The Music Column

Adolf Busch & Colleagues

Some two decades ago, I found myself preparing for a trip to Niagara Falls, where I was to meet a lady.  I had not been to Niagara Falls before, though I was familiar with the movie Niagara (Hathaway, 1953), which has sometimes been called the best Hitchcock movie not by Hitchcock.  I didn’t want to wind up as some did in that remarkable movie, and I had other things to think about as well.  One was the proximity of Watkins Glen and the legendary presences of such racing drivers as Jim Clark and Graham Hill, among others.  And yet another was a CD featuring the playing of Adolf Busch and Rudolf Serkin.  They were legends in their own way, and vivid presences, too, in their musical presentation.

On the road, the music on the CD was knockout new to me, though it should not have been—I wasn’t proud of that.  I had learned a bit about the glories of Franz Schubert decades before, when I was a kid.  The “heavenly length” of Schubert’s “Great” C Major Symphony (as Robert Schumann put it) was so much, and the divine curtailment of the “Unfinished” Symphony is not much less.  The death-haunted “Unfinished” (or Die Unvollendete, if we wish to boost the annoying possibilities) is imposingly quoted in such film noirs as Double Indemnity (Wilder, 1944), Sorry, Wrong Number (Litvak, 1948) and Kiss...

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