Ferruccio Benvenuto Busoni – Orchestral Suite from »Die Brautwahl« Op. 45
(b. Empoli, 1 April 1866 — d. Berlin, 27 July 1924)
I Ghostly Music. Allegretto moderato – Al galoppo – Con fuoco p. 1
II Lyrical Music. Andante amoroso p. 25
III Mystic Music. Sostenutissimo – Andante mistico – Andantino – Tempo di Valse lento p. 44
IV Hebrew Music. Andante sostenuto in modo giudaïco – Fast and wild – Tempo I p. 57
V Joyous Music. Allegro – Presto p. 77
In 1905 Ferrucio Busoni wrote the first draft of the libretto of his opera Die Brautwahl, taking the name from the first novel (Der Einsiedler Serapion) of E.T.A Hoffmann‘s collection of novellas, Die Serapionsbrüder. These tales of Hoffmann are based on stories dating from 16th century Berlin about Lippold the master coin-maker and Leonhard Thurnheisser the goldsmith, and provide a link to Shakespeare‘s Merchant of Venice; the Brautwahl, or bridal choice, being made by means of a ceremonial trial with caskets. Busoni‘s action centres around Leonhard, as the good magician, and Manasse – who is reminiscent of Shylock – as his evil counterpart. Hoffmann transcends the element of time, Busoni achieving this by musical quotations and excursions into a contemporary transcendental style. Busoni himself believed for some time at least that he was the very reincarnation of Hoffmann, who in the opera is thinly disguised as the real Leonhard.
Busoni published the first version of the libretto in Trieste in 1906, at the same time as the libretto to Der mächtige Zauberer, which was never set to music. His revolutionary Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst went to press the same year. The opera itself was not finished, however, until 1911. And no sooner had Busoni negotiated the first performance of the work with the Stadt-Theater in Hamburg, with Harmonie-Verlag as publishers, than the publishing house went into liquidation. Busoni himself financed the costs of publishing the performance material, which were huge: the manuscript score of this three hour opera runs to 883 pages. The premiere took place in Hamburg on 13th April 1912, and was conducted by Gustav Brecher. Elisabeth Schumann was cast as Albertine, who in the opera is wooed by three suitors. The work met with a lukewarm reception and was torn to shreds by the critics, not least due to its excessive length. This reflects Busoni‘s slavish adherence to the text and, despite all the brilliance and originality of the opera, his inexperience with musical drama.
In an attempt to recover from great financial loss, Busoni decided to make an orchestral suite from Die Brautwahl, published here for the first time in study format. It consists of five pieces of symbolic intent, ones that exhibit a high degree of integration with each other and which transcend the limits of the stage drama. (Further details may be found in Hugo Leichtentritt‘s introduction to the first edition, published with the composer‘s approval.) The suite was completed in August 1912 and performed for the first time at the Beethoven Saal, Berlin, by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra on 3rd January 1913; the conductor was Oskar Fried. Published by Breitkopf und Härtel, Leipzig, in 1917, the Brautwahl Suite Op. 45 remains rarely performed and has never been really popular; its high-minded, introspective mysticism steers nevertheless well clear of effect for its own sake and its typically imaginative formal range identifies the suite as one of Busoni‘s most important orchestral works.
Translation: Jonathan Price
For performance materials please contact the publisher Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden (www.breitkopf.de).
Reprint of a copy held by the archives of the Musikbibliothek in the Münchner Stadtbibliothek.
Deutsches Vorwort > HERE