Pristine Audio (Andrew Rose) has brought out a 3-CD set of most of the late Beethoven string quartets (nos. 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16) along with the first Rasumovsky, number 7; played by the Busch String Quartet. I've had these recordings for over 30 years, originally on LP, then on CD. The GROC transfers from EMI were not bad, but Andrew Rose's are better, with more “air” around the slightly warmer sound. It is excellent to have these really great performances from the 1930s (with a couple of early 1940s) in the best possible transfers. The Busch late Beethoven quartet performances are legendary, with an intensity that is especially noticeable in the slow movements (for example, the long 17 minute adagio of the E flat quartet, Op 127). The refurbished sound on these transfers is so good, and the performances so authoritative that I have to wonder why I keep shelves full of alternative versions; when it comes to the late Beethoven quartets, why would I listen to anyone other than the Busch? The transfers from the European recordings of the earlier 1930s sound better than the two transfers from the American recordings of the earlier 1940s, for some reason. And, oh, why did the Busch Quartet never record the Grosse Fuge!
For me, the late Beethoven quartets occupy the very pinnacle of classical music (along with some of Bach's major works). I cannot imagine better performances of this great music. Now on to Busch's Bach, Mr Rose! The Brandenburg concertos, in particular, have a joy in music making that communicates itself over the 80 years or so since the recordings were made. Unfashionable Busch's Bach may be at the present time; but it is still great, and thoroughly enjoyable.