The Busch Quartet performing at their very best
Two superb Schubert Quartets from 1938
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!
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, 22
SCHUBERT String Quartet No. 15 in G major, D887
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
All transfers and XR remastering by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio, October 2009
Cover artwork based on a photograph of The Busch Quartet
Total duration: 65:53
The Busch Quartet:
Adolf Busch, violin
Gösta Andreasson, violin
Karl Doktor, viola
Hermann Busch, cello
Reviews: MusicWeb International & Fanfare
Without doubt the best re-mastering that I have heard of any pre-war recording
"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..."
Brian Wilson, MusicWeb International, Recording of the Month, March 2010
"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