Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Adolf Busch and Schubert

By any standard of measurement, Schubert's G major string quartet D.887 is one of the great works of Western music (and also, in my view, one of the rare classical works where all four movements are equally desirable). The quartet's latest re-incarnation is on a molto, molto cheapo Regis 3-CD set that also includes the little D 112 quartet, the 'Death and the Maiden', the D 934 Fantasia, and the E flat piano trio. All played by Adolf Busch, with various colleagues.

What is it that sets these performances of 80 years ago on such an unrivalled plain? Listening to the Busch Quartet in the G major work, I noticed how my sole attention was focused on the music, not on the performance. I don't know whether the Quartet played beautifully; I don't know whether it underlined key moments; I don't know whether Adolf Busch had a beautiful old violin. All I know is that I was drawn into Schubert's music for 40 wonderful minutes, or so.

Interesting, in retrospect, that the Busch players never recorded the B flat major piano trio; probably it was felt that the 1926 Cortot-Thibaud-Casals recording was unassailable; and this was probably right. Great music making from those far-off days (the G major quartet was recorded in 1938) lives on and on and, at its greatest – as in this recording – it has never been beaten.

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