Ferruccio Busoni, in full Ferruccio
Dante Michelangelo Benvenuto Busoni (born April 1, 1866, Empoli,
Tuscany [now in Italy]—died July 27, 1924, Berlin, Ger.), pianist
and composer who attained fame as a pianist of brilliance and
The son of an Italian clarinetist
and a pianist of German descent, Busoni was taught by his mother. He
appeared as a child prodigy and later completed his studies in
Vienna and Leipzig. In 1889 he became professor of piano at
Helsingfors, Fin. (now Helsinki), and from there he moved to Moscow
and later to the United States. From 1894 to 1914 (and again from
1920 until his death) he lived in Berlin, conducting a series of
orchestral concerts containing music by his contemporaries and
making concert tours devoted mainly to Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig
van Beethoven, and Franz Liszt. During World War I, divided in his
loyalty between Italy and Germany, he retired to Zürich. His most
ambitious work was the unfinished opera Doktor Faust, based not on
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s work but on earlier versions of the
Faust legend. It was completed by his pupil Philipp Jarnach and
performed in Dresden in 1925. Two other short operas, Arlecchino and
Turandot, composed at Zürich, attempted to revive the commedia
dell’arte in modern form. Busoni’s piano works include an immense
concerto with choral finale; six sonatinas, which contain the
essence of his musical thought; and the great Fantasia
Contrappuntistica on an unfinished fugue by Bach (two versions,
1910; one version, 1912; fourth version for two pianos, 1922), which
sums up his lifelong experience of Bach’s music.
Busoni made transcriptions for
piano of Bach organ works, notably of the Fantasie and Fugue in A
Minor, and he made arrangements of such Liszt piano pieces as La
Campanella and La Chasse that added polyphony to them. He wrote many
piano solo pieces, and, in addition to the piano concerto, he wrote
the Konzertstück (1890) and Indianische Fantasie (1914), both for
piano and orchestra. Orchestral works include incidental music for
Carlo Gozzi’s play Turandot (which preceded the opera) and an
orchestral suite and symphonic poem. He was also the author of the
highly-regarded Ästhetik der Tonkunst (1907; Sketch of a New
Esthetic of Music).
Portrait of Ferruccio Busoni, 1916
by Umberto Boccioni
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome
Busoni was born to musical
parents near Florence in Italy. He showed much early promise and
at the age of 12 conducted one of his own compositions. In 1881
he went to the Reale Accademia Filarmonica at Bologna, where his
talents were quickly noticed. He composed intensively during his
youth and in 1883 produced an oratorio, Il sabato de villaggio,
that received great acclaim. However, he became more
self-critical and his output diminished as he subjected many
works to substantial revision.
In 1886 Busoni studied with
Carl Reinecke in Leipzig. There he met a host of important
musicians, including Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Mahler, and Delius. The
following year he visited Helsinki, where he met Sibelius.
Shortly afterwards he toured the United States, consolidating
his reputation as a virtuoso pianist.
In 1894 Busoni settled in
Berlin, which except for the war years was his home for the rest
of his life. Busoni absorbed and contributed to the progressive
spirit of this city, renowned as a centre of artistic
excellence. In 1902 he organized a series of orchestral concerts
designed to promote the work of modern composers; he premiered
pieces by Bartok, Debussy, Delius, and Sibelius, as well as his
The following year he started
work on a Piano concerto, which clearly shows the influence of
Liszt. The piano part, although fiercely difficult, does not
rely on displays of virtuosity and often takes a subordinate
role to the orchestra. The music's intensity becomes almost
frenzied and culminates in the introduction of a male voice
choir in the final movement.
In 1907 Busoni published a
forward-looking treatise entitled Outline of a Sew Aesthetic of
Music, in which he propounded his idea of a modern but
understandable style of composition. His own work,
unfortunately, was often badly received and denounced by Berlin
critics for its use of Italian rather than German traditions.
In the closing days of 1909 he
set sail for the United States once more, where he undertook a
hectic schedule of concerts. Despite this he found time to write
another large-scale piano work, Fantasia contrappuntistica. This
takes the form of a gigantic fugue (a highly structured musical
form requiring great compositional skill) modelled on Bach's Art
In his last years Busoni became
increasingly interested in the stage and began work on a setting
of Goethe's Faust. The resulting intensely expressive and
concentrated work, Doktor Faust, attained a degree of
spirituality and mysticism unique in opera. The work was
unfinished when Busoni died; but in 1925, at a posthumous
performance of a completed version, it was revealed as embodying
the struggle between tradition and innovation that epitomized
Busoni's life's work.
Ferruccio Busoni - Toccata and Fugue in d minor, BWV 565, BV B 29b
Toccata and Fugue in d minor, BWV 565, BV B 29b, by Ferruccio
Busoni, with animated score.
