Conductor Fritz Busch = R. STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel, OP. 28; Don Juan; MOZART: Symphony No. 36, “Linz”; Overtures to Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro, Cosi fan tutte – BBC Sym. Orch. (Till, Linz Symphony)/London Philharmonic/Glyndebourne – Guild

by | Dec 6, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Conductor Fritz Busch = R. STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel, OP. 28; Don Juan, Op. 20; MOZART: Symphony No. 36 in C Major, K. 425 “Linz”; Overtures to Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro, Cosi fan tutte – BBC Symphony Orchestra (Till, Linz Symphony)/London Philharmonic Orchestra (Don Juan)/Glyndebourne Festival Orchestra/Fritz Busch

Guild GHCD 2356, 68:49 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Although Fritz Busch (1890-1951) first performed in London in 1929, he did not set down inscriptions until 5-6 March 1934, when he stepped into the HMV studios to record Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks by Richard Strauss. A generally quick tempo does not diminish the pungently impish series of antics nor the underlying romantic sensibility of the symphonic poem. The BBC players exert considerable efforts to maintain an elastic tension throughout the episodes until Till’s fateful neck-stretching and unearthly screech. Sparkling wit and sincere affection blend into a fully satisfying rendition of this virtuoso score.

The Don Juan (6-8 July 1936) crackles with excitement, even if its sonic dimensions do not quite achieve the heights Koussevitzky elicited from this frenetic and exalted celebration of the Romantic Ego. Violin solo Paul Beard adds his own nostalgia to the mix, while the London Philharmonic reveals the sensuality its wonted conductor Sir Thomas Beecham imparted to the ensemble.  A solid oboe solo, with harp, intones the romantic melody that will build into heroic gestures and cosmic grandiloquence. Busch pushes the ensemble hard, evincing some sweetly sweeping climaxes, with no slack or sag in the fiercely taut line he unleashes. The sudden denouement proves as virtuosic as the frenzied convulsions had been heaven-storming.

The Mozart Linz Symphony derives from the same session (5 March 1934) as the Till Eulenspiegel, a consummately articulated performance, sans repeats–except in the Menuetto–that employs old world portamento to educe a sweetness in an otherwise world-wise, canny rendition of the  opening Adagio–Allegro spiritoso that moves so buoyantly in eight minutes. The tender Andante, a ceremonial siciliano, provides the heart of the symphony; and here Busch exerts a noble elastic line both processional and devotional at once. The Busch Menuetto casts a militant glow which is less evident in Beecham’s more stately rendition with the LPO from the same period. The last movement, Presto, enjoys a thoroughly unbuttoned energy and streamlined poise that attest to the level of discipline Adrian Boult had instilled in this BBC ensemble for Busch to mold to his own, volcanic ends.

The three overtures from Glyndebourne pay homage to Fritz Busch’s association with that organization, beginning 28 May 1934, which resulted in the first complete recordings in the next two years of major Mozart opera repertory. Consisting largely of London Symphony Orchestra members, the Glyndebourne Festival ensemble provides explosive evidence of their abilities in a steamy rendition of Don Giovanni (29-30 June 1936), aggressive and explosive, the Festival brass exemplary. The whirling dervish called the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro (28 June 1935) proves a veritable rocket, driven, effulgent, graciously shaped in its melodic sections. The Cosi fan tutte (28 June 1935) caters to the galant style in Mozart; but once the Allegro section enters, a flurried crescendo and sense of busy-bodiness infiltrates every bar of this eloquent music. No small wonder Smetana admired this score as the perfect model for his own Bartered Bride Overture.  

–Gary Lemco

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