Schubert - String Quartet No. 15 in G major, D887 Recorded 22nd and 30th November, 1938
Issued as five HMV 78s: DB 3744 - 3748 Matrix numbers 2EA.7128-7137
Takes 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2
Schubert - String Quartet No. 8 in B flat major, D112 Recorded 25th November, 1938
Issued as three HMV 78s: DB 3737 - 3739 Matrix numbers 2EA.7103-7116 and 7210-7211
Takes 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 1
"Without doubt the best re-mastering that I have heard of any pre-war recording.... You wouldn’t mistake it for something recorded recently, but you might well be forgiven for thinking it a transfer of a mid-1950s master tape. I am not normally a great fan of historical recordings - they have to be special, like the Beecham La Bohème - but this is certainly a recording that I shall be keeping in my collection...
...The Busch Quartet’s Schubert has always been well regarded, but this was the first time that I have been able to judge that reputation for myself and I am as impressed by the performances as by the brushing up of the recording. I had half-expected to hear some pre-war quirks of playing; in the event, I was not aware of anything of the sort...
...I cannot imagine the Pristine Audio transfer being bettered or even rivalled. I can’t remember having heard this quartet more than once or twice and I had not tended to think of it as one of Schubert’s best works in this form, but the Busch Quartet left me wondering why. The central movements offer a typically Schubertian contrast between the profundity of the Andante sostenuto and the sheer delight of the Menuetto, a contrast which is very effectively brought out in this performance..."
"Especially compelling is the transfer of the Busch Ensemble¹s 1938 accounts of Schubert¹s Quartets No. 8, D112 and No. 15, D887. For one thing, this is the best extended-play transfer of the recording I have encountered. Having ample presence, with minimal surface noise, comparatively wide dynamic range and seamless side joins, the playing takes on a life that was not so apparent previously. Especially impressive is the earlier work, which here gains a clarity, intensity and (in its first movement) a gentle grace often missed in other performances. In the late D887, the music¹s mix of eerie tremolos, melodic richness and fierce assertion is conveyed in aptly chosen tempos that are neither too broad nor hurried."
Mortimer Frank, International Record Review, April 2010
This transfer presents a good opportunity to demonstrate the five stages of remastering that have gone into making it, from the initial transfer to the finished master (all example files 30s @ 320kbps MP3):
Stage 1: The raw transfer, in stereo, from the cleaned HMV 78, beginning of side 1. Note that this is replayed using the standard HMV replay curve of the time.
Stage 2: Following declicking and decrackling, the signal is put into mono, which further cancels unwanted noise and boosts the signal content
Stage 3: The entire recording is re-equalised, using a modern recording of the same piece as a guide, in order to help correct the tonal balance. The effect here is to fill out the lower end body of the sound whilst reining in harshness at the top end.
Stage 4: The re-equalised recording is now subjected to targeted digital noise reduction, working both on the hiss and more general broadband noise.
Stage 5: Following an intensive period of 'hands on' manual restoration, examining and rectifying individual clicks, swishes, bumps, and other unwanted noises, the final stage is the application of a subtle Ambient Stereo effect, to extract the natural ambience captured in the recording and spread it discretely across the stereo sound stage. This movement can be heard in full using the playback bar at the top of the page.
The recordings here were both made within a few days of each other in November, 1938, and represent excellent examples of the finest playing and recording techniques of the day. Note that these British HMV pressings were characteristically crackly, something which varied between manufacturers and countries. The philosophy here was to include hard material in the shellac to help grind the needle to better fit the shape of the groove. Fortunately the sound of this is now reasonable straightforward to remove!
What is less simple, and occurs more in the second of the two pieces here, is the removal of surface swish. Where this occurs at frequencies above those being played it is not difficult to treat, but where it clashes with instrumental frequencies it's much harder to deal with, and may not always be entirely removable. As such it can be heard in the background at times on this recording, usually very faintly (if at all), but occasionally, as in the 3rd movement of String Quartet No. 8 in B flat, it briefly becomes more apparent.
Overall, however, these excellent recordings have transfers well, and come up very nicely indeed in the remastering process!
biographical notes from Wikipedia
Adolf Georg Wilhelm Busch (August 8, 1891 – June 9, 1952) was a German-born violinist and composer.
Busch was born in Siegen in Westphalia. He studied at the Cologne Conservatory with Willy Hess and Bram Eldering. His composition teacher was Fritz Steinbach but he also learnt much from his future father-in-law Hugo Grüters in Bonn.
In 1912, Busch founded the Vienna Konzertverein Quartet, consisting of the principals from the Konzertverein orchestra, which made its debut at the 1913 Salzburg Festival. After World War I, he founded the Busch Quartet, which from the 1920–21 season included Gösta Andreasson, violin, Karl Doktor, viola, and Paul Grümmer, cello. The quartet was in existence with varying personnel until 1951.
The additional member of the circle was Rudolf Serkin, who became Busch's duo partner at 18 and eventually married Busch's daughter, Irene. The Busch Quartet and Serkin became the nucleus of the Busch Chamber Players, a forerunner of modern chamber orchestras.
In 1927, with the rise of Adolf Hitler, Busch decided he could not in good conscience stay in Germany, so he emigrated to Basel, Switzerland. (Busch was not Jewish and was popular in Germany, but firmly opposed Nazism from the beginning.) On 1 April 1933 he repudiated Germany altogether and in 1938 he boycotted Italy. On the outbreak of World War II, Busch emigrated from Basel to the United States, where he eventually settled in Vermont. There, he was one of the founders with Rudolf Serkin of the Marlboro Music School and Festival.
The Busch Quartet was particularly admired for its interpretations of Brahms, Schubert, and above all Beethoven. It made a series of recordings in the 1930s that included many of these composers' works for string quartet. In 1941, it set down three Beethoven quartets that it had not previously recorded, including Opus 130. The Busch Quartet never recorded the Grosse Fuge, Opus 133; an arrangement was recorded by the Busch Chamber Players, with Busch leading from the first violin desk.
Busch was a great soloist, as well as a chamber musician, and live recordings exist of him playing the Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorák and Busoni Concertos, as well as the Brahms Double Concerto. In the studio he recorded concertos by Bach and Mozart, as well as the Brandenburg Concertos by Bach and the Concerti grossi, op.6, by Handel. He had a highly individual tone and great technique. Among his students were Stefi Geyer, Erica Morini and Yehudi Menuhin.
As a composer, Busch was influenced by Max Reger. He was among the first to compose a Concerto for Orchestra, in 1929. A number of his compositions have been recorded, including the Violin Concerto, String Sextet and Quintet for Saxophone and String Quartet.
He was the brother of the eminent conductor Fritz Busch and of the cellist Hermann Busch, and grandfather to the pianist Peter Serkin.
Notes on the 24-bit download: Please see this page for test files and further information regarding this format. Although restoration work is done at a sample rate of 44.1kHz, we have upsampled the final 24-bit master to 48kHz for additional replay compatibility of our FLAC download.
Our twenty-four bit FLAC downloads can be replayed in full quality using a standard DVD video player, a DVD writer and an inexpensive piece of PC software - see here for more information about replay from Video DVD discs.
Quartet 15 - 1. Allegro molto moderato
(Ambient Stereo version)
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