Busch Quartet

8.99 €

Fresh from Frankfurt in January 1951 comes this release documenting one of the last staging posts in the existence of the famous Busch Quartet. Both the Beethoven and Brahms quartets were pillars of the quartet’s repertoire. So we are fortunate that this German broadcast recording has been preserved and equally that it has been made available now.

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BUSCH QUARTET – The Frankfurt Concert 1951

1-4. BRAHMS: String Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op.51, No.1 [31:35]
5-11. BEETHOVEN: String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op.131 [39:37]

Recorded · 25 January 1951 · Frankfurt · Altes Funkhaus Eschersheimer Landstraße · Hessischer Rundfunk · Live Recording

Busch Quartet: Adolf Busch · 1st violin, Bruno Straumann · 2nd violin, Hugo Gottesmann · viola, Herman Busch · cello

Additional Information

Article number: MC 4000
Release date: 02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050521
Total time: 71:12

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Tully Potter Collection
With special thanks to Tully Potter
From the Original Masters · © 2014 Meloclassic

Adolf Georg Wilhelm Busch was born on August 8, 1891 in Siegen, Germany. He began violin lessons at age 3 and studied at the Cologne Conservatory with Willy Hess and Bram Eldering. The Dutch Eldering had studied with Hubay in Brussels and had followed him to Budapest, where he played as violist in the Hubay-Popper Quartet. Eldering went in 1888 to Berlin to improve his skills under the guidance of Joseph Joachim. Between 1891 and 1894 he was concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. From 1899 he taught at the Amsterdam Conservatory and from 1903 until his death at the Cologne Conservatory; among his students notably included Max Strub, Siegfried Borries, and Wilhelm Stross. Eldering died during an air raid in Cologne on June 17, 1943. Busch established the Wiener-Konzertvereins Quartett in 1913. In 1917, when he was only twenty-six years of age, Busch was invited to succeed Henry Marteau at the Berlin Hochschule as chief professor of the violin. In Berlin he was able to devote more time to chamber music, and two years after his arrival in the German capital he founded another string quartet. This was the Busch String Quartet and the original members with Busch were Karl Reitz, Emil Bohnke, and Paul Grümmer. The group soon achieved international acclaim. On April 1, 1933 the Busch Quartet played Haydn’s Seven last Words in Berlin. On the way to the concert hall, Busch witnessed several scenes of violence against Jews. The rise of Hitler to power in Germany was a matter of great concern to Busch, and although he possessed no Semitic blood himself, he protested strongly when the Nazis began their persecution of the Jews. Before leaving the city, he cancelled all further concerts in Germany. And the he left Germany itself. Later, he moved to Switzerland, and in 1935 took Swiss nationality. He then declared that he would never again play in any country that was not ruled by a free, democratic government. Busch was frantically attempting to get the other members of the Busch Quartet out of Europe in 1938, the year of the Kristallnacht. He was one of the moving spirits of the Lucerne Festival. That year he extended his boycott to Italy, after Mussolini had introduced anti-Semitic legislation. By this time, hundreds of musicians had fled Europe, the Serkin’s moved to New York in the last week of 1938, and Busch and his wife joined them in the spring of 1939. Busch and Serkin began a series of three Sonata recitals at Town Hall in February 1939. By 1940 the whole Busch quartet had arrived in the United States and begun concertizing. Of the string quartets that fled the Nazis, were the Busch, Kolisch, Pro Arte and Budapest. Arriving in the United States reflected a difficult period for the Busch Quartet. His brother Fritz Busch wrote: “For the time being there isn’t much one can do with the quartet. Well-paid concerts are unobtainable. There are dozens of quartets here playing for very little, and between two complete works they program transcriptions such as the Gavotte by Gosseck and selections from famous string quartets: Andante Cantabile by Haydn and Tchaikovsky. That should not be necessary, but if you are willing to do so and unwilling to play for less than $500 you get no engagements at all.” The Third Reich, which Hitler had boasted would last for a thousand years, was no more. But Germany itself, blasted and battered, survived. A very few Germans, known anti-Nazis, were coming forth from hiding, or exile to try to play some part in their ruined homeland’s future. Friends of Adolf Busch in Switzerland and Germany were pressing him to come back, to play, to lend his presence and stature to the rebuilding of the culture.

Busch was eager to do what he could. He seemed to have cabled or written his supporters that he would return and play. But then news of a different sort began to trickle in. Busch’s friend Otto Maag, told him of celebrated musicians who were Nazis themselves or who had collaborated with the Nazis and who were prospering. So disturbed was Busch by these “sad and alarming stories”, he cabled his friend “I decided to take back my promise and will not play wherever such artists will play in Switzerland or Germany.” His refusal not only deprived his friends of the pleasure hearing him, it also prompted the engagement of musicians whose conduct you do not approve of. Busch refused to give in. He and Serkin were planning a recital tour in Germany. But he would not play in any organization that included Nazis and collaborators. By that, Busch meant major orchestras like the Berlin, Munich and Vienna Philharmonics. On April 19, 1947 Busch had met Dennis Brain again for the first time in ten years. The Busch Quartet was giving a series of concerts at Chelsea Town Hall and Brain was invited to play the Mozart K 407 Horn Quintet with them. For Brain the occasion was all the more enjoyable because it was Busch who had first brought Brain before the public. In 1951, along with Serkin, Busch founded the Marlboro School of Music, which rapidly became a key institution in American musical life. The Quartet continued to play until 1951, apart from breaks in 1941 and 1944–1946: after the war its second violin and viola changed. In America Busch continued to be active as a soloist, chamber musician and director of the re-formed Busch Chamber Players. Adolf Busch died on June 9, 1952 in Guilford, Vermont, at age 61. Adolf Busch was primarius (first violin) of the Busch Quartet throughout its existence, until his death in 1952 put a final end to the group. The other members changed several times over the years: second violin was held, in turn, by Karl Reitz (1919–1921), Gösta Andreasson (1921–1945), Ernest Drucker (1946), and Bruno Straumann (1946–1952); viola by Emil Bohnke (1919–1921), Karl Doktor (1921–1945), and Hugo Gottesmann (1946–1952); and cello by Paul Grümmer (1913–1930) and Hermann Busch (1930–1952).

