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Busch Fritz - Conductor (1890-1951)

Biography of Busch Fritz:

Fritz Busch visited Switzerland regularly, from 1923 to 1951, and nearly always he conducted performances or broadcasts. Still, neither of the broadcasts that have been referred to have taken place in 1949 in Zurich have ever come to light. The two works presented here are much better documented – especially research undertaken in recent years has resulted in not only narrowing the period when they have been recorded, but also the venue and possibly the exact recording dates have been detected. The leader of the recordings, which were initially released by the Concert Hall Society, Vienna-born Peter Rybar (1913–2002), recalled later (in the liner notes for the CD Brüder-Busch-Gesellschaft release of the Haffner Serenade): “Fritz Busch was a man of the world. Also as a great musician he owned all imaginable advantages so valuable and important for a conductor. A phenomenal memory was connected with his sharp powers of observation. Once the 2nd solo cellist of the Winterthur Orchestra was unable to perform due to jaundice. Four years later Fritz Busch returned to us. Before our first rehearsal started, he asked the cellist, ‘Well, how is your jaundice?’” He was wellloved by the orchestra members, and not only of the Winterthur Municipal Orchestra (Stadtorchester Winterthur – only since 2000 it is called Orchestra Musikkollegium Winterthur), but also by the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Rybar reports, “he always met the orchestral musicians in a noble and humane way. They revered him because he transferred his art of conducting in the most sensible way onto the orchestra. The most rationally-conducted rehearsals, his quick-wittedness and his refreshing humour made him in the best sense a great conducting practitioner. For me Fritz Busch has remained the greatest of all Mozart conductors I have ever experienced. I revere him most!” In an interview published shortly before his death, Rybar added: “He made aesthetically very beautiful movements as he conducted, especially with the left hand.”
On 23 August 1949 Fritz Busch arrived by plane, from Amsterdam, in Zurich and departed by train to Copenhagen at noon on 15 September. His diary gives mostly places where he was to be, staying first at the Hôtel garni Rex, Weinbergstrasse 92, not too far from the Central Railway Station, later moving to stay with family friend Lily Reiff. Lunch and dinner engagements are equally recorded as faxes which are to be sent, letters which are to be written and phone calls which are to be made. On 25 August Busch was to attend the dress rehearsal of Act I of Lohengrin at the Municipal Theatre before having dinner at the Zunftstübli St Peter. On 29 August Fritz and Grete Busch celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary. Volkmar Andreae, music director of the Winterthur Municipal Orchestra, was to meet the Buschs on 31 August for lunch, and on 8 September a meeting with the manager of the Zurich Municipal Theatre, Hans Zimmermann took place. It remains unclear as to when Fritz Busch travelled to Winterthur to make the recordings; somewhere they will have been fit in prior to 9 September, when the Buschs travelled to Luzern and the Vierwaldstättersee, on 11 September to Meiringen and on 12 September to Hospental, to return to Zurich on 13 September. Hence most of Busch’s stay can be reconstructed but not exactly when the recordings took place. It seems probable that they were not made prior to 31 August, and according to two files in the Rybar estate in the Winterthurer Bibliotheken the recordings cannot have taken place on 3 and 4 September.
As an interview Tully Potter had with Peter Rybar for the Classic Record Collector makes clear, the recordings took place at the Gottfried Semper Stadthaus in Winterthur; Rybar recalled: “It had a marvellous hall, with about 1,200 seats and a beautiful acoustic.” After Busch had done some radio recordings, it was Rybar who contacted him at short notice. In the above-mentioned interview, Rybar explains that “it happened that I knew Fritz Busch was in Zurich to conduct for the Radio [possibly Radio Beromünster]. I immediately jumped into my car and asked him whether he would like to do some recordings with the Winterthur Orchestra for the CHS [Concert Hall Society]. He looked at me in a strange way but I went on: ‘Yes, you are right, I want to engage you.’ He laughed and accepted.” Apart from the Mozart Serenade and the Schubert Symphony, two smaller pieces by Mendelssohn Bartholdy were recorded (which would not have fitted on this CD and are to follow on another one).
Busch’s reputation as a Mozart conductor is more than well-known – and here we have Busch as close to conduct a Mozart concerted work as one ever gets on record – apart from the opening movement from the Piano Concerto in C, K. 467 (with Rudolf Serkin, dating form 1935), no Mozart Concerto has come as either a commercial studio production or a radio broadcast. With his brisk tempi, his recurrence to the original score (as much as it was possible for him, and usually dropping repeats) and his talent for bringing the architectural structure vividly to life he is one of the most important conductors of the first half of the 20th century. Also, he had the added bonus to have had Fritz Steinbach, the eminent Brahms conductor, as his teacher, and to have been a close acquaintance of composers as diverse as Max Reger, Hans Pfitzner, Richard Strauss, Kurt Weill or Paul Hindemith. Mozart’s Haffner Serenade of 1776 as well as Schubert’s Symphony in B flat of 1816 receive readings full of energy as well as lyricism, with Peter Rybar’s violin solos perfectly integrated.
Adolf Busch biographer Tully Potter has thoroughly written on Rybar, who had studied in Geneva, Leipzig, Prague, and, with Carl Flesch, in Paris. He made himself a name with repertoire Fritz Busch was hardly ever involved with – he premiered Igor Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto in Prague and, the composer attending, in Paris. He befriended Bohuslav Martinu, Rudolf Firkušny, Rafael Kubelík, poet Robert Trevelyan, Donald Tovey, Julius Röntgen and Adolf and Fritz Busch. Rybar arrived in Switzerland in 1938 and was contracted as leader of the Winterthur Municipal Orchestra, a body founded in 1875, and teacher at the Conservatoire from 1939. In Winterthur, where he remained until 1965, he had ideal working conditions, and his teaching skills attracted many students. Having retired to Caslano, near Lake Lugano, Rybar was persuaded by Wolfgang Sawallisch to take the leader’s post with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva – violinist and conductor lasted a decade there and left together, in 1980. He gave his last public performances in 1986.
© Jürgen Schaarwächter, Max-Reger-Institut, Karlsruhe, 2010

CD's with Busch Fritz
GREAT CONDUCTORS at the Metropolitan Opera - Wagner Lohengrin Act I 1945 - Tristan & Isolde Act II 1943 - Die Meistersänger Act II 1945

ArtNr. GHCD 2300/01/02

Fritz Busch - Haydn and Mozart (1948-51)

ArtNr. GHCD 2339

Fritz Busch - Beethoven Symphony No. 9 (1949-50)

ArtNr. GHCD 2343

Fritz Busch - Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms (1950)

ArtNr. GHCD 2354

Fritz Busch - Strauss & Mozart (1934-36)

ArtNr. GHCD 2356

Fritz Busch - Mozart, Schubert (1949)

ArtNr. GHCD 2352

Fritz Busch - Alfvén Mendelssohn Schubert Wagner (1946 & 1949)

ArtNr. GHCD 2366

Fritz Busch - Brahms, Mozart, Reger (1919, 1931, 1948-51)

ArtNr. GHCD 2371

Fritz Busch in Stockholm (1938-1949)

ArtNr. GHCD 2372

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