Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Busoni Elegies

As we ourselves are part of nature itself and all things have their comings and their goings, so is this magical music of Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) a composer more pianists could know more about.  For many reasons, the heart and soul of Busoni's gifts as a composer are his elegies, which first appeared in 1908 making them 20th century music. 

These seven pieces of reflection, may sometimes be associated with the death of someone or something, that's one way of looking at them, but the other is as a means of approaching a virtual transcendence.  We hope and trust that most of our pianist friends out there understand the idea of pianism as a vehicle for virtual transcendence, not just for ourselves, but for our audiences as well.  As you may listen to any of these wonderful pieces, imagine just how you might play them.  More people who can might try.  They are all in the public domain.

I present here a few links: the first one for a complete live performance that took place in 2012 in Bergamo, Italy at the Bergamo International Festival.  Carlo Grante of course is wonderful, as is anyone capable of playing any of these to satisfaction.  They all require sheer passion.  If you have that as a pianist, you might actually get to climb these summits and get your audiences to experience them too.  

Busoni Elegies Complete - Carlo Grante 

Now, for those who want to take the bait and hear more performances of the same music.  Here are links for each, with some comment.

1. After the Turning - This could certainly reference either a death or a sudden change of any possible kind or dimension.

2. To Italy - Yes, we can hear some things in it that are idiomatically Italian, but there is so much more going on in this piece than anything having merely local colour.

3. “My soul trembles and hopes of thee,” a Chorale Prelude – This means that there's some hymn it's based on, but again this is far more than what it seems.

4. Turandot's Intermezzo – This is Greensleaves as it was never imagined before. Many different styles of pianism are exploited here, including one of Busoni's false ends where the piece ends ... in a different harmonic key.

5. Nocturnal Waltz – Your ultimate dance by the light of the Moon with many extra dimensional allusions throughout.

6. Visitation Nocturne – Something happened and or is about to happen.

7. Lullaby - The lulling to sleep, not just personally but universally, the putting to sleep of an entire people, an entire period in time.

Many of you will sense something about Busoni's tonal palate that's similar to Scriabin's. But a transcendental melodic line, even a simple one still seems important to Busoni in ways it never was in Scriabin. Anyway, I have always liked these pieces and as for the rest of Busoni's contributions, well, one would be fortunate to be one who other than playing this sort of music might all the while prefer to be playing Bach.


Oh, and yes of course Busoni is usually considered a "romantic" composer, the end of it anyway, but again as we have reiterated on this blog from the beginning, romanticism is really emotional realism and it's very powerful stuff.  You can drive someone mad with it, cause them to laugh or drive them to break down in tears, or yearn for love.  It had nothing to do with mere "fiction" or any fictional stories.  It was and ever is from the outset about emotional realism and those that approach this music or any other from this vantage point have a better chance of connecting with the essential message of that music.  


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