Ferruccio Busoni, Indian Fantasy for piano and orchestra (Part 1)
Andante con molto, quasi marcia
Jeffrey Swann, piano
Ferruccio Busoni, Indian Fantasy for piano and orchestra (Part 2)
Andante, quasi lento
Jeffrey Swann, piano
Ferruccio Busoni, Indian Fantasy for piano and orchestra (Part 3)
Jeffrey Swann, piano
Busoni Ferruccio, Doktor Faust, T. Hampson, Gregory Kunde
Opera in two acts,composed in 1917.
Turandot, daughter of the Emperor, challenges all suitors for her
hand with three riddles. She will marry the one who answers
correctly, but those who fail are executed. Kalaf, an exiled prince
in disguise, takes up the challenge.
Kalaf comes upon the picture discarded by an earlier executed
suitor, and determines to win Turandot.
Emperor Altoum complains of Turandot's intransigence. Kalaf says he
would rather die than fail to win Turandot. Turandot enters with her
maid Adelma who recognises the Prince, but remains silent. Kalaf
correctly answers the three riddles, and challenges Turandot to
discover his name and parentage; if she does so, he will depart.
Slave girls dance to a wordless choral version of "Greensleeves".
Turandot confesses her mixed feelings for the Prince. Adelma says
she knows the Prince's name, and will tell Turandot if she can have
her freedom; Turandot agrees.
Turandot announces Kalaf's name to general consternation, and he
makes ready to depart. But Turandot stops him, saying he has
awakened her heart. The work closes with a final ensemble 'Was ist
das alle Menschen bindet?' ("What is it that rules all men?") to
which is the reply 'Die Liebe' ("Love").
Andreas Daum , Hans de Vries , Friedemann Röhlig , Sebastian
Holecek , Nicholas Clapton , Arnold Bezuyen , Anthony Robins ,
Marten Smeding , Janny Zomer , Ellen Schuring , Johanna Duras ,
Claudia Patacca, Oxana Arkaeva , Anke Vondung , Boguslav Fiksinsky ,
Jasper Schweppe , Groot Omroepkoor, Christoph Stephinger , Tina
Kiberg , Anke Vondung.
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic/Gerd Albrecht.
Ferruccio Busoni - Berceuse
Berceuse élégiaque, for orchestra, Op. 42, KiV 252a (1909)
Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
Busoni wrote his Berceuse élégiaque for orchestra (1909)
as a memorial to his mother, who died in May of that year.
The work, subtitled "Des Mannes Wiegenlied am Sarge seiner
Mutter" (The Man's Cradle Song at His Mother's Coffin), also
carries the inscription "The child's cradle rocks, the
hazard of his fate reels; life's path fades, fades away into
the eternal distance."
In the Berceuse, Busoni makes one of his first ventures
into the realm of atonality, exhibiting a highly original
style that is all the more moving and impressive for its
resolutely quiet nature. The orchestration is delicate,
exploiting the possibilities of tone color in a manner
similar to that in Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra,
written in the same year, but not performed until 1912.
The Berceuse élégiaque was premiered in New York City on
February 21, 1911 in a concert conducted by the ailing
Gustav Mahler. The occasion was, as it turns out, the great
composer/conductor's final public appearance.
Busoni - Fantasia contrappuntistica - Petri
Preludio corale 0:00
Violin Sonata No.1 in E minor, Op.29, BV 234 (1889, published 1891)
0:10 / I. Allegro deciso — Vivace — Poco sostenuto [7'52'']
8:04 / II. Molto sostenuto — Più lento, Andante sostenuto — Tempo I°
— Tempo II° — Più sostenuto [6'57'']
15:05 / III. Allegro molto e deciso — Vivace — Tempo I° — In
frischem Tempo — nicht schleppen — Tempo I° — Con fuoco [7'47'']
Cristiano Rossi, violin
Marco Vincenzi, piano
Violin Sonata No.2 in E minor, Op.36a, BV 244 (1898/1900, publ.
0:10 / I. Langsam — a tempo un poco più andante — Poco con moto,
assai deciso — Adagio - [8'19'']
8:29 / II. Presto - [2'54'']
11:23 / III. Andante, piuttosto grave — |14:17| Thema. Andante con
moto (Choralgesang von J.S.BACH: "Wie wohl ist mir, o Freund der
Seelen, Wenn ich in deiner Liebe ruh'!") — |15:42| Var.1 Poco più
andante — |17:22| Var.2 Alla marcia, vivace — |18:22| Var.3 Lo
stesso movimento — |19:17| Var.4 Andante — |23:15| Var.5 Tranquillo
assai — |25:43| Var.6 Allegro deciso, un poco maestoso - Più lento —
|28:06| Coda: Più tranquillo, apoteotico - Tempo del Tema - Adagio
Cristiano Rossi, violin
Marco Vincenzi, piano
Horowitz, Bach-Busoni "Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland"