Conductor Fritz Busch in works of MOZART, HINDEMITH, BERG, LARSSON, REGER & BERWALD – Guild

by | Jan 24, 2012 | Classical Reissue Reviews

MOZART: Overture to Cosi fan tutte, K. 588; HINDEMITH: Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber; BERG: Violin Concerto; LARSSON: Ostinato from Symphony No. 2, Op. 17; REGER: Phantasie on the Choral “Wie schoen leucht’t uns der Morgenstern,” Op. 40, N0. 1; BERWALD: Overture, Estrella di Soria – Concert Orchestra, Stockholm/ King’s Theater Orchestra, Stockholm (Mozart)/ Fritz Busch – Guild GHCD 2372, 78:45 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
The relatively paltry recorded legacy of German maestro Fritz Busch (1890-1951) receives another major series of his repertory pieces for posterity in this disc, rescued from Swedish radio sources of 1939-1949.  Fritz Busch and his wife Grete maintained a fierce affection for the Scandinavian climes, even to the point of Busch’s succeeding Vaclav Talich as head of the Konsertfoerenings Orkester, 1937-1940. Several works here inscribed will attract serious collectors of the Busch canon, including an inflamed reading of the Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber (4 December 1949) that resonates with sinew and crisp energies.
Busch opens with a vivacious Overture to Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte ((30 March 1940), an opera Busch prepared for the Glyndebourne Opera Festival, 1940 and 1946. Despite distant sonics, the joyful Mozart romp makes a colorful impression. The aural fidelity of the Hindemith vastly outshines the Mozart, with alert wind playing and a literally ferocious Scherzo after Weber’s music for Turandot. The concluding March highlights that rare moment in Hindemith when we might feel the influence of Mahler. Militant lyricism, if such an oxymoron be permitted, characterizes this last movement, with winds and tympani striding forward relentlessly, with bits of melody cast or strewn about with febrile ardor. The tympani, piccolo, and triangle thud at the last chord, and the audience breaks into spontaneous applause.
Fritz Busch performed the Alban Berg Violin Concerto “To the Memory of an Angel” but once, with its primary interpreter of the period Louis Krasner (1903-1995), in concert 20 April 1938. The collaboration appears in this incarnation, a document much like that of the Szekely-Mengelberg performance of the Bartok Second Concerto. The opening movement Andante; Allegretto sings sweetly in a kind of dreamy abandon, likely a portrait of Manon Gropius’ infectiously youthful spirit. Krasner’s is not a particularly pretty violin tone, but it conveys a lofty, if strident energy, a focused seriousness of purpose. We feel that Berg’s adjustments to Schoenberg’s serial theories have been tamed in the service of an idiosyncratic song of shimmering arcane beauty. The second movement Allegro begins fully cognizant of dark fate, an often acerbic litany in haunted modes that gravitate to the Bach chorale setting that provides anxious consolation in this rendition. The extraordinary intimacy of the latter half of the movement plays to eerie and poignant effect, the Krasner’s high notes lifting our thoughts to a transcendental realm.
Busch championed the music of Lars-Erik Larsson (1908-1986), often programming the Ostinato, the final movement from the composer’s Second Symphony (1937), performed as an independent piece (here, 4 December 1949), since Larsson discarded the other two portions. An aggressive, even wild passacaglia, the music luxuriates in the symphonic sound, singing or exploding at will, but plaintive and easily reminiscent of Bach at most points. This music seems to take Sibelius to another level, contrapuntal and feverish, untamed, reverberant and thrilling in the manner of Liszt: required listening on any tribute to Fritz Busch!
Busch himself orchestrated Reger’s Choral-Fantasia for this broadcast of 4 December 1949, a typically moody and tempest-tossed Reger setting in two parts, Pesante (Andante sostenuto) and Fugue: Allegro vivace. Most impressive are the woodwinds riffs and horn calls that invoke all sorts of “religious” sentiments, arranged antiphonally and dynamically graduated, as though a modern Vivaldi had scored the piece. Even as the first section becomes long-winded, the Fugue opens its knotty and active main theme in the winds, then the strings and horns, eventually rising through the symphonic “diapason” to a grandly imperious peroration, in the best “Stokowski” style.
Fritz Busch, like Igor Markevitch, held the music of Franz Berwald (1796-1868) in high regard, programming the Overture Estrella di Soria for Busch’s return to Sweden after WW II on 29 September 1946. Strings and tympani have their work ahead of them, the melodies rushing ahead in a Northern style that imitates Beethoven or Weber’s energies. More than once the running figures imitate patterns from Weber’s Oberon, but the inflamed crescendi take their muscle from Beethoven, maybe the counterpoint from Mendelssohn‘s Fingal‘s Cave. The combination proves compelling, Busch having sold me the goods and a desire to hear them again.
—Gary Lemco

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