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Busoni - Piano Music, Vol. 1 [CD]

Ferruccio Busoni , Johann Sebastian Bach , Wolf Harden Audio CD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Busoni - Piano Music, Vol. 1 + Busoni-Piano Music, Vol 2 + Busoni - Piano Music, Vol 3
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Product details

  • Composer: Ferruccio Busoni, Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (2 April 2001)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00005AYEK
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 254,813 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Toccata & Fugue in D minor - Bach (transcr. Busoni)
2. Prelude & Fugue in C minor - Busoni
3. An die Jugend - Busoni
4. Fantasia Contrappuntistica - Busoni

Product Description

Busoni : Prélude et Fugue, K155 - An die Jugend - Fantasia Contrappuntistica - Bach : Toccata et Fugue, BWV 565 (transcr. Ferruccio Busoni) / Wolf Harden, piano

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Glittering byways 10 May 2009
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Prompted by a couple of startlingly brilliant live peformances of the Fantasia (together with the very good value for money represented by all the Naxos Busoni discs) I went out and bought three of Harden's four volumes of Busoni's piano output. He's a quirky figure, with a late-romantic perspective on harmony and a Lisztian passion for writing music that must be very demanding upon the performer. Time and again he comes up with glittering ideas; and Harden is most happy to oblige in bringing them amply to life. They belong in the byways of the development of music - by the time much of this came out, the world had moved on and the piano writing of say Schoenberg and Bartok quickly showed that Busoni had been left in something of a time-warp. But that should not stop you from sampling some or all of Harden's impressive survey of Busoni's compositions for his favourite instrument. Harden does particularly well with the contrapuntal writing - Busoni shared with Max Reger a weakness for letting a contrapuntal development assume a behaviour of its own. Having listened at some length to all three of the discs I bought, I will admit that the writing lacks something in terms of variety, but I found them rewarding listening nontheless and hope you enjoy them too. The recording is a touch dry but essentially faithful.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Besotted with Busoni 24 Jan 2011
By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
That Busoni was relegated to the footnotes of music by the arrival of the modernist iconoclasts is frankly a historical nonsense. This at a time when he and other composer-pianists like him still had so much to say, building with intelligence and power on the achievements of Chopin and Liszt. That such efforts came then to be labelled so disappointingly as Late Romanticism is similarly silly. One yet may hope that the judgement of posterity, made possible by the casual miracle of recording, might still provide a correction to these skewed perceptions.

Much of Busoni's compositional output takes the form of transcriptions of works by Bach, reflecting his lifelong commitment to Bach as a performer. But make no mistake, these are no `mere' transcriptions, but interpretations of the highest calibre, exploring the outer limits of the musical possibilities of his day. When we first hear the opening chords of the D-minor Toccata and Fugue on this disc, it is hard not to feel a momentary anticipation of cliché and caricature. But it is barely a few bars from the stable door that we realise we are in for a far more subtle and interesting ride than we would expect from old Bach's venerable workhorse.

Busoni's own C-minor Prelude and Fugue demonstrates how he bridged the worlds of Bach and the Romantics in which he moved. The prelude is bewitchingly delicate and dreamy before the Fugue jerks us into an austere wakefulness.

An die Jugend is a compendium of marvels, some based on themes recognisable from other composers, including several fugues which are clearly Busoni's form of choice. To my mind those who would assert that the fugue has nothing new to tell us would seem to have one of the best bits of their brains missing.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "To Godowsky the piano was the thing; to Busoni, the idea" 20 July 2007
By Hexameron - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) was universally appreciated as a genius with the piano. His style of playing and the ideas he developed in his compositions enable him to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Godowsky as a transcendental composer. Harold Schonberg proclaimed: "To Godowsky the piano was the thing; to Busoni, the idea." Yet today the name of "Busoni" is too often linked, literally by a hyphen, with "Bach," owing to the many transcriptions Busoni crafted. There are countless recordings of these Bach transcriptions, but few actual volumes exist that explore Busoni's original music. Naxos has fixed this, and with the talents of Wolf Harden, Busoni's piano works have a new and worthy champion.

Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" has been transcribed dozens of times by third-rate publishers and first-rate composers; Tausig, Reger, Friedman, and Grainger stand out from the rest. Busoni's treatment, however, is simply magnificent. The sublime melodic material of the toccata is what makes it a classic, and Busoni's extrovert transcription is thrilling, especially in the hands of the muscular Harden. While Busoni adheres faithfully to Bach's score and polyphonic writing, one can expect the usual pianistic reworking of octave-doublings and thicker textures, all in the service of increasing organ-like sonority. Busoni's early "Prelude and Fugue in C minor" shows influence from Bach and Busoni's contrapuntal mastery is ravishing. Harden plays the Prelude beautifully and suggests deep introspection, while the Fugue, for all its brevity, becomes magisterial.

The epic works that represent the body of this recording are "An die Jugend" and the "Fantasia Contrappuntistica." Busoni's awe-inspiring intellect and compositional individuality streams through in "An die Jugend," where, as Richard Whitehouse, the liner-notes writer observes, "transcription and composition merge in a synthesis of past and present..." The first "Preludietto" shows clever innovations with its "classical A major in the left-hand and a whole-tone Impressionism in the right hand." The fourth "Pagininesco" is the most profound of the set, fusing the aesthetic of Liszt with Busoni's temperament in dealing with Paganini's Eleventh caprice. In the fifth of the set, "Epilogo," Busoni embarks on a modulatory journey, and then through a whole-tone scale enters into atonality, effectively demonstrating "the development from Classical Tonality, through Free Tonality, to New Tonality."

Busoni's magnum opus is surely the great "Fantasia Contrappuntistica." While Busoni was working on his own edition of Bach's music, he had an idea to use one of Bach's unfinished fugue subjects from the "Art of Fugue" (Contrapunctus XIX). In addition to working with this he also used the Bach chorale, "Allein Gott in der Hoeh sei Ehr," but it is overwhelmingly more complicated than this. In six significant "movements" of this 30 minute polyphonic tapestry, Busoni takes the listener on an incredibly difficult but utterly magical voyage. Kenneth Derus has made an interesting analysis of this work and points out that some have called this towering composition "literally 'unhearable,' except perhaps by professional musicians armed with annotated scores." Having been acquainted with John Ogdon's performance of this, I knew what to expect: all-encompassing tonality, busy polyphonic writing, symmetrical inversions and complex treatment of fugue subjects. Harden actually surprised me in this work. He projects crystalline and dynamic clarity, and thus allows this cerebral mammoth to breathe. Harden can also boast absolute emotional and mental endurance, as in the Stretta, where he unfurls climactic power and velocity. For those new to this music, be forewarned that it takes many hearings to appreciate its complexities, and yet I think it has the power to be gripping on a single listening.

Bottom line: Busoni compresses a wealth of ideas into every page of his compositions. There is music here that could keep a music theorist busy for years and music lovers contented for decades. Some of Busoni's most highly original works can be found in this Volume. The treasure trove of "An die Jugend" speaks for itself, while the "Fantasia Contrappuntistica" is a phenomenal document of contrapuntal ingenuity and intellectual strength. Wolf Harden joins the small list of performers able to not only cope with the technical demands, but also deliver the full gamut of expression behind Busoni's labyrinthine work.
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