Beethoven: Quartets No 7, No 13 / The Busch Quartet

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The four players named above constituted the Busch Quartet from 1930 to 1945. They left Hitler's Germany in 1933 and by the outbreak of the war were settled in America. During the thirties they recorded among much other music all the late Beethoven quartets except this one; to quote the sleeve-note, this omission was put right in 1941 when the Busch Quartet made its first recordings for CBS in America. Its quality is astonishingly good apart from some deterioration towards the end of the finale, better than in the Busch recording of the three Beethoven Quartets I wrote about last January (World Records mono SHB27/1-2, p. 136), but the playing, though superlative at its best, is not quite as consistent as in the A minor Op. 132. An irrelevant criticism, perhaps, for in truth this record by the best of all pre-war quartets (as I think) deserves to be welcomed with open arms.

Adolf Busch himself had the most beautiful tone quality, a marvellous understanding of transitional passages (listen, for instance, to the return of the opening tune in the second movement), and an unusually delicate staccato.

The latter helps to make this performance of the third movement the most exquisite I have ever heard; the touch of skittishness is just right (and I hope you are not put off by this word). The tempo, faster than is usual today, also seems just right. Things do not go quite as well in the Alla danza tedesca. Again the tempo is faster than usual; Busch had noticed the Allegro assai marking and, unlike almost all other groups, he tried to take it literally. But the result sounds as though the music has been pushed too hard, and the ensemble slips a little in the middle. The Cavatina is a little soupy in the opening section. Busch scoops here and there in the main tune, as he also does in the second subject of the first movement, the tune that starts with a rising sixth. The odd thing is that quite often when the other players have the same lime there is not a trace of a portamento. Today I think we tend to hold up our hands in exaggerated horror at this trick from the past, and it is worth remembering that in the thirties Busch was frequently praised because he scooped so rarely; as opposed to Lener who did it all the time. I have- made much too much of' the small failings, in the Busch performance of the Cavatina. Much of it is very Moving, and the central recitative-like section finds Busch himself at his superb best. But all four players are in the very first rank ; one remembers particularly the cellist—a brother of the Quartet's leader—in the finale. Here the relaxed tempo is precisely judged as is the delicate humour of the music. I would expect this record to be broadcast at reasonably-spaced intervals until the end of time. It is, as they say, a classic.

-- Gramophone [11/1975, reviewing Op. 130 on LP]

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: SONY47687

  • UPC: 074644768725

  • Label: Sony

  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Busch String Quartet

  • Performer: Adolf Busch, Gösta Andreasson, Hermann Busch, Karl Doktor