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Anonymous photograph, c.1895.  Busoni wore a beard from young manhood to 1903; these were the years in which he established his reputation as a leading virtuoso pianist.

Anonymous photograph, c.1895. Busoni wore a beard from young manhood to 1903; these were the years in which he established his reputation as a leading virtuoso pianist.

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BUSONI, Ferruccio Benvenuto (b.Empoli, 1 April 1866; d.Berlin,27 July 1924)

 

Last month saw the 150th anniversary of the birth of Busoni, great pianist and infinitely challenging musical thinker and composer.  We show here some rare early first editions from the Museum's collection, followed by a selection of significant later works.

(Please click the thumbnails below to view larger image)

Preludio e Fuga per pianoforte, Op.36. Milan, [1882].  Inscribed by the 16-year old composer ('L'Autore'), Arezzo 14 Settembre 1882. 3 Pezzi nello stile antico per pianoforte, Op.10. Milan, [1882]. Danze Antiche per pianoforte, Op.10 [or rather 11]. Milan, [1882].

Racconti Fantastici. 3 pezzi caratteristici per pianoforte, Op.12. Bologna, [1882].  Composed in 1878, when Busoni was twelve.  The title-page design illustrates the 'characteristic pieces' making up the set: Duel, Klein Zaches [the evil dwarf who forms the subject of a famous short story by E. T. A. Hoffmann], and The Cave of Steenfoll [after another 'fantastic tale' by Wilhelm Hauff]. Danza Notturna per pianoforte, Op.12 [or rather 13]. Bologna, [1882].

Primavera, Estate, Autunno, Inverno. 4 poesie liriche [for male voices and orchestra or piano], Op.40. [Full score]. Milan, [1882].  Inscribed by the composer  Bologna 12.12.82.

Busoni had composed prolifically from the age of seven and his first published works - Cinq Pièces pour piano, Op.3 - appeared in 1877.  However in 1905 he wrote "My existence as a composer only truly begins with the Violin Sonata [No.2, 1899]"; with the exception of a handful of works from the earlier 1890s modern Busoni scholarship tends to follow this division between his juvenilia and mature works.  Examples of the latter follow.

Concerto ... Op. XXXIX.  [Full score]. Leipzig, 1906.  Title page designed by Heinrich Vogeler. Elegien. 6 neue Klavierstücke. Leipzig, 1908.  Wrapper incorporating a design by Busoni. An die Jugend. Ein Folge von Klavierstücken, No.3. Leipzig, etc., 1909.

Fantasia Contrappuntistica ... Edizione definitiva. Leipzig, 1910. Wrapper based on a design by Busoni. Die Brautwahl. Musikalisch-fantastische Komödie nach E.T.A. Hoffmann.  [Vocal score]. Berlin, 1912.  Libretto by Busoni.  Wrapper designed by Karl Walser, designer for the opera's première, Hamburg, 12 April 1912. Vol.6 of the collected edition of Busoni's Bach arrangements, editions and transcriptions in seven volumes.  Leipzig, 1920.

Arlecchino, oder Die Fenster. Ein theatralisches Capriccio, Op.50. [Vocal score]. Leipzig, 1917.  Libretto by Busoni. First performed Zürich, Stadttheater, 11 May 1917, conducted by the composer.