
 
There are many good things here. Three Hungarian Dances by Brahms are included. They are exciting performances, delivered with fire and panache. Rubato is subtly applied. The Dvořák Slavonic Dances are similarly vibrant, rhythmical buoyant and exciting. Intonation is always pristine, especially in double-stop passages. A test pressing of Op. 46 No. 8 is included. The Corelli Adagio, in Busch’s own arrangement, is expressive, but it was marred by some pretty ungainly finger slides. Several Kreisler pieces are included, with an exceptionally compelling account of the ‘Tartini’ Variations on a Theme of Corelli and some pretty impressive bowing. The Quartet items I was less impressed with. Apart from the Hofstetter, they are one movement extracts only, as was the norm at the time. They are less successful than the solo items. The acoustic process renders the sound somewhat congested.
 
The Bach items on CD 2, recorded electrically, were made by Electrola, which was established in 1926 as HMV’s German arm, replacing DG. By the time these recordings were made in 1928-9, the process had come on by leaps and bounds. The difference in sound quality is striking and much easier on the ear. We are fortunate to have a complete Partita in D minor, BWV 1004 from 1929. Despite Henri Marteau’s complete E major Partita set down acoustically in 1912, Busch’s was the first complete Bach work recorded by the electrical process. His achievement came exactly one day before his illustrious pupil Yehudi Menuhin recorded the C major Sonata in London. Busch’s is an authoritative performance, marked by nobility and spirituality. He has a fundamental intellectual grasp of the whole work, especially the mighty Chaconne which ends the work. Good intonation, flexible tempo relations and an underlying rhythmical pulse, mark this performance with distinction. The wonderful Sonata in G major, arranged by Busch and Blume, is accompanied by Rudolf Serkin.
 
Violin buffs will be overjoyed with this release, and the opportunity to hear some captivating playing by a true master. The booklet notes, which are in English only, are written by Tully Potter, Busch’s biographer, and provide a detailed and comprehensive account of the circumstances surrounding these recording treasures.
 
Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

Track Listing 
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) (arr. Joachim)
Hungarian Dance No. 2 in D minor [2:50]
Hungarian Dance No. 20 in D minor [2:02]
Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) (arr. Busch)
Sonata in G minor, Op. 5, No. 5: Adagio [3:09]
Antonín Dvorák (1841-1904) (arr. Press)
Slavonic Dance in A flat major, Op. 46, No. 3, b78 [4:06]
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Partita in E major, bwv1006, for solo violin: Preludio [3:16]
Partita in E major, bwv1006, for solo violin: Gavotte en Rondeau [2:44]
Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770) (arr. Corti)
Sonata in G major, Op. 2, No. 12: Adagio [3:05]
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) (arr. Press)
Romantic Piece, Op. 75, No. 1, b150: Larghetto [3:01]
François Joseph Gossec (1734-1829) (arr. Burmester)
Gavotte from 'Rosine' [1:58]
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
Dittersdorf' Scherzo [2:35]
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) (arr. Hüllweck)
Kinderszenen, Op. 15: Träumerei [3:22]
Nicola Porpora (1686-1768) (arr. Corti)
Aria in E major [3:00]
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) (arr. Press)
Slavonic Dance in G minor, Op. 46, No. 8, b78 [3:24]
Slavonic Dance in G minor, Op. 46, No. 8, b78 [3:25]
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
'Tartini' Variations on a Theme of Corelli [2:59]
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) (arr. Wilhelmj)
Humoresque in G flat major, Op. 101, No. 7, b187 [3:08]
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
'Pugnani' Praeludium and Allegro [4:59]
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) (arr. Joachim)
Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G minor [2:16]
Roman Hofstetter (1742-1815)
'Haydn' String Quartet in F major, Op. 3, No. 5 - I. Presto [2:53]: II. Andante cantabile [4:02] III. Menuett [3:19] IV. Scherzando [2:50]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
String Quartet in D major, K575: Andante [4:58]: Menuetto [4:10]
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
String Quartet in E minor: Prestissimo [2:32]
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
String Quartet in G major, D887: Scherzo: Allegro vivace [4:29]
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Partita in D minor, BVW 1004, for solo violin: Sarabanda [3:37]
Partita in D minor, BVW 1004, for solo violin: Giga [1:57]
Sonata in G major, BWV1021 (arr. Busch, Blume) [8:02]
Partita in D minor, BWV1004, for solo violin [22:06]