Arbiter Records 117

Adolf Busch: live conerto performances

  • First publication. Busch's final public performance, in the Brahms violin concerto, is heard with Dvořák’s.
  • Released Sep 25, 2017
  • $16.98
  • On iTunes
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Track List

In 2014 a new source for the Brahms violin concerto was discovered and remastered for downloading with two additional bonus tracks of Busch’s solo playing in 1922.

  1. Dvorak Violin concerto: I
  2. Dvorak Violin concerto: II
  3. Dvorak Violin concerto: III
  4. Brahms Violin Concerto: I
  5. Brahms Violin Concerto: II
  6. Brahms Violin Concerto: III
  7. bonus download track: Bach Partita no.3 in E: Gavotte
  8. bonus download track: Brahms Hungarian Dance in g

Adolf Busch: Live Concerto Recordings

Adolf Busch, violin; Leon Barzin / National Orchestral Association (Dvorak ); Hans Münch / Basel Orchestra (Brahms – newly remastered on download version)

Notes by Tully Potter
The two concertos on this disc were among the warhorses of Adolf Busch (1891-1952) from the start of his career. He studied both of them at the Cologne Conservatory with his teacher Bram Eldering–a pupil of Joachim, for whom both works had been written. To someone of Busch’s generation, these concertos were virtually modern music; he never had the chance to meet either of the composers but he met Joachim several times and in his formative years he was surrounded by people who had known both Brahms and Dvorak well. Eldering had been a member of Brahms’s circle and Busch’s composition teacher Fritz Steinbach had been Brahms’s favourite conductor. Conscious that he was seen as the artistic heir of Joachim–who had died in 1907–Busch was chary at first of playing the Beethoven Concerto when he graduated from the Conservatory in 1909. Instead he used the Brahms Concerto as his calling card and he had the inestimable good fortune to have his mentor Steinbach as his conductor for most of his early performances. They first appeared together with this Concerto on 10 January 1910 at Busch’s very first concert as a fully fledged virtuoso, in what might be described as the prologue to his career. It was an ‘introductory concert’ at Kiel and the young soloist received no fee, just a bouquet of flowers. The point of such concerts, of which he gave a number that season, was that important booking agents and impresarios would be in the audience and the soloist could expect a flood of bookings if he performed well–as Busch did on each occasion, fortunately.

Other friends of Brahms who influenced Busch were Dr Gustav Ophuls, with whom he had many chances to make music; members of the Gruters family, into which he married; and such conductors as Max Fiedler and Arthur Nikisch. He evolved a conception of the Violin Concerto and the Double Concerto which was classically contained in such aspects as rubato and fluctuation of tempo but which allowed the innate romanticism of both works to flower. A true performer, Busch also made the finales of both concertos really exciting; and we are fortunate to have live performances of both from the closing years of his career. In the case of the Violin Concerto, we also have a 1942 radio recording of the finale which is as exciting as any performance by Kogan, Oistrakh, Heifetz or Huberman–and which is more gypsy-like in its delivery than any of them. The complete performance of the concerto on this CD, on the other hand, was Busch’s very last public performance. Ill with heart trouble, he would retire altogether within days of this concert in Basel. In the circumstances, one would not expect the fire of 1942 in the finale; but in other respects the performance is more than just a stopgap or consolation prize. Yes, of course we should have had a proper studio recording of this concerto from the man who was its leading exponent in the years between the wars; but from this live recording we can glean much of what made a Busch performance of the Brahms so special. In particular, the nobility of his reading comes across in all its grandeur.

The music of Dvorak held an honoured place in Busch’s repertoire and he played it even in Prague. The Busch Quartet performed all the mature string quartets and much of the other chamber music, although only the Slavonic Quartet in E flat, Op. 51, was recorded; and Busch himself played all the major works for violin and piano including a number of the Slavonic Dances in Mikhail Press’s fine arrangements. With his Chamber Players he both performed and recorded the Notturno for strings. The root of this enthusiasm for the Czech master’s music probably lay in the summers which the Busch brothers spent in the spa town of Pyrmont, beginning in 1909. Fritz Busch had landed the job of Kapellmeister of the rather moth-eaten orchestra which entertained the visitors; and Adolf was persuaded to act as his concertmaster. Amazingly, Fritz managed to put on a Schumann Festival in 1910 and a Reger Festival–attended by Reger himself, the brothers’ hero–in 1911. Most of the time, however, the musicians were expected to grind out selections from operettas by men such as Paul Lincke, the local favourite. Fortunately the chief director of Simrock, publisher of Brahms and Dvorak, was taking the waters at Pyrmont in 1910; and when he heard of Fritz’s plight, he sent for the scores and parts of all Dvorak’s available orchestral works and made the young Kapellmeister a present of them. The Busch brothers already liked Dvorak’s music but this chance happening led to their developing a real and lasting love for it; they played it ad infinitum that summer until the regular clientele began to complain and the manager ordered Fritz to lay Dvorak aside and give the customers their usual fare. Adolf then suggested to his brother the ingenious ploy of announcing Lincke’s music on the programmes but playing Dvorak’s. All went well until Lincke, who unbeknown to the brothers had been taking the cure at Pyrmont, presented himself to Fritz and complained that he kept seeing his own name on the programme and hearing the strains of Dvorak. Adolf made a quick exit, leaving Fritz to pacify the composer by suggesting a special series of Lincke evenings in the park, to be conducted by the composer himself with red illuminations. There would also be Lincke pieces in the morning concerts–which Fritz did not conduct. Thus honour was satisfied and the brothers could go back to their lodgings to play Beethoven and Bach sonatas.

Adolf Busch’s proper career began in October 1910 and for his very first paid concerto engagement–with the Duisburg orchestra conducted by another of his early benefactors, Walter Josephson–he chose the Dvorak Concerto and the Schumann Fantasy in C major. No doubt the choice of the Dvorak was influenced by his experiences of the summer. He was to play this Concerto many times, with a variety of conductors including that great exponent of Czech music, George Szell. During his time in Vienna, 1912 to 1918, Busch also got to know the amiable Czech secretary of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Dr Bedrich Dlabac, who was a talented amateur violinist. They often played Dvorak’s music together, sometimes with Busch at the piano, and the German violinist felt that he learnt much about the native Czech rhythms from these informal encounters. The proof can be heard in the recordings he made of Dvorak’s music, which show that he understood subtleties which bypassed even such eminent contemporaries as Artur Schnabel. The discovery of a live performance of the Violin Concerto is therefore an event of the first importance in the world of historic recordings. As one might expect, it is a vigorous, masculine reading; but the lyrical aspects of the work are given full rein and the various transitions are beautifully handled. Its release, even at this late stage, reveals yet another facet of one of the most individual geniuses of the violin in the 20th century.

A few words about Busch’s distinguished collaborators. Hans Munch was two years younger than Busch and hailed from Mulhouse. He was a member of a famous Alsatian family–his father Eugen was a conductor and his cousin was Carl Munch, who made a name as a violinist before dropping the umlaut from his surname and becoming the conductor Charles Munch. Hans Munch studied with Albert Schweitzer, among others, and was a cellist before turning to conducting. He settled in Basel in 1912, became a Swiss citizen and took over the directorship of the Allgemeine Musikgesellschaft from Weingartner in 1935. Among his recordings were two masterpieces by Hermann Suter, the D minor Symphony and the choral work Le Laudi. Leon Barzin, who at the time of writing is still living, was born in Brussels in 1900 but was taken to the United States by his parents when he was two. He learnt the violin with his father before being sent to the Royal Brussels Conservatoire, where he continued violin studies with Ysaye, finally changing to the viola under the tutelage of Ysaye’s quartet colleague Leon van Hout. He became principal viola of the New York Philharmonic but soon switched to conducting, principally as director of the National Orchestral Association, an excellent youth orchestra for would-be professionals which bridged the gap between music college and full-time membership of a symphony orchestra. During a long career Barzin made a number of recordings but became expecially well known as a concerto accompanist. Live recordings with such soloists as Feuermann, Huberman and now Busch have added to the affectionate regard in which he is held by music lovers.