Piano Music - Ferruccio Busoni

Ferruccio Busoni

1866 - 1924
Ferruccio Busoni was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, editor, writer, and teacher.

📖 "I want to attain the unknown! What I already know is boundless. But I want to go even further. The final word still eludes me."
Der mächtige Zauberer (1905)

📖 "The function of the creative artist consists of making laws, not in following laws already made."
Claude Debussy, Ferruccio Busoni, Charles Ives (1962). “Three Classics in the Aesthetic of Music: Monsieur Croche the Dilettante Hater”

📖 "Music was born free; and to win freedom is its destiny."
Claude Debussy, Ferruccio Busoni, Charles Ives (1962). “Three Classics in the Aesthetic of Music: Monsieur Croche the Dilettante Hater”

📖 "Music is the art of sounds in the movement of time."
"The Essence of Music" by Ferruccio Busoni, 1923.

📖 "Music is sonorous air."

📖 "Take it for granted from the beginning that everything is possible on the piano, even when it seems impossible to you, or really is so.
In Letter to Woltersdorf, 1898

📖 "Respect the pianoforte! It gives a single man command over something complete: in its ability to go from very soft to very loud in one and the same register it excels all other instruments. The trumpet can blare, but not sigh; the lute is contrary; the pianoforte can do both. Its range embraces the highest and lowest practicable notes. Respect the pianoforte!
In Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music (1911)

📖 "In order to get beyond the virtuoso level, one must first be a virtuoso: one arrives at something more, not something different."
In Stuckenschmidt's Ferruccio Busoni (1967)

📖 "In fine piano playing all the details are important. For instance, it is quite easy to conceive of compositions demanding a very smooth running performance in which one jarring or harsh note indicating faulty artistic calculation upon the part of the player would ruin the entire interpretation."
Busoni quoted in Alec Rowley Do's and Don'ts for Musicians. A Handbook for Teachers and Performers

📖 “It is often perfection in little things which distinguishes the performance of the great pianist from that of the novice. The novice usually manages to get the so-called main points, but he does not work for the little niceties of interpretation which are almost invariably the defining characteristic of the interpretations of the real artist—that is, the performer who has formed the habit of stopping at nothing short of his highest ideal of perfection."
Ferruccio Busoni in James Francis Cooke's Great Pianists on Piano Playing

📖 “There is a detail which few students observe which is of such vast importance that one is tempted to say that the main part of successful musical progress depends upon it. This is the detail of learning to listen. Every sound that is produced during the practice period should be heard. That is, it should be heard with ears open to give that sound the intelligent analysis which it deserves. Hours and hours are wasted by students strumming away on keyboards and giving no more attention to the sounds they produce than would the inmates of a deaf and dumb asylum. These students all expect to become fine performers even though they may not aim to become virtuosos. To them the piano keyboard is a kind of gymnasium attached to a musical instrument. They may of course acquire strong fingers, but they will have to learn to listen before they can hope to become even passable performers. At my own recitals no one in the audience listens more attentively than I do. I strive to hear every note and while I am playing my attention is so concentrated upon the one purpose of delivering the work in the most artistic manner dictated by the composer’s demands and my conception of the piece, that I am little conscious of anything else. I have also learned that I must continually have my mind alert to opportunities for improvement. I am always in quest of new beauties and even while playing in public it is possible to conceive of new details that come like revelations."
Ferruccio Busoni in James Francis Cooke's Great Pianists on Piano Playing

📖 "In my own development as an artist it has been made evident to me time and again, that success comes from the careful observance of details."
Busoni quoted in Alec Rowley Do's and Don'ts for Musicians. A Handbook for Teachers and Performers

📖 "After much study, I discovered what I believed to be the technical cause of my defects, and then I returned to Europe and for two years devoted myself almost exclusively to technical study along the individual lines I had devised. To my great delight details that had always defied me, the rebellious trills, the faltering bravura passages, the uneven runs, all came into beautiful submission and with them came a new delight in playing."
Busoni quoted in Alec Rowley Do's and Don'ts for Musicians. A Handbook for Teachers and Performers

📖 "I never neglect an opportunity to improve, no matter how perfect a previous interpretation may have seemed to me. In fact, I often go directly from the concert and practise for hours upon the very pieces that I have been playing, because during the concert new ideas have come to me. These are very precious, and to neglect them … would be ridiculous in the extreme."
Busoni quoted in Alec Rowley Do's and Don'ts for Musicians. A Handbook for Teachers and Performers

“Some students look upon phrasing as a detail that can be postponed until other supposedly more important things are accomplished. The very musical meaning of any composition depends upon the correct understanding and delivery of the phrases which make that composition. To neglect the phrases would be about as sensible as it would be for the great actor to neglect the proper thought division in the interpretation of his lines. 
The greatest masterpiece of dramatic literature whether it be Romeo and Juliet, 
Antigone, La Malade Imaginaire or The Doll’s House becomes  nonsense if the thought divisions indicated by the verbal phrases are not carefully determined and expressed. Great actors spend hours and hours seeking for the best method of expressing the author’s meaning. No pianist of ability would think of giving less careful attention to phrasing. … Phrasing is anything but a detail. Fine phrasing depends first upon a knowledge of music which enables one to define the limitations of the phrase and then upon a knowledge of pianoforte playing which enables one to execute it properly. Phrasing is closely allied to the subject of accentuation and both subjects are intimately connected with that of fingering. Without the proper fingers it is often impossible to execute certain phrases correctly. Generally, the accents are considered of importance because they are supposed to fall in certain set parts of given measures, thus indicating the meter.
Ferruccio Busoni in James Francis Cooke's Great Pianists on Piano Playing