Hermann Busch was born on June 24, 1897 in Siegen. From the age of nine he received cello lessons from his father. He then studied at the Cologne Conservatory with Friedrich Grützmacher and at the Vienna Academy of Music with Paul Grümmer. During First World War he was a member of a symphony orchestra in Brussels. In 1919 to 1923 he was principal cellist in Bochum. In 1923 he became first cellist of the Vienna Symphony. He played in two Piano Trios (1924) with Guido Peters (piano) and Hugo Gottesmann (cello), and (1926) with Friedrich Wührer (piano) and Karl Doktor (violin). In 1927 he became a member of the faculty of the Folkwang School of Music, Dance and Speech in Essen. In 1930 he succeeded his teacher Grümmer as cellist in the Busch Quartet. In 1933 he moved to Basel. In 1940 he went to the USA where he became a member of the Chamber Orchestra Adolf Busch. In 1954 he was appointed professor at the University of Miami and became principal cellist of the Miami Symphony Orchestra in 1955. He spent his retirement in Peoria and Haverford. Hermann Busch died on June 3, 1975 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

Hugo Gottesmann was born on April 8, 1896 in Vienna. He graduated of the masterclass at the State Academy of Music in Vienna as a pupil of Otakar Ševčík, and awarded the Staatspreis, highest honour of the Academy. In 1918 he founded the Gottesmann string quartet with Theodor Billig, Hugo Kauder and Rudolf Mayr. The quartet played a cycle of Schubert’s complete music for string quartet in Vienna. He was concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony, performed as soloist under Bruno Walter, Richard Strauss, George Szell, and Wilhelm Furtwängler. In 1933 Gottesmann’s close friendship with the Austrian Hugo Breitner, who had been a prominent politician and leading Social Democrat, lead to his dismissal of the Vienna Symphony. The conductor Oswald Kabasta later would proudly claim to have led the Vienna Symphony without Jews from 1936 on. Yet ironically, Hermann, his brother Adolf, and Rudolf Serkin performed Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in 1936 under Kabasta conducting the Vienna Symphony. Gottesmann appeared as Guest conductor and concert soloist with many European orchestras. In 1936, he had taken up his home permanently in America, after a conducting tour in Sweden and Italy. He taught at the Bay View Summer College from 1943 until his death. He worked as assistant conductor of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo on its concert tour in the United States in 1944. In the fall of 1951 the illness of Gottesman, prevented the Busch Quartet from playing concerts. In 1953 Gottesman arrived in Fort Wayne and was a popular concertmaster and member of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s string quartet for fifteen years. Diagnosed with cancer, he died January 12, 1970 in Allen, Indiana.

Bruno Straumann studied the violin with Carl Flesch in Baden-Baden, Germany. He received 2nd Prize at the Geneva International Music Competition in 1945. He played for two seasons (1954-56) in the first violin section of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell. He then returned to Switzerland, taught at the Basel Conservatory. He played in duo recitals with Karl Engel in 1961.

MusicWeb International Classical Review July 2014

Fresh from Frankfurt in January 1951 comes an exemplary release from Meloclassic documenting one of the last staging posts in the existence of the Busch Quartet. The outer voices remain as they had since 1930, with the primarius Adolf and his brother, cellist Hermann Busch, in their accustomed seats. The second violinist was Bruno Straumann who had replaced Ernest Drucker in 1946. Violist Hugo Gottesmann joined in the same year as Straumann, replacing the long-serving Karl Doktor. The new quartet had thus had almost five years to retrench and re-establish itself. Adolf Busch’s health had long since been in decline, and he was to die the following year at the age of 61, which inevitably led to the disbanding of the group. So we are fortunate that this Hessischer Radio broadcast recording has been preserved and equally that it has been made available now.

Both the Beethoven and Brahms quartets were pillars of the quartet’s repertoire, and their pre-war HMV recordings have remained imperishable examples of their art. Those recordings were made when second violinist Gösta Andreasson and Karl Doktor were occupying the inner chairs and it can’t be denied that those 78 sets – the Beethoven made in 1936 and the Brahms in 1932 – generate a greater degree of tension and tonal breath. This is not so much to do with tempo decisions, as the opening movement of Op.131 is actually a shade tauter in 1951 than fifteen years earlier, so much as to do with establishing expressive density in the slow movements, especially the long Andante. The tempo, again, is much the same as their 78 set – maybe a touch faster – but it slightly lacks the verticality of ensemble sonority that so distinguished the HMV performance. I should also point out that it takes the quartet an awkward moment of two to establish the proper rhythm and ensemble in the Scherzo, thus things sound rather scrappy.

Brahms’s C minor quartet varies a little from their recording made two decades before but it’s noticeable, in fact, how little things had changed. The conception is intact, largely because it was in the main Adolf Busch’s conception. The opening is a bit tighter pre-war but it hardly matters. The Romanze is admirably played with a deeply prayerful quality impossible to ignore, affecting in its breadth of tone. There are some audience coughs in the poised finale but the recording fidelity is first-class.

Meloclassic ‘tips in’ its booklet notes (in English only for my copy) attaching them to the digipak. There are no problems recommending this 1951 concert as a worthy and moving appendix to the imperishable studio recordings of the 1930s.

© Jonathan Woolf

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