Brahms: Quintet in F/Schumann: Quintet in E-flat Import
These are wonderful performances, among the best ever recorded of either work. But this shouldn't be a necessary CD. Both recordings have been available in better transfers from the original 78s. The Brahms was an EMI CD with more Rudolf Serkin/Busch Brahms (the Piano Quartet No. 2). The Schumann is still on Biddulph LAB 103, where it keeps company with other congenial late Romantic repertory. Unfortunately, EMI has deleted its CD, meaning you have to put up with Pearl's so-so transfer to hear this great performance of the Brahms Piano Quintet. Since Pearl's CD is listenable, it's a viable option if you want to hear these musicians at work. --Leslie Gerber
1. Pearl's transfers are acceptable here. Consistent with that label's "as is" philosophy of transferring 78 rpm records, there is more shellac background noise here than in the slightly superior alternatives from EMI and Biddulph, but Pearl's are definitely very listenable. Even though I own those other issues, I keep this one for playing in my car.
2. The Brahms Piano Quintet (recorded 1938) was available on now hard to find and out of print EMI 134499, coupled with the Piano Quartet #2 (from 1932). The Schumann Piano Quintet (1942)was also on Biddulph LAB 103, which has sadly been deleted since Gerber's review was written. The latter CD also had the 1941 account of Dvorak's String Quartet op. 51 (gorgeous performance!) and Mozart's String Quartet K. 428 (recorded 1942). I'm sure Mr. Gerber did not mean to designate the latter as "other congenial late Romantic repertory."
3. The Busch account of the Brahms is, to my ears, one of the three truly outstanding "historic" versions - the others are Harold Bauer with the Flonzaley Quartet (a 1920's reading that I have on Victrola LP) and the Victor Aller/Hollywood Quartet from 1955 (Testament - see my review).
4. This Schumann reading is really superb. It's one of the two great accounts on 78s (the other was the 1926 Gabrillowitsch/Flonzaley Quartet - again, mine's on Victrola LP). My other favorites: Aller/Hollywood (Testament) and the 1963 Serkin/Budapest (on a CBS CD, coupled with a pretty dreary account of the Schumann Piano Concerto by Serkin & Ormandy). The Serkin/Busch is surprisingly uptempo in the second mvt. (7:42) but it coheres beautifully (Aller/Hollywood and Serkin/Bush both take about 9:30 and are more rubato-laden). To my ears, all three of these are vastly preferable to the live Richter/Borodin on Teldec (where the strings are hard-sounding and overbearing) and the Frankl/Lindsay Quartet on ASV (which, like the Serkin/Busch, has an unusually fast 2nd mvt.). I have nothing against Frankl, but frankly I wouldn't give a plugged nickel for the Lindsay's entire out of tune discography (with the Amadeus Quartet's total output thrown in for free!).
5. This Pearl set will probably join its competing transfers from EMI and Biddulph in the deleted category, so don't hesitate for too long.