Adolf Busch’s Variations on an Original Theme
Notes by TŌN trumpet player Forrest Albano
The Composer and His Grandson
Adolf Busch composed his Variations on an Original Theme for piano four-hands as a Christmas gift to his wife shortly before she died in 1944. Busch’s grandson, Peter Serkin, adored the piece and grew up playing the Variations with his father, Rudolf. “I knew my grandfather only for some short time, since he died in 1952, when I was five, but I remember him well. . . . I will never forget his great warmth and goodness. His presence was memorable for his being so genuine, natural, and good-natured. I loved him for his being so accepting.”
A New Orchestration
Peter saw Busch’s Variations as a bond honoring his influential grandfather and dad. Peter and his father made a private recording of the Variations in 1961 at Columbia’s 30th Street studio in New York. Decades later, they recorded the Variations at Marlboro, a school and festival that Busch founded, in memory of his grandfather on his birthday in 1980. Later in Peter’s life, he started conceptualizing an orchestral arrangement of these Variations. “I am very fond of that piece, so a couple of years ago I orchestrated it, for full orchestra. This arrangement has not yet been played, and I would be very interested in hearing it.” Unfortunately, Peter Serkin passed away in 2020 before he could hear it performed. This concert will be the premiere of his orchestral arrangement.