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Ferruccio Busoni

April 1, 1866 - July 27, 1924
born in Empoli, Italy, composed during the Modern period
Ferruccio Busoni was the son of an Italian clarinet virtuoso who was a harsh and demanding pedagogue. Under the thumb of his father, Busoni developed a virtuoso keyboard technique that is in itself the stuff of legend. He began composing early, adding opus numbers to his works from the beginning. Reaching Opus 40 at age 17, Busoni decided go backward to number 31 and start over, causing no end of grief to scholars who attempted to edit his works later.

From an early age, Busoni pursued a serious interest in the music of J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Liszt. Although Busoni's reputation as a piano virtuoso of the first rank was established in Europe by the end of the 1880s, he first made his mark as an editor of Bach's keyboard music. While today these editions are regarded as among the most intrusive and heavily marked Bach scores ever made, Busoni's marginal remarks about Bach's thought processes and the analytic value of these comments influenced Bach scholars and composers for generations.

In 1896, Busoni found his mature compositional voice in the Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 36b, which takes a theme of Bach and submits it to a complex series of variations. In 1904, Busoni followed that with his huge piano concerto. Cast in five movements, it runs 90 minutes and contains parts for a chorus. In 1907, Busoni published a series of writings as Sketch for a New Esthetic of Music. This book proposes a wide variety of new compositional techniques then relatively uninvestigated in Western music, such as microtonal scales and electronics. By 1912, Busoni had composed his first entirely non-key centered composition, the Sonatina seconda. The basis for his definitive style is to be found here; it is neither wholly tonal nor completely atonal, but is placed in a sort of harmonic netherworld in between. In the years left to him, Busoni composed four operas, Die Brautwahl (1912), Arlecchino (1915), Turandot (1917), and Doktor Faust (1924). His major keyboard work is the Fantasia Contrappuntistica (1911-1922), a piece that concludes with a massive fugue built out of the unfinished Contrapunctus XXIV of Bach's Die Kunst der Fuge.

Busoni conducted master classes in composition and taught piano. Among his composition students, Kurt Weill made perhaps the most masterly use of Busoni's Apollonian approach to opera and his quirky sense of harmony. Another Busoni pupil, Otto Luening, helped pioneer the use of electronics in music. As a piano teacher, Busoni also started off an international school of super-virtuosos. Claudio Arrau and Egon Petri are good examples of what Busoni wrought in terms of pianists. As to Busoni's own playing, there are some phonograph records of him made in 1919 and an enormous number of piano rolls. The records only hint at what his playing might've sounded like, but some of the better rolls offer a more generous sample of his artistry at the keyboard.

After his death, Busoni was regarded as a great piano virtuoso whose own music was seemingly incomprehensible. Busoni's thinking would have a more decisive impact on later composers, such as John Cage and Morton Feldman, and in the early '80s, his music experienced a small-scale revival of interest. There is little reason to be afraid of Busoni, as his best music is tremendously exciting, accessible, and endlessly thought-provoking. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis , Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Busoni: Doktor Faust

Title: Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303

1. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Prologue 1. Euerer Magnifizenz Verzeihung

2. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Prologue 1. Also Lasst Die Studenten Ein

3. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Prologue 1. Wer Seid Ihr?

4. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Prologue 2. Ein Einzelner Blieb

5. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Prologue 2. Willst Du Mir Dienen?

6. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Scene 1. Was Wunscht Die Schone Herrin Zu Erschauen?

7. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Scene 1. Endet Das Spiel!

8. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Scene 1. Er Ruft Mich

9. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Scene 1. Was Wichtges, Sagt Ihr?

10. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Intermezzo

11. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Scene 2. So Lang Man Jugend Hat

12. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Final Scene. Ihr Manner Und Frauen, Lasst Euch Sagen

13. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Final Scene. Die Antrittsrede Euerer Magnifizenz

14. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Final Scene. Das Haus Ist Mir Bekannt

15. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Final Scene. Meine Bosen Geister

16. Doktor Faust, Opera In 8 Scenes (unfinished), KiV 303: Final Scene. Blut Meines Blutes

x

Track List: Busoni: Piano Concerto; Turandot Suite; Sarabande And Cortege

Disc 1
Title: Berceuse Élégiaque, For Orchestra, Op. 42, KiV 252a
Disc 2
Title: Turandot Suite, For Orchestra, Op. 41, KiV 248
Title: Sarabande & Cortège, For Orchestra (Zwei Studien Zu "Doktor Faust"), Op. 51, KiV 282
Title: Sonatina Ad Usum Infantis, For Piano (No.3), KiV 268
Title: Zehn Variationen Über Das Prelude Von F. Chopin Op. 28/20 In C Minor, K. 293 (Klavierübung II/1), Op. 22, KiV 213a
Title: Elegien, Suite Of Elegies (6) For Piano, KiV 249
Title: Sonatina Super Carmen, For Piano (No. 6), KiV 284
x

Track List: Busoni: Piano Music

Title: Wachet Auf, Ruft Uns Die Stimme, Transcription For Piano (After J. S. Bach, Bwv 645; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 2), Kiv B27/2
Title: Toccatas, Transcriptions (2) For Piano In D Minor & C Major (Bwv 564/565; Bbga 7/3), Kiv B29
Title: Ich ruf' zu dir, transcription for piano (after J.S. Bach, BWV 639; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 5), KiV B27/5
Title: Elegien, Suite Of Elegies (6 Or 7) For Piano, Kiv 249
Title: Sonatina seconda, for piano (No. 2), KiV 259
Title: Toccata: Preludio, Fantasia, Ciaccona, for piano, KiV 287
x

Track List: Busoni: Piano Music, Vol. 1

Title: Toccatas, Transcriptions (2) For Piano In D Minor & C Major (Bwv 564/565; Bbga 7/3), Kiv B29

1. Toccatas, Transcriptions (2) For Piano In D Minor & C Major (Bwv 564/565; Bbga 7/3), Kiv B29: Toccata & Fugue in D Minor, Bwv 565

Title: Prelude & Fugue, For Piano In C Minor, Op. 21, KiV 85

2. Prelude & Fugue, For Piano In C Minor, Op. 21, KiV 85: Busoni- Prelude & Fugue In C Minor

Title: An Die Jugend, Pieces (4) For Piano, KiV 254

3. An Die Jugend, Pieces (4) For Piano, KiV 254: I. reludietto, Fughetta Ed Esercizio

4. An Die Jugend, Pieces (4) For Piano, KiV 254: II. Preludio, Fuga E Fuga Figurata

5. An Die Jugend, Pieces (4) For Piano, KiV 254: III. Giga, Bolero E Variazione

6. An Die Jugend, Pieces (4) For Piano, KiV 254: IV. Introduzione E Capriccio (Paganinesco)

7. An Die Jugend, Pieces (4) For Piano, KiV 254: V. Epilogo

Title: Fantasia Contrappuntistica (I), For Piano ("Edizione Definitiva"), KiV 256

8. Fantasia Contrappuntistica (I), For Piano ("Edizione Definitiva"), KiV 256: Fantasia Contrappuntistica; Preludio Corale

9. Fantasia Contrappuntistica (I), For Piano ("Edizione Definitiva"), KiV 256: Fuga I

10. Fantasia Contrappuntistica (I), For Piano ("Edizione Definitiva"), KiV 256: Fuga II

11. Fantasia Contrappuntistica (I), For Piano ("Edizione Definitiva"), KiV 256: Fuga

12. Fantasia Contrappuntistica (I), For Piano ("Edizione Definitiva"), KiV 256: Intermezzo

13. Fantasia Contrappuntistica (I), For Piano ("Edizione Definitiva"), KiV 256: Stretta

x

Track List: Busoni: Piano Works

Title: Sonatina Super Carmen, For Piano (No. 6), KiV 284
Title: Sechs Stücke, For Piano, Op. 33b, KiV 241
Title: Elegien, Suite Of Elegies (6 Or 7) For Piano, Kiv 249

5. Elegien, Suite Of Elegies (6 Or 7) For Piano, Kiv 249: Berceuse

Title: Fantasia Nach J. S. Bach, For Piano, KiV 253
Title: An Die Jugend, Pieces (4) For Piano, KiV 254
Title: Sonatina seconda, for piano (No. 2), KiV 259
Title: Indian Diary: First Book, For Piano ("Four Studies On Motives By American Indians"), KiV 267
Title: Toccata: Preludio, Fantasia, Ciaccona, for piano, KiV 287
Title: Praeludium & Fuge, Transcription For Piano In D Major (after J. S. Bach, BWV 532), KiV B20
x

