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Fritz Busch (1890-1951)


The recording of Idomeneo (Mozart), the 1950 Glyndebourne production with Sena Jurinac, Richard Lewis, Dorothy McNeil and Alexander Young, conducted by Fritz Busch, received a "Grand Prix du Disque".























The reissue on Music for Pleasure of the recording made of the Glyndebourne production of Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart) in 1934 (Classics for Pleasure CFP 117-118).











RCA Victor's 5 EP set of Busch's Glyndebourne's 'Cosi fan tutte'



Regina Resnik in the 1950s.




Regina Resnik, leading dramatic soprano at the MET in 1952.
Image taken from a booking ad of William L. Stein Inc.












Carl Bamberger conducts the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra in Schumann's Symphony No. 1, Op. 38 on MMS 148, coupled with Fritz Busch conducting "Symphonie-Orchester Winthertur" in Overture "Die schöne Melusine", Op. 32 (Mendelssohn-Bartholdy).












The Haydn's Symphony No. 101 in D Major The Clock: The Austrian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Busch.











Examples of the early Masterseal label from 1951 (above) and of the later label from 1957 of the Busch Memorial issue (below).











An early edition of the Eroica Symphony.








Beethoven's 3rd Symphony on a late release in the nineteen sixties from Italy: Vibraton VB K 2002. The recording was originally produced by Marcel Prawy.











Fritz Busch on the cover of an early catalog when Remington Records was still located at 263 West 54th St., the first address of the company.



















Search The Remington Site













View also 'BUSCH MSS' - listing Busch's manuscripts.

See also the extensive Fritz Busch article in French Wikipedia













As is the case with so many artists who appeared on Remington, also of conductor Fritz Busch there are only a few performances released on this early nineteen fifties label. They landed there merely by accident, one would suspect. However it was impresario Marcel Prawy in Vienna who sought the opportunity to make recordings of "the conductor with the pure style".


In 1950 there were many recordings of Fritz Busch on 78 RPM shellac discs available, like excerpts from Wagner's 'Tristan und Isolde', a performance of Richard Strauss's 'Don Juan' and several complete Mozart operas from the productions of John Christie's Glyndebourne Festival in the nineteen thirties.

Fritz Busch (at far left) in 1950 in Glyndebourne with John Christie, Carl Ebert (Producer) and Moran Caplat (General Manager).
Picture taken from the cover of His Master's Voice LP Mozart at Glyndebourne (ALP 1731).

However, performances of Busch released uniquely on the new medium, the Long Playing record, were non existent, except for the odd Concert Hall Society CHC-61 of Schubert's Fifth Symphony with the Winterthur Symphony Orchestra, released in the fall of 1950.
Concert Hall CHC-61 Schubert Symphony No. 5: Fritz Busch conducting the Winterthur Symphony Orchestra.

Dubbings of 78 RPM plates would only gradually appear in the new format. The first was RCA Victor's 2 LP set (LCT 6001) of the 1934 production of 'The Marriage of Figaro', issued in 1952. Singers were Roy Henderson (baritone), Aulikki Rautavaara (soprano), Audrey Mildmay (soprano), Wili Domgraf-Fassbänder (baritone), Haddle Nash (tenor), Norman Allin and Italo Tajo (bass), Constance Willis (mezzo soprano), Luise Hellesgruber (soprano), Fergus Dunlop (bass), Morgan Jones (tenor), Winifred Radford, Fritz Busch conducting.

The later reissue on LP of this same recording of 'Le nozze di Figaro' on Music for Pleasure EMI LP (CFP 117-118) - shows an exceptionally high sound quality. No wonder 'Figaro's Hochzeit' was the first recording in the Busch discography to be transferred to LP.
The opera was recorded by HMV at Glyndebourne Theater, Sussex, England on 6/6/34, 24/6/35 and 28/6/35. First released as Volume 1 of "The Mozart Opera Society" in 1934, and Volumes 2-3 followed in 1935.

