At first I thought that Busoni's Indian Fantasy would be a picture of the Indian subcontinent but the real focus of this music is the American Indian. The Indian Fantasy was written during 1913 - 14 and was based on music of the Indians of the West that had been collected by Natalie Curtis. Busoni was fascinated by the tunes and incorporated them into this Fantasy using music from the Hopi Cheyenne, Laguna, Pima and Pasamquoddy tribes. The piece is laid out like a concerto in one movement with sections labeled Fantasia, Canzone and Finale. The opening music with its rhythmic drumming is based on a Hopi melody. Much of the music has a vast and mysterious quality, as if looking out of the open prairie. The Canzone is based on melodies from a Pima song and a dance from the Pasamquoddy. The later melody was one that Busoni considered the American Indian national anthem. The Finale has a nice dialogue between the orchestra and piano that was based on Hopi and Cheyenne theme and the music ends with a roll of the tympani.
The Songs of the Spirit Dance (Gesang vom Reigen der Geister) from Book II of the Indian Dairy was written in 1915 and is based on a Pawnee song that figured in the Wounded Knee massacre. Even more than the Indian Fantasy, this is a mysterious work evocative of the ghost dance that the Indians could bring back the dead from the spirit world. The music is shadowy and is marked "moderately flowing" giving an uneven rhythm to the music.
The opening work on this CD is a Comedy Overture that Busoni wrote overnight. It is an exuberant work that certainly makes a great concert opener. The suite from The Bridal Choice is from Busoni's first opera based on a story of E. T. A. Hoffmann. The story has to do with love and magic as several suitors complete for the beautiful daughter of a merchant named Albertine. There is a good magician named Leonhard and an evil one named Manasse. The question of who will have Albertine in marriage is eventually decided by a trial of magic caskets. Busoni took some pains with the suite and created the movements not in sequence but to create the mood of the opera. The opening movement - Ghostly Piece - is a grotesque dance and is followed by a Lyric Piece that explores the love music that accompanies the romance scenes between the characters Albertine and Edmund. Next, is the Mystery Piece that brings together music concerning magic caskets and a scene where the magician Leonhard shows the suitor Thurman a vision of Albertine. The Hebrew Piece and is a portrait of the sinister magician Manasse and the suite concludes with Merry Piece; an exuberant scene from the opera recalling the happy ending.
This is an interesting disc of Ferruccio Busoni's music that for me was enjoyable and informative. The music is colorful and evocative, and beautifully played by the BBC Philharmonic under Neeme Jarvi.