Fritz Busch

Fritz Busch Conducts Haydn & Mozart

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Fritz Busch Conducts Haydn & Mozart Review

by Uncle Dave Lewis

Conductor Fritz Busch was a significant booster for eighteenth century music at a time when it was represented only by a paltry few, badly overplayed works; he is largely credited for the revival of interest in Mozart's operas stemming from productions he mounted of them at the Glyndebourne Festivals of the 1930s. While held by experts in a class with the likes of Furtwängler and Toscanini, Busch's opportunities to record were far fewer in number and under far less auspicious circumstances and certain recordings have been reissued repeatedly. Among those most frequently mined are recordings made of Busch by Danish Radio at the end of his life; though often cramped and tinny sounding, the Danish recordings reveal Busch in great form and, thankfully, in complete pieces. Guild Historical has entered the arena with its Fritz Busch Conducts Haydn & Mozart sourced from original 78 rpm releases of these recordings that appeared largely within Busch's own lifetime and featuring him in Haydn and Mozart, composers in which he excelled.

While these are unmistakably old recordings, Busch's conducting is not old-fashioned; though leading a symphony orchestra of modern dimensions, Busch's tempos are brisk and the overall texture is light on its feet, even more so than was the habit with Bruno Walter in such literature and far less heavy than Koussevitzky, Beecham, or Toscanini. The 1951 recording of the Haydn Symphonie Concertante in B flat and Symphony No. 36 in C, "Linz," of Mozart here are also included on the EMI Great Conductors of the Century set devoted to Fritz Busch. The major difference in terms of sound is that the EMI set has some additional sweetening in the very high frequencies of the spectrum; however, there is no sound in the constricted source that's up that high; there is no "there" there, it's just sweetening. In this respect, the Guild transfer is a bit more honest; the transfer conforms to the limited range of the Danish Radio recording and does not try to trick your ear into thinking there are higher frequencies present. One place Guild cut corners where it should not have was in failing to list the solo performers in the Haydn Symphonie Concertante; they were Waldemar Wolsing, oboe; Carl Bloch, bassoon; Leo Hansen, violin; and Alberto Medici, cello.

Recordings like these should never be anyone's first choice to experience these musical works. However, if the listener already knows the music and has experienced them at some depth, this can be gratifying; it is particularly interesting to compare Busch's reading of the Haydn Symphony No. 88 with the robust and romantic version made by Wilhelm Furtwängler a short time later.

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