NOTE If you do not play vinyl, or if you cannot find the analog HMV transfer to LP, it is good to know that 'Le nozze di Figaro' on 78 RPM discs was transferred to CD by
Pristine Audio, the company which restores and transfers historical material with great success.

Satisfying sales of a Remington disc with Fritz Busch conducting could not only result from the fact that Fritz Busch was considered a significant musician and opera conductor worldwide, but also that during the nineteen forties his name had become familiar to many New Yorkers. During World War Two Fritz Busch was Musical Director of the New Opera Company for several seasons, and after the war he conducted productions of the New York Metropolitan on various occasions.

Dr. Fritz Busch, founder and director of the Glyndebourne Mozart Festivals, formerly Chief Conductor of the Stuttgart Opera and General Music Director of the Dresden State Opera.
Picture edited by R.A.B., taken from The Etude magazine, April 1943. (SoundFountain Archive)

During his New York period, Fritz Busch was interviewed for the Etude Magazine. The interview was published in the April 1943 issue.
The introduction of the article gives a short biography and a survey of his career compiled from the information he gave to the editors of the magazine.

Fritz Busch, son of the distinguished violin maker, Wilhelm Busch, and brother of Adolf Busch, violinist, and of Hermann Busch, violoncellist, has contributed more perhaps than any other contemporary musician to the vitality of opera. Dr. Busch became operatic conductor at Riga at the age of nineteen, and two years later he entered upon the duties of Director of Music at Aachen. He succeeded Max von Schillings as chief conductor of the Stuttgart Opera and, from 1922 to the beginning of the currently political regime in Germany, served as General Musical Director of the State Opera at Dresden. During this period he presented world premieres of the operatic works of Richard Strauss, Busoni, Hindemith, Weill, Wolf-Ferrari, and Stravinsky, besides launching a Verdi revival which drew the attention of the musical world. In 1934 Dr. Busch launched the notable Mozart Festivals at Glyndebourne, England, during which more than two hundred performances of Mozart's operas were given. After a period of activity in Buenos Aires, Dr. Busch assumed directorship of the New Opera Company, in the USA. Under the sponsorship of Mrs. Lytle Hull, the New Opera Company has a twofold goal: the presentation of intimate, chamber opera under the highest of traditional artistic standards, and the training of young, entirely inexperienced American singers. - Etude Magazine, April 1943

In his conversation, with Burton Paige of Etude Magazine, Fritz Busch specifically aimed his attention at young singers. He states that he does not like the 'star' system, but wants to give young and new talents a chance and to educate them by providing the necessary professional experience.
Fritz Busch:

"In my work in pre-Nazi Dresden, I accepted dozens of untried, inexperienced young singers into the company, many of whom today, hold distinguished posts in great houses of the world. They showed no greater ability, when I found them, than do young Americans who have sung for me - but they were enabled to reach greater heights because of a sustained period of routine experience and drill." - Fritz Busch, Etude Magazine, April, 1943

Erna Berger was one of the singers he certainly was referring to, and he certainly meant Sena Jurinac whose mentor he was. Fritz Busch also played a significant role in the career of Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender. Just to name a few.
Numerous are the names of artists who had been given a chance to receive a formal education and to reach a high degree of professionalism.
Fritz Busch had also given proof of his ideas with the New Opera Company when, in 1942, he let Regina Resnik sing Lady Macbeth. Ms. Regina Resnik sent me this recollection in the summer of 2005:

