Monday, January 4, 2016

Bach by Adolf Busch

Cover design by Darrill Connelly (?)
Happy New Year, everyone! 2016 marks the 125th birth anniversary of one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, the German violinist, conductor and quartet leader Adolf Busch (1891-1952). Fortunately for us, Busch's recorded legacy was large, varied and has been readily available in the decades since his death. To commemorate the anniversary, Warner Music Group, which has fallen heir to EMI's catalog of classical recordings, has done right by Busch in issuing a 16-CD set containing his complete HMV/EMI output, which comprises a little over half his legacy. I urge everyone to obtain this set, especially as it quite modestly priced (one Amazon dealer has it for just over $30). A few of the transfers are not up to par; Warner (which, laughably, refers to this set as "The Complete Warner Recordings" - almost implying that Bugs Bunny and not Fred Gaisberg was in charge of producing them in the first place), merely re-uses old EMI transfers in most cases. The vast majority of these, fortunately, are still quite serviceable, and the few which Warner has had newly made are, invariably, very good.

Unfortunately, I don't see anything forthcoming from Sony, which controls most of the other half of the Busch legacy - the American Columbia recordings made from 1941 to 1951. So to plug the gap a little, I present one of the rarer of these. It's characteristic that Busch, although he only recorded two of the unaccompanied Bach violin works commercially - one Sonata and one Partita - would choose to do the ones with the most complex movements. And so, the Partita that he recorded in 1929 is No. 2 with the great Chaconne (this is in the Warner box), and the Sonata is the one with the grandest Fugue:

Bach: Unaccompanied Violin Sonata No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1005
Adolf Busch, violin
Recorded May 18, 1942
Columbia ML-4309, one side of one 12" LP record
Link (FLAC files, 62.75 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 39.15 MB)

Although made in 1942, this recording did not receive a release until 1950, simultaneously on LP and 78 (the latter was set MM-926), the LP being coupled with a Bach concerto played by the 19-year-old Eugene Istomin which had been released on 78s four years previously. I have chosen to transfer this from the 78s (since tracking these old Columbia LPs is, for me, always a bit dicey):

Bach: Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, BWV 1052
Eugene Istomin (piano) with the Busch Chamber Players
Recorded April 25 and May 3, 1945
Columbia Masterworks set MM-624, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 58.40 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 41.49 MB)


  1. Alternate links:

    Sonata - FLAC:

    Sonata - MP3:

    Concerto - FLAC:

    Concerto - MP3:

  2. As ever, Bryan, thank you for your hard work and generosity and a very Happy New Year!

    Best wishes,


  3. Great stuff, Bryan, for which many thanks! One minor correction: while Busch recorded only two of the works for solo violin commercially as you say, he also performed the Sonata #1 in G minor. The 4-CD set M&A 1244 ("The Busch-Serkin Duo Live") includes a composite performance of the work: the last three movements from a 1934 performance in Copenhagen, supplemented by the opening Adagio from a 1948 Library of Congress performance. Happy 2016!

    1. Thanks for the clarification, something I should have caught earlier as I have that M&A set myself! I'll have to go back and listen to it again.