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Busoni: Piano Music Vol 8 (Wolf Harden) (Naxos: 8572845)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2013
Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) composed both the Opuses here presented during his teens, in 1881 and in 1882-1883. Nevertheless, they are not childish compositions, but well reasoned and organized collections, yet fresh and sincerely felt.

The 24 Preludes, Op. 37, clearly evoke Chopin's Preludes construction; they obviously do not reach the same artistic heights, in particular the mysterious ineluctability of their concatenation, which is something that ineffably goes beyond the formal idea to have one piece in each of the major and minor keys, following the circle of fifths.
Anyway, even if Busoni does not succeed in solving and recreating the arcane mystery, his attempt produces an interesting, fresh and involving composition, you will recursively listen to with increasing pleasure.

Macchiette medioevali, Op. 33, is a very nice collection of "descriptive" (obviously in strict musical terms) pieces, inspired by some of the typical characters of tales, novels or poems with a Medieval setting.
Superficially, these pieces might be interpreted as more childish than the Preludes. On the contrary, I think they are someway more sophisticated and really elegantly conceived.
The key word is "Macchiette", and the title of the Opus plays with the ambiguous meaning of the Italian term. "Macchietta" is a theatrical comic number played by an actor who does the caricature of a typical character. At the same time, in painting, "macchietta" is a sketch or, also, a little figure inserted into a painted setting. Besides, obviously, the term recalls the "Macchiaioli" painting movement - contemporary with Busoni - and which was mainly centered in Tuscany (Busoni was born in Empoli).
In conclusion, in my opinion, these nice pieces, abandoning the idea of a still too ambitious project (the Preludes) and embracing the idea to produce some "nugae, nugaelle" are the sign of an artistic maturation in Busoni's evolution as a composer: in brief, they are truly, fresh and witty, little pianistic gems. It goes without saying that, in this case, the source of formal inspiration is Schumann.

Wolf Harden (b. 1962) is a solid pianist and a sensitive interpreter. Here, his performances are excellent and they catch the true spirit of Busoni's compositions. Dynamics are well treated, timbre is colorful, paces are rightly chosen. Nevertheless, someway, Harden lacks the sparkle needed the make his performance really outstanding. In some passages, even if all the notes are absolutely correct, the touch is, in my opinion, not perfectly neat and chords produces a bit (just a bit!) confused sonorities.
But, on the whole, here we get high level and convincing performances of rarely executed pieces: I am completely satisfied of what I purchased.

The 2012 DDD sound is excellent and well balanced.

The booklet presents a very interesting and complete article by Richard Whitehouse, in English and German. It also reports a brief description of every single piece and the original subheadings marked by Busoni himself.

A really praiseworthy issue!

Dante Michelangeli Benvenuro Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)

24 Preludes, Op. 37 (1881)

1. No. 1 in C major: Moderato 02:15
2. No. 2 in A minor: Andantino sostenuto 02:59
3. No. 3 in G major: Andante con moto 02:54
4. No. 4 in E minor: Allegretto (in carattere di danza) 02:41
5. No. 5 in D major: Vivace assai quasi presto 01:48
6. No. 6 in B minor: Moderato (in carattere d'un Corale) 02:18
7. No. 7 in A major: Allegro vivace (in carattere di Giga) 02:00
8. No. 8 in F sharp minor: Allegro moderato 02:00
9. No. 9 in E major: Allegretto vivace e con brio (in carattere campestre) 01:29
10. No. 10 in C sharp minor: Vivace ed energico 02:17
11. No. 11 in B major: Allegretto piacevole, "alla danza" 02:08
12. No. 12 in G sharp minor: Andantino 02:42
13. No. 13 in F sharp major: Allegretto scherzando 02:16
14. No. 14 in E flat minor: Lento (funebre) 03:15
15. No. 15 in D flat major: Andantino sostenuto 02:21
16. No. 16 in B flat minor: Maestoso ed energico 00:53
17. No. 17 in A flat major: Allegretto vivace 02:04
18. No. 18 in F minor: Allegretto con moto 02:54
19. No. 19 in E flat major: Allegro vivo 01:14
20. No. 20 in C minor: Allegro moderato 01:59
21. No. 21 in B flat major: Andantino sostenuto 04:24
22. No. 22 in G minor: Vivace e scherzoso 01:02
23. No. 23 in F major: Allegro vivace 01:18
24. No. 24 in D minor: Presto 01:13

Macchiette medioevali, Op. 33 (1882-1883)

25. No. 1. Dama (Lady) 01:57
26. No. 2. Cavaliere (Knight) 01:35
27. No. 3. Paggio (Page) 01:27
28. No. 4. Guerriero (Warrior) 01:45
29. No. 5. Astrologo (Astrologist) 03:00
30. No. 6. Trovatore (Troubadour) 03:09

Wolf HARDEN - piano

Total Playing Time: 01:05:17
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