"I can describe the incredible beginning of my operatic life, thanks to Maestro Busch.
I was 19 years old when I sang the entrance aria of Lady Macbeth for Maestro Busch and his son Hans. Instead of a position in the chorus, which I thought was going to be offered to me, they offered to teach me the role of the Lady as a COVER UNDERSTUDY.
In the morning of December 4, 1942, I was called to come to the Broadway theater at 8 pm. Under a work light, in costume, I was walked through the opera (most of which I sang) with maestro Fritz Stiedry alone in the pit and a piano on stage.
The following day, December 5th, with Toscanini present in the audience, I sang Lady Macbeth, replacing the ailing soprano Florence Kirk. (Stiedry conducting for Busch, who heard the performance in the theater.) I had NO position or power to make ANY wish known. I only had to sing to prove the faith the New Opera Company had shown in putting this beginner on stage in that role. I was completely prepared, yet completely unaware of the possible consequences. The fact that my preparation was so complete - I will always owe this to Dr.Busch - I was thrown into the Olympic swimming pool."
- Regina Resnik (August 1st, 2005)

(Regina Resnik, August 30, 1922 – August 8, 2013)

"Regina Resnik enjoys the distinction of being an American-trained artist who is not only a star member of the Metropolitan Opera Company, but is also a regular visitor of the European stages of Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera and the major German theaters. The variety and emotional scope of her roles have earned her the distinction of being the leading singer-actress of our day.Her roles range from Klytemnestra in Strauss' "Elektra" (sung recently both in San Francisco and at the Metropolitan) to Mistress Quicly in "Falstaff". In between lie the other great mezzo roles: Eboli, Amneris, the Old Countess in "Queen of Spades", and, of coarse, Carmen, a role that has given her an especially bright international reputation." - Gian Carlo Menotti (on the cover of Columbia MS 7387, The Medium - 1979).

After the war -when the New Opera Company was more or less replaced by the New York City Opera - Fritz Busch often conducted at the Metropolitan Opera, the company which, strangely enough, produced the opera performances precisely on the basis of the 'star system' which he disliked so much.

The art of Fritz Busch can be seen in Verdi's 'Otello', the first live telecast ever of an entire opera. It was done from the stage of the old Metropolitan Opera House with Lucia Albanese, John Garris, Thomas Hayward, Martha Lipton, Nicola Moscona, Ramón Vinay and Leonard Warren. That was in 1948! At the time Hans Peter Busch, son of Fritz Busch, was one of the first directors of the NBC-TV opera theater.

In this New York context the release of Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, Opus 55, 'Eroica', performed with the Austrian Symphony Orchestra on Remington R-199-21 is not only logical but also rather unique. The Schwann catalog of June 1951 lists the Remington disc (which was released in the first months of that year), and that is well before September 14th of 1951, the day the maestro died.
So the appearance of Busch on Remington was not the ultimate marketing trick with the conductor's passing away in mind, as some may have assumed later. It became however a quasi memorial album and it is suspected that quite a lot of copies were sold worldwide.

At left an early issue of the recording of the Third Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven performed by the Niederösterreichisches Tonkünstler- Orchester in Vienna. The performance was recorded in the Brahmssaal of the Musikverein in October, 1950.

In High Fidelity Magazine (Spring 1952 issue - Vol. 1, No. 4) reviewer C.G. Burke wrote an extensive article entitled "Beethoven on records". In it he compared the available Eroica recordings of Arturo Toscanini, Bruno Walter, Fritz Busch, Willem Mengelberg, Carl Schuricht, Erich Kleiber, Serge Koussevitzky, and Paul Shubert. About the Fritz Busch Remington disc he writes:

"Busch has the best balance, but the exuberant treble of his violins cannot be subdued on all apparatuses."

And about Beethoven's 8th he writes: "Busch: The most reflective and tempered perusal of the Eighth - unusual treatment, not disappealing. Also the most incicive direction, the cleanest orchestral response and, after Muench, the greatest impression of orchestral weight. The treble on the amplifier needs careful adjustment to discipline the violins on this disc."

Warren DeMotte's evaluation of the recording of Beethoven's Third Symphony in 'The Long Playing Record Guide' may sound as a warning to some, but to others as an incentive to buy the record: "Busch leads an inferior orchestra in a superior performance."
The inferiority certainly being caused for a great deal by the low technical quality of the matrix and the subsequent pressing on cheap plastic. Yes, the sound is thin, but that could be corrected somewhat by boosting the bass and turn down the treble on the tube amplifier, as was the custom in those days. Yet the orchestra is very disciplined and succeeds in following for a good deal the ideas of the conductor who himself seems to follow the score in a strict manner. It is a style which is in contrast to the deeper sensitivity of performances by Wilhelm Furtwangler, the other famous conductor of that same generation. - R.A.B.

Marcel Prawy: "Attention... "

From right to left: Dr. Hans Sachs, Marcel Prawy, Prof. Fritz Busch, and two unidentified persons (probably an official of the orchestra and a recording technician) during the playback of a recording.
Image courtesy KHM-Museumsverband, Vienna.

Donald Gabor issued a special series of recordings on the Masterseal label pressed on better vinyl. There were recordings of Vittorio Gui, Oscar Strauss (the factual conductor was not Oscar Strauss but Max Schönherr), Erich Wolfgang von Korngold, Paul Schöffler together with Gaspar Cassado, and Volkmar Andreae.

On Masterseal MW 39 Haydn's Symphony No. 101 (The Clock) and Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 was released. Haydn's The Clock was also available on a 10 inch disc with reference R-149-31. Cecil Smith commented on it when reviewing a batch of Remington records in The New Republic of April 23, 1951:

"The best orchestral performance in the group I listened to is Haydn's Symphony No. 101 ("The Clock"), conducted with taste by Fritz Busch, played expertly by the Austrian Symphony Orchestra, and cleanly and brightly recorded." - Cecil Smith, 1951.

It is indeed a lively performance, full of nuances.

Haydn's 'The Clock' was simultaneously released on Remington. The Masterseal was issued around February 1952. It was listed in the March 1952 Schwann Catalog which was available one month earlier.

A quote from the liner notes of the release of Masterseal MW 39 as a special Fritz Busch Memorial Album:

Late in 1950 he (Fritz Busch) conducted a concert and performances of "Meistersinger" and "Marriage of Figaro" in Vienna. Critics wrote that "a new spirit had enlivened the city's musical world." "International Masterworks, Inc." is proud that Fritz Busch consented to record for them during his few three hours there. After the recording sessions, he addressed the Austria State Symphony in a wonderful farewell speech, quoting Robert Schumann: "Where enthusiasm is the guiding spirit - there is the center of the world". These words are a symbol of the life of Fritz Busch, cruelly cut short by his sudden death (...).

NOTE The noteworthy Masterseal disc with Volkmar Andreae conducting Bruckner's Symphony no. 1 with The Niederösterreichisches Tonkünstler Orchester (Masterseal ML 40) was released in the fall of 1951 but for unknown reasons, was deleted two years later, November 1953, probably for reasons of copyright, and reappeared in Europe on the Philips label. This recording was never released on Remington and did not reappear in the US on a different label.

The Masterseal label was created by Don Gabor for specific recordings. The discs had a list price of $6.45 for a 12 inch record. The recordings were considered special and probably the license fee was higher than for other recordings produced by Marcel Prawy. And Gabor may have created the label also to please Prawy.

In April 1953 the Busch performances of Haydn No. 101 and Beethoven's 8th were issued as Remington R-199-149 and the earlier Masterseal Memorial Album was no longer available.
The high reference number of R-199-149 would suggest that it was a Musirama recording and was profiting from the technical advancement of that technique. But since it was recorded in 1950, it is not.
Warren De Motte wrote about the recording of Beethoven's 8th, Op. 93: "Busch squeezes the last drop of technique out of an inferior orchestra." This reflects that the maestro asked for discipline and precision. But the performance also shows the tension and the hectic life the conductor had which led to his rather unexpected and early death. Despite the low technical qualities of the recordings and the capabilities of the orchestras, these recordings are part of to the legacy of a great conductor.

Fritz Busch was born in Siegen on March 13, 1890. His father was an ardent violin player and as a young man was wandering through Germany, more or less following his bliss. He was too poor to pay for official violin studies. When he came to München-Gladbach, he met a twenty year older lady who promised to pay for his studies in Liège. They married and the couple bought a small inn in the Dutch town of Venlo. The business was not successful and father Busch started wandering again. When he came to Siegen to play at a wedding, he met Ms. Schmidt, his future wife. The first born from this marriage was Fritz. When the young boy was six years old, he went to school and his teacher was asked to give piano lessons as well. Brother Adolph also studied music. They formed a trio with their father: Fritz Busch playing piano, Adolph playing the violin and the father was the cellist.

From 1906 till 1909 young Fritz studied at the Conservatory of Cologne (Kölner Konservatorium) with Karl Boettcher. But Boettcher was a severe teacher. Only when Fritz was studying with professor Uzielli, a pupil of Clara Schumann, Boettcher allowed Fritz Busch to study in the conductor's class. He then started playing in the opera orchestra of Cologne under the sincere Felix Weingartner and the charming, improviser Arthur Nikisch. He fell in love with Grete Boettcher, his teacher's niece, engaged in secret, and got married.

Fritz Busch and Grete Boettcher
Picture submitted by Mme Fabian Gastellier-Hathorn

After passing his exam he was given the post of conductor of the Riga Opera and during summers he worked in Pyrmont. Then followed posts at Aachen, Stuttgart and Dresden.

Fritz Busch with Richard Strauss. After Toscanini had refused to conduct at Bayreuth, Fritz Busch was asked. But he refused to work in Germany after the takeover by the Nazis. Richard Strauss filled in the gap. The management in Bayreuth did not have time enough to have new posters printed. Early in 1933 Fritz Busch left the country to work in England, Argentina, Sweden, and the United States of America.

The Nazis were eager to keep Fritz Busch for their cultural and political aims. Hermann Göring himself tried to convince Busch to stay. The new regime wanted him to conduct at Bayreuth. But Busch had already the official invitation for Argentina in his pocket. In 1933 he left Germany bringing his daughters to England. From there he traveled via Holland to Switzerland and when his son Hans Peter had arrived from Rome, he embarked on the "Conte Biancamano" and traveled into the free world as Busch said.
In 1934 he was involved in the founding of the Glyndebourne Opera Company. From then on he also worked in Buenos Aires to lead the Teatro Colón. During the war he led the New Opera Company in New York and after the war the Metropolitan Opera. In 1950 he became principal conductor of the Orchestra Society of Copenhagen (Københavns Orkesterforening).

Fritz Busch was a very creative man and he knew very well how to inspire the singers and other members of the productions. His creativity is most evident in the recordings of his direction at Glyndebourne. If he would have had a better orchestra at his disposal in Vienna, and if his performances for Remington would have been taped with professional care and using a better technique, his Eroica, Beethoven's Symphony No. 8, and Haydn's No.101, would have shown much more of the maestro's outstanding artistry.

Fritz Busch (who at the age of twelve had bought himself a baton), was predestined to become a great conductor. He died too early in his career of a heart attack, on September 14, 1951, in London.

Fritz Busch at 60 during a recording session. It is the same photograph featured on the earliest Remington Records catalog. On its cover is printed the following testimony:

"I record for Remington Records because it offers me the possibility to reach the widest audiences on high fidelity quality recordings at prices everyone is able to pay..."
Fritz Busch conductor.

Picture taken from the back of an early Remington cover.
Edited by R.A. Bruil.

(c) Rudolf A. Bruil. Page first published June 10th, 2005

Data about his youth, his family and brothers are from Fritz Busch's autobiography "Fritz Busch, Aus dem Leben eines Musikers", Rascher Verlag Zürich, 1949.



Copyright 1995-2009 by Rudolf A. Bruil