Track List: Busoni: Songs

Title: Zwei Lieder, Songs (2) For Voice & Piano, Op. 31, KiV 167
Title: Album Vocale, Songs (4) For Voice & Piano, Op. 30, KiV 114
Title: Zwei Altdeutsche Lieder, Songs (2) For Voice & Piano, Op. 18, KiV 207
Title: Zwei Lieder, Songs (2) For Voice & Piano, Op. 15, KiV 202
Title: Zwei Lieder, Songs (2) For Voice & Piano, Op. 24, KiV 216
Title: Des Sängers Fluch, Ballade For Voice & Piano, Op. 39, KiV 98
Title: Lied Des Brander, Song For Voice & Piano, KiV 299
Title: Songs (2), For Baritone & Small Orchestra, Op. 49, KiV 277-8
Title: Lied Des Unmuts, Song For Voice & Piano, KiV 281
Title: Zigeunerlied, For Voice & Piano, Op. 55/2, KiV 295a
Title: Schlechter Trost, Song For Voice & Piano, KiV 298a
Title: Reminiscenza Rossiniana, Arietta For Voice & Piano, KiV Deest
x

Track List: David Rubinstein Plays Busoni (Seven Elegies) & Bach-Busoni

Title: Elegien, Suite Of Elegies (6 Or 7) For Piano, Kiv 249

2. Elegien, Suite Of Elegies (6 Or 7) For Piano, Kiv 249: All'italia!

3. Elegien, Suite Of Elegies (6 Or 7) For Piano, Kiv 249: No. 3. Meine Seele Bangt Und Hofft Zu Dir (Moderato, Un Pò Maestoso)

4. Elegien, Suite Of Elegies (6 Or 7) For Piano, Kiv 249: Turandots Frauengemach

5. Elegien, Suite Of Elegies (6 Or 7) For Piano, Kiv 249: No 5. Die Nächtlichen

7. Elegien, Suite Of Elegies (6 Or 7) For Piano, Kiv 249: Berceuse

Title: Chaconne, Transcription For Piano In D Minor (After J. S. Bach, Bwv 1004), Kiv B24
x

Track List: Ferruccio Busoni: Music for Cello & Piano

Title: Albumblatt, For Flute (or Muted Violin) & Piano In E Minor, KiV 272
Title: Chromatic Fantasy And Fugue, Arrangement For Cello & Piano (after J. S. Bach, BWV 903; BBGA 7/7), KiV B38
Title: Kleine Suite, For Cello & Piano, Op. 23, KiV 215
Title: Serenata, For Cello & Piano In G Minor, Op. 34, KiV 196
Title: Kultaselle, Variations (10) On A Finnish Folksong For Cello & Piano, KiV 237
Title: Valse Oubliée, Arrangement For Cello & Piano, (after Liszt), KiV B69
Title: Durch Adams Fall Ist Ganz Verdebt (I), Transcription For Piano (after J.S. Bach, BWV 637; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 7), KiV B27/7
Title: Ich ruf' zu dir, transcription for piano (after J.S. Bach, BWV 639; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 5), KiV B27/5

Comments

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Ferruccio Busoni is a very overlooked and neglected composer, due to his being so ahead of his time. Well worth further listening and study. By the way, his father must have been on fine clarinetist - his clarinet books are demanding even today.
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You have to include his influence on Rick Wakeman.
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Had to explain to my roommate why I had suddenly began to play my desk like it was concert Steinway while doing my math homework in my underwear.
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Wow
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Ko
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Wow! Sounds different played on piano!
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msspring2006
Was the inspiration for the music of UP??
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Fairly certain this is the music from "Up"
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IM HERE TO LISTEN TO DEM OG CLASSICS
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nickwoebcke
At first I was going to say you had the wrong composer but I see this is a Bach 'mashup' written by Busoni. Very nice.
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I like his transcriptio n of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BWV 565.
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wow. this is reall music
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jtorres41619 8 1
Great!!!!!!! !
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this guy is great thank thank you for telling me out this vituiso
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Stands out in a crowd! Like it.
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just_meef
Set's himself apart he does.
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This is gorgeous. Swallows you up.
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Harkens' me back to my adolescence when my classically trained piano teacher played this very piece. Thank You Mrs. Cox for all those great lessons that turned into concerts.
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gorgeously alive . . .

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