Classical Reissue Reviews

Adolf Busch, violin = BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D Major; Romances in G Major & F Major – Adolf Busch, v./ Danish State Radio Orch./ Launy Groendahl (Concerto)/ WOR Radio Orch./ Alfred Wallenstein – Guild

Violin virtuoso Adolf Busch plays his beloved Beethoven Concerto in a radio broadcast from Copenhagen 1949 that should revitalize this artist’s repute in the work he championed.

Published on February 18, 2013

Adolf Busch, violin = BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D Major; Romances in G Major & F Major – Adolf Busch, v./ Danish State Radio Orch./ Launy Groendahl (Concerto)/ WOR Radio Orch./ Alfred Wallenstein – Guild

Adolf Busch, violin = BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61; Romance in G Major, Op. 40; Romance in F Major, Op. 50 – Adolf Busch, v./ Danish State Radio Orch./ Launy Groendahl (Concerto)/ WOR Radio Orch./ Alfred Wallenstein – Guild GHCD 2395, 54:39 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Adolf Busch (1891-1952) made only one commercial recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, despite his having given the first London performance of the work in 1912 with Fritz Steinbach and the LSO, a performance that had proclaimed  Busch the natural heir to Joachim. Busch continued to perform the Concerto some 400 times in concert with the world’s leading orchestra conductors. Curiously, the February 1942 recording that Busch made – with his brother Fritz and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra – he rejected as unsuitable for publication due to faulty balances. In order to supplement the various (five) gaps that existed in the present radio-broadcast performance (17 March 1949), cut on one turntable, record producer Antony Hodgson has inserted selected passages from that very 1942 collaboration in order to render us a seamless whole.  The playing, moreover, despite a remark that the Busch disciple Yehudi Menuhin made that Enescu and not Busch communicated the natural ardor for music that Menuhin inherited, this concert performance with Groendahl testifies to a intensely lyrical aristocrat of the violin in Busch, a musician whose power and poetry – admitting only minimal defects in technique – exalt the musical experience to a ravishingly high plane.

Happily, even with the original lacunae in the original recording, the Busch cadenzas – composed around 1941, a year prior to the Columbia inscription that Busch aborted (but released after his death) – were captured intact. The work of conductor Launy Groendahl (1886-1960) with his esteemed Danish State Radio Orchestra proves hearty, muscular, and sensitively wrought, perhaps nowhere finer than in the G Major Larghetto movement, the indicated dolce made dolcissimo. Busch’s long bow strokes articulate a flowing molded line that never breaks, elastic, poignant, and rhythmically flexible. The rasping and icily dry attacks Busch utters for the concluding Rondo: Allegro spice the vast musical repast with a wit and magnanimous pageantry we rarely experience. Listen to the colloquy of Busch and the various horns and winds as they weave out the interior colors of this most delicious of rustic dances!  As the music proceeds, the electric tension simply compounds, as beautiful as it is galvanic. Busch inserts another of his stringent, taut cadenzas that ends of wiry trill, and the orchestral slides under it to merge in a variation of the dance that gathers the Olympian momentum that will soon evolve into the Seventh Symphony. 

For the two Romances (rec. Newark, New Jersey, 21 February 1942) performed in the midst of having Busch record the Violin Concerto, conductor Alfred Wallenstein (1898-1983) leads his WOR Studio Orchestra, the ensemble with which he accompanied the legendary Nadia Reisenberg in a traversal of the complete Mozart Piano Concertos. Imbuing both of these Beethoven lightweight pieces with a stately grandeur, Busch renders them unsentimentally but nobly, the melodic lines plaintive and vocally intoned. That Beethoven can provide a majestic experience may be an intellectual given, but hearing Busch perform these works – the two Romances having already been issued via the Music & Arts label – makes palpable a true merger of composer and spiritually kin interpreter.  We can only hope the various world musical archives tender further treasures from the incomparable Adolf Busch.

—Gary Lemco




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