Fritz Busch = Works of BRAHMS; BEETHOVEN; MOZART; REGER – Wuertembergischen Landes-Th./Dresden St. Orch./Danish Radio Sym. Orch. – Guild

by | Jun 2, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Fritz Busch = BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73; BEETHOVEN: Scherzo from Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55 “Eroica”; MOZART: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492; 6 German Dances; 3 Contredances, K. 609; REGER: Theme and 3 Variations from Mozart Variations, Op. 132 – Orchester des Wuertembergischen Landes-Theaters/Dresden State Orchestra (Brahms) /Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Busch – Guild GHCD 2371, 77:01  [Distr. By Albany] ****:
Editor and producer Peter Reynolds has resuscitated the earliest surviving recordings of conductor Fritz Busch (1890-1951), his acoustic inscriptions of Beethoven, Mozart, and Reger from Stuttgart, 1919. We have, moreover, a complete radio transmission of the Brahms Symphony No. 2 guest-appearance at the Berlin Philharmonic from 25 February 1931, a performance of luminous intensity made with the obvious invitation of the orchestra’s main conductor, Wilhelm Furtwaengler. The six dances by Mozart from Denmark, recorded 10 October 1948 and 27 January 1951, appear as bonus tracks.
Generally, Fritz Busch maintained what some critics called “a pure style,” eschewing the romantic excesses of portamento and rhetorical slides in phrasing, but they do raise their specters occasionally in the Mozart German Dances, K. 600 and K. 605. The Eroica movement exudes good energy but does not impress us with the same level of virtuosity as the truly hectic rendition of Mozart’s Overture to the Marriage of Figaro. Reger plays an important role in the Busch legacy–as the composer also influenced the slightly older colleague Carl Schuricht–and though the Theme, Variation I, VI, and VII carry the initial tune from Mozart’s A Major Sonata, K. 331 clearly, the presence of old-fashioned glissandi, even slithers, in the melodic line seem palpable declarations of a progressively waning aesthetic.
Despite some intrusive swish at the opening of the Brahms Symphony in D Major, the orchestral definition in the upper strings, their collective warmth and hearty stride, instantly captivate our imagination. The woodwinds, too, retain a flighty airiness and playful virtuosity that avoid any of the morbid quality we can hear in some Brahms acolytes. The woodwind work in the early third of the Adagio conveys a grand leisure, an open-air quality we recall from the Serenade in D, Op. 11. The later pages of the Adagio reveal a combination of energy and sculpted beauty. Recorded two years prior to Busch’s flight from Nazi-controlled Germany, the music ushers in a host of visions of a pre-Lapsarian world that had basked in spiritual comfort and confidence. We might speculate that besides revealing influences from mentors Schillings, Weingartner, and Furtwaengler, the relatively recent (1930) appearances in Germany of Arturo Toscanini–with his own debts to the Brahms of Fritz Steinbach–exert their own energies in the Busch rendering of long phrases and swooping singing lines. Contemporary critics exhorted the middle movements of the Brahms under Busch as exemplary, particularly the diaphanously Mendelsssohn-like Allegretto, which one critic wished could have been repeated. The athletically frenetic approach to the last movement has to raise one eyebrows and ears to the fiery discipline Busch could evince from his inspired players. Audible cries of “Bravo!” and “Come again!” resound from the audience, but Fritz Busch never returned to Berlin after 1932.
Delicacy and architectural balance define the two sets of German Dances by Mozart from Copenhagen in 1948 and 1951.The orchestral rendering of what we know as “Non piu andrai” from Le Nozze di Figaro delights, while the last Contredanse carries a Renaissance sonority that fuses the old and the new in perfect harmony. Even in these pert concentrated dance efforts the resonant wit and sensuous texture of the music receives full due, marvelous encores from a veteran practitioner of his craft.
— Gary Lemco

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