Busoni, Ferruccio


Busoni, Ferruccio

Doktor Faust, Poetry for Music on a libretto by the composer /Unfinished original version without the completions by Philipp Jarnach and Antony Beaumont (in three volumes with German libretto)

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Ferruccio Dante Michelangelo Benvenuto Busoni – Doktor Faust Poetry for Music (1916-23)

(b. Empoli, 1 April 1866 – d. Berlin, 27 July 1924)

on a libretto by the composer
Unfinished original version without the completions by Philipp Jarnach and Antony Beaumont

Ferruccio Busoni was arguably the most important pianist and one of the outstanding musicians of his epoch. As a visionary theorist and original mind, he had a great influence on future generations. If he was judged more ambivalent as a composer, this was due to the fact that he himself put only a few of his revolutionary proposals into practice, but also that for a long time he fluctuated between different styles and only from about 1910 he wrote music of unmistakable character quite continuously (which in no way means to belittle the quality of some earlier compositions such as the Violin Concerto op. 35a (1896-97), the two Violin Sonatas (1889-1900) or the colossal Piano Concerto op. 39 (1901-04)). The most decisive step in 1909 was the ‘Berceuse élégiaque’ op. 42, a ‘Poetry’ for small orchestra with the autobiographically triggered additional title ‘Des Mannes Wiegenlied am Grabe seiner Mutter’ (Man’s Berceuse at the Grave of his Mother) and Busoni’s first orchestral piece of undeniable peculiarity. In the course of his acquaintance with Bernhard Ziehn (1845-1912) and Wilhelm Middelschulte (1863-1943) – which Busoni respectfully called the “Gothic of Chicago” – the next step was the composition of the ‘Fantasia contrappuntistica’, a freely decorated completion of the unfinished final fugue from Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Art of the Fugue’. Many important works were completed thereafter: several sonatinas for piano (1910-18), the E.T.A. Hoffmann comedy ‘Die Brautwahl’ (The Bride Choice, 1906-11) and the orchestral suite op. 45 (1912) extracted from it, ‘Verzweiflung und Ergebung’ (Despair and Surrender) from the music to Gozzi’s drama ‘Turandot’ op. 41 (1911), the ‘Nocturne symphonique’ op. 43 (1912-13), the ‘Indian Fantasy’ for piano and orchestra op. 44 (1913-14), the one-act theatrical Capriccio ‘Arlecchino’ op. 50 (1914-16), and the ‘Rondo arlecchinesco’ op. 46 (1915), the ‘Gesang vom Reigen der Geister’ (Round Dance Song of the Spirits) op. 47 for small orchestra (1915), the fable opera ‘Turandot’ after Gozzi (1916-17, completed only in piano score), the Clarinet Concertino op. 48 (1918), and ‘Sarabande und Cortège. Two studies for Doctor Faust for orchestra op. 51 (1918-19), the Flute Divertimento op. 52 (1920), the ’Tanzwalzer‘ (Dance Waltz) op. 53 for orchestra (1920), ‘Concertino. Romanza e Scherzoso’ op. 54 for piano and orchestra (1921), many other piano works as well as subsequent versions of the ‘Fantasia contrappuntistica’, and from 1917 on above all the central work of his late years, the unfinished opera ‘Doktor Faust’, a ‘poetry for music’. …

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