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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, “Choral” (1824) [63:17]
Overture, Leonore III in C, Op. 72a (1805) [13:38].
Kerstin Lindberg-Torlind (soprano); Else Jena (mezzo); Eric Sjöberg (tenor); Holger Byrding (bass);
Danish Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Busch
rec. 7 September 1950 (sym.); 24 October 1949 (Leonore) (broadcast performances). ADD
Experience Classicsonline

This is the only complete surviving document of Fritz Busch’s Ninth. Busch, who in 1922 had been appointed Generalmusikdirektor of Dresden State Opera, was dismissed from that post in March 1933 due to Nazi power. In June, Busch left Germany, only returning at the very end of his life. Soon after his departure from Germany he became affiliated with Glyndebourne; he was its first music director from 1934.
The sound is clear and has fair body, with only mild muddying in the lower mid to bass ranges. Most impressive of all is Busch’s structural grasp. He holds the arrival points clearly in mind, and yet never undermines the emotional importance of surface detail. His moulding of crescendi is expertly managed. It is almost as if Busch can maintain Toscanini’s fiery surface motion while keeping some of Furtwängler’s famous long-range thought. Could Busch have been the missing link between the two, the so-called Toscwängler - a horrible name, I know, but Furtanini sounds even worse?
The second movement Molto vivace is not as tidy of ensemble as the first movement, but this is a sprightly performance. Busch sets a challengingly rapid pace, and at times one can sense the Danish players struggling to keep to the tactus. Timpani solos are incisive, though. It is the Adagio molto e cantabile that is richest in dividends. The opening is serenely gentle and it is here that we really feel the superiority of Guild’s transfer, Remastering is courtesy of Peter Reynolds.
The opening of the finale laudably avoids distortion but inevitably perhaps lacks the visceral edge of more modern recordings. The tutti sounds a little blunted. No mistaking the Toscanini-like headlong dash around 5:50. Holder Byrding has to use all of his persuasive powers to get the idea of “other” sounds (joy) across. The recording clearly favours the choral tenors. Eric Sjöberg, the solo tenor, is enthusiastic in his solo leading into the concentrated fugue - wherein Busch generates tension aplenty. There is a ragged, half-hearted choral entry at around 17:30. All is forgotten and forgiven when we get to the magical passage for all four soloists around 21 minutes in. Rarely - if ever - have I heard a quartet of soloists that works so well together and is so perfectly in balance, with all four egos held on a strong leash. Worth it for those moments alone, really; a more long-sighted critical appraisal simply reinforces the strength and integrity of this account of the Ninth.
The Leonore Overture is superbly paced. The strings, in particular impress, especially in the lead-in to the main, fast, body of the overture. Lower strings move adeptly at speed. The solo trumpet fanfares do sound rather brass-bandish, but the drama remains intact, and actually ignites in the tempestuous coda. This Leonore seems to have previously only been issued on LP on Denmark’s POKO Records label (PLP8401/3) and is therefore a greater rarity than the Ninth which was previously on multiple labels, including Heliodor and Melodiya (!) on LP and Urania on CD. The present CD was issued in conjunction with two other Ninths (Toscanini/Colón 1941 and Furtwängler/Berlin March 1942). Jonathan Woolf gives a typically perceptive review comparing and contrasting all three here on MusicWeb. This Busch Ninth stands magnificently on its own merits, though, despite the occasional caveat.
Colin Clarke

see also review by Jonathan Woolf



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