Adolf Busch – BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77; Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102 – Adolf Busch, violin/ Hermann Busch, cello/ Orch. National de la Radiodiffusion Francaise/Paul Kletzki/ Orch. der Stadt Basel/ Hans Muench (Op. 77) – Guild GHCD 2418, 69:12 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
The recorded legacy of German violinist Adolf Busch (1891-1952) continues to command our attention, and Guild restores the powerful connection Busch has to the music of Johannes Brahms. The Brahms Violin Concerto (in Basle, 18 December 1951), the violinist’s last public appearance, has had a prior (1999) incarnation through the Arbiter label of Allan Evans (Arbiter 117), and so the collector’s attention for novel Busch recordings gravitates to the explosive performance of the A Minor “Double” Concerto (21 June 1949) under the fine direction of Paul Kletzki (1900-1973). The excellence of cellist Hermann Busch (1897-1975) emerges in clear, bold lines as he and his brother exchange filigree within and over a tumultuous French National Radio Orchestra. The recorded sound, unfortunately, suffers a noticeable metallic clanging, as though Christmas horses’ sleigh bells had invaded the original source. Still, the impassioned nature of the first movement Allegro never loses for an instant the forward momentum that embraces a resounding coda.
The lovely violin tone of the Adolf Busch 1732 Stradivarius has its piquant moments of exchange in a genuine tender rendition of the Andante movement. The French woodwinds intertwine with the two strings’ falling figures to create an intimate duo concertante whose darker textures remind us of the composer’s early Serenade, Op. 16. A gypsy, Hungarian spirit invests the Vivace non troppo finale, which Kletzki seizes as an opportunity to rouse his complement of French orchestra players. The hectic frolic energy ends so that the woodwinds may comment at the halfway point. The duo’s dialogue allows the two soli to dip down in their respective registers while the orchestra strings and horns weave some preparation for another dramatic crescendo. Thus, the rondo tune returns in full cello resonance answered by Adolf’s suave violin, and a series of upward scales and rockets leaps into the orchestra’s tutti statement, replete with tympani. The dialogue of soli propel to the coda, a consummation warmly acknowledged by a delighted audience.
Conductor Hans Muench (1893-1883) sets a resolute, stentorian tone for the opening tutti of the Violin Concerto, fiercely moving to the cadence for the lyrical second subject. Adolf Busch, a proponent of the work for forty years – having been tutored by Brahms acolytes Joseph Joachim and Fritz Steinbach – sweeps into the mix with his expressive solo, mixing with flute and horn with an old-world nostalgia that quite melts the heart. We can detect a tendency to Romantic indulgences in portamento and tempo rubato, but the innate dignity and breadth of the musical line remains intact, a truly “vocal” expression of the instrument’s capacity to sing. By the second extended orchestral tutti, conductor Muench himself has caught the divine spark for the competitive agon, and the epic proportion of the development section spins out in exalted figures. The gut A, D, and E strings assume an intensely jarring resonance in the course of the variants on the secondary motif, as the orchestra establishes a pedal over the rolling tympani to reassert the lyric aria of the movement. Busch sports his own (1933) cadenza for the first movement, which incorporates variants on the four-beat motif and the lyric theme in stretti, then in the manner of a Bach meditation. As enter the coda, the Busch tone thins somewhat, and its slight uncertainty makes us think of Joseph Szigeti, no less a profound interpreter of this concerto.
Typically, the orchestral tissue – namely, the oboe, abetted by horn and bassoon – steals the woven Adagio away from the violin solo; but Busch manages to “rescue” the gracious arioso to highlight his own expressive powers, accompanied by flute, horn and strings. The noble lilt of the procession, its fervently “interior” concentration, makes us wish that wartime German politics had not prevented a document having emerged from a Busch collaboration with Wilhelm Furtwaengler. Some diminished technique hampers the Busch fingers in the last movement, but not his wildly impetuous spirit. His ardor has a tendency to strike the fingerboard with a healthy gusto. Busch and Muench build a colossal rondo, alternately singing and anguished, that belies its “gypsy” character for a more “fateful” – what one commentator characterized as “religious” – sensibility. In retrospect, we hear a valediction forbidding mourning and rather inviting the esteem of a life of genuine musicianship.