The Busch Quartet = SCHUBERT: String Quartet No. 15 in G Major, D. 887; String Quartet No. 8 in B-flat Major, D. 112 – Busch String Quartet
Pristine Audio PACM066, 65:53 [www.pristineclassical.com] ****:
Recorded in a few sessions in November 1938, these couplings of Schubert quartets testify to the security of the Busch Quartet, one of the premier European ensembles prior to and during the Second World War. Immaculately restored by Andrew Rose, the original HMV shellacs now shine without any of the surface swish that plagued the originals. The grand 1826 Quartet enjoys a colossal breadth in this recording, its Allegro molto moderato given the kind of melodic-harmonic scope that savors its major/minor alterations of mode, as well as the dotted rhythms that move its haunted figures. The E Minor Andante proves particularly rich in texture and sensitivity of expression, with Busch’s own violin marching in sad cadence then dropping to his lowest string for plaintive, anguished outpourings. The soft tremolos ring with a felicitous sonority extraordinarily graduated in tone and texture, quite compelling, the very envy of Bruckner’s symphonic writing.
The diaphanous B Minor Scherzo–set as a series of dialogues between instruments in the Trio– comes as close as Schubert ever did to the Mendelssohn, elfin ethos of blithe spirits. The tip-of-the-bow acerbity and suave weaving in and out of the metric design provides a lesson in romantic rubato all its own. The last movement plays with the ambiguities of G Major and G Minor while moving rather dervishly in the form of a tarantella. Adolf Busch exerts his concertante powers in no small measure while Karl Doktor’s viola asserts its own formidable presence. The pace and acceleration achieve some blistering moments, a kind of manic playfulness that approaches some idiosyncratic definition of tragedy. Typical of the late Schubert, there exist two competing interior rhythms, a device he loves in the Ninth Symphony and the great C Major Quintet. That all elements find full resolution in this amazing realization should place the disc on your collector’s shelf for posterity.
The Busch ensemble inscribed the 1814 B-flat Major Quartet of Schubert 25 November 1938; and even today, it is a rarity in concert. Adolf Busch renders for the opening Allegro ma non troppo a strong concertante solo part, the others strings hastily engaged with runs and swooping figures. Though the product of a precocious seventeen-year-old, the music dips into a poignant G Minor for a subsidiary theme. The motion of the three keys notes: B-flat, B, C provides a moving, chromatic context for this movement and the trio section of the Menuetto. The interior lines of the G Minor Andante remain poised and carefully etched by the Busch players, especially in the work of Gosta Andreasson and Karl Doktor. The weaving eerie line suddenly finds some sunlight and sympathetic voices among the rising scales. The Menuet pays homage to Haydn, swaggering with facility in peasant idiom. The Presto has Adolf Busch offering flurries of eighth notes to his colleagues, who can resist the urge to dance only so long, until the throng gambol with equally vibrant enthusiasm.