Adolf BUSCH (1891-1952)
Chamber Music - volume 2: Music for Clarinet II
Divertimento for clarinet, oboe and cor anglais, Op.62b (1944) [9:05]
Sonata in A Major for clarinet and piano, Op.54 (1939 rev 1940) [27:06]
Suite in D minor for solo clarinet, Op.37a (1926) [16:24]
Hausmusik: Duet No.2 for violin and B flat clarinet, Op.26b (1921) [12:51]
Five Canons in Unison for three instruments, BoO 60 (1949) [5:29]
Hausmusik: German Dances for B flat clarinet, violin and cello, Op.26c (1921) [8:18]
Bettina Beigelbeck (clarinet): Busch Kollegium Karlsruhe
rec. 2014/15, Hans Rosbaud Studio, SWR, Baden-Baden
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC 0293 [76:28]

I reviewed the successful first volume in this series back in November 2013 and now here is the second disc. For some thoughts and background the earlier review is a reasonable place to start, as well as for sketching in some facts regarding Adolf Busch’s compositional life, especially as he was primarily well-known as a soloist and quartet leader.

This second volume is sensibly programmed to give us more examples of his homely Hausmusik, a Divertimento, a major Clarinet Sonata and the Suite for solo clarinet, as well as a sequence of delightful Canons. The 1944 Divertimento is a genial six-movement affair for clarinet, oboe and cor anglais and shows a certain vaudevillian side to Busch’s nature in the second-movement Quasi presto. In fact humour is never far from the surface in a number of his chamber works and is a welcome element: there is no stern, Olympian mind at work here. Charming and witty throughout, the Scherzo, the penultimate movement, is the centre of gravity in terms of development.

The Clarinet Sonata of 1939 – it was revised the following year – was written in the wake of Busch’s mutually valuable professional association with British clarinettist Reginald Kell. The ethos is late-Brahmsian and the work is interestingly constructed with a brief scherzando surrounded by two quite imposing outer movements. There’s much lyricism to be encountered and increasingly in the finale a splendid quotient of loquacious humour. Melodic writing is generously parcelled out between the two instruments. A much earlier work is the 1926 Suite for solo clarinet, quite a demanding test of accuracy and breath control. The Prelude-like start echoes Bach, as often with this great Bachian, with some big leaps as well and following a quirky, comic chromatic Scherzo we reach the finale, the longest of the four movements. Each movement in this work gets longer and longer as the work progresses.

The Hausmusik Duet No.2 for violin and B flat clarinet is Mozartean, affectionately unpretentious, whilst the German Dances evoke the world of Schubert pithy, unceremonial, and charming. The Canons date from 1949, domestic works with some ingenious flourishes and a lively sense of domestic scale.

The performances are uniformly fine and marry technical finesse with affectionate warmth.

Jonathan Woolf
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