“In the study of the subject of accentuation and phrasing it would not be possible for anyone to recommend anything more instructive than the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. The immortal Thüringian composer was the master-weaver of all. His tapestries have never been equalled in refinement, color, breadth and general beauty. Why is Bach so valuable for the  student? This is an easy question to answer. It is because his works are so constructed that they compel one to study these details. Even if the student has only mastered the intricacies of the Two Voice Inventions, it is safe to say that he has become a better player. More than this, Bach forces the student to think. 
If the student has never thought before during his practice periods, he will soon find that it is quite impossible for him to encompass the difficulties of Bach without the closest mental application. In fact, he may also discover that it is possible for him to work out some of his musical problems while away from the keyboard. Many of the most perplexing 
musical questions and difficulties that have ever confronted me have been solved mentally…"
Ferruccio Busoni in James Francis Cooke's Great Pianists on Piano Playing

Quotes by Ferruccio Busoni

Piano Music by Busoni

Books by and about Busoni

Some Recordings of Ferruccio Busoni's Works and Playing

Busoni Plays Bach - Busoni - Chaconne D Minor 

Bach-Busoni Choralvorspiel (Choral Prelude) Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g'mein (recorded in 1922)

List of Busoni's Piano Works

Op. 8 K62 Scherzo, from a sonata in E, 1877

Op. 3 K71 Cinq pièces, 1877

Op. 14 K77 Minuetto, 1878

Op. 18 K81 Suite campestre, 1878

Op. 21 K85 Preludio e fuga, c, 1878

Op. 25 K89 Gavotta, 1878

Op. 12 K100 Racconti fantastici, 1878

Op. 11 K126 Danze antiche, 1879

Op. 61 K124 Menuetto capriccioso, c1880

K151 Der Tanz (Walzer), 1880

Op. 70 K152 Gavotte, f, 1880

Op. 10 K159 Tre pezzi nello stilo antico, 1880

K164 Sonata, f, 1880

Op. 74 K166 Praeludium und Fuge, g, 1880

K179 Praeludium und Fuge, a, 1880

Op. 36 K180 Praeludium und Fuge, C, 1880

Op. 37 K181 24 preludi, 1881

Op. 9 K185 Una festa di villaggio, 6 pieces, 1881

Op. 13 K189 Danza notturna (1882)

Op. 32 K193 Marcia di paesani e contadine, 1882

Op. 33 K194 Macchiette medioevali (1883)

Op. 4–6 K197 Trois morceaux (1883): Scherzo, Prelude et fugue, Scène de ballet

K198 Etude, D, en forme d'adagio d'une sonate, c1883

K199 Etude (Nocturne), b, c1883

K200 Studio, f, 1883

Op. 16 K203 Sechs Etüden, 1883

Op. 20 K204 Sonata, f, 1883

Op. 17 K206 Etude en forme de variations, 1884

Op. 20 K209 Ballettszene no.2, F (1885)

Op. 22 K213 Variationen und Fuge in freier Form über Fr. Chopins c-moll Präludium, 1884

K222 Anhang [variations] zu Siegfried Ochs ‘Kommt a Vogerl g'flogen’, c1886

KB52 Fantasie über Motive aus ‘Der Barbier von Bagdad’ von Peter Cornelius, 1887

KB56 Trascrizione di concerto sopra motivi dell'opera ‘Merlin’ di C. Goldmark, 1887

Op. 30a K235 Zwei Klavierstücke: no.1 Kontrapunktisches Tanzstück, no.2 Kleine Ballettszene [no.3], 1890, rev. as Zwei Tanzstücke K235a: no.1 Waffentanz, no.2 Friedenstanz, 1914

Op. 33a K238 Ballettszene no.4 in Form eines Concert-Walzers, 1894, rev. as Ballettszene no.4 (Walzer und Galopp) K238a, 1913

Op. 33b K241 Sechs Stücke 1895–6: Schwermut, Frohsinn, Scherzino, Fantasia in modo antico, Finnische Ballade, Exeunt omnes

K249 Elegien, 1907: Nach der Wendung, All'Italia!, Meine Seele bangt und hofft zu dir…, Turandots Frauengemach, Die Nächtlichen, Erscheinung

K251 Nuit de noël, esquisse, 1908

K252 Berceuse, 1909

K253 Fantasia nach J.S. Bach, 1909

K254 An die Jugend, 1909: Preludietto, fughetta ed esercizio; Preludio, fuga e fuga figurata; Giga, bolero e variazione; Introduzione, capriccio ed epilogo

K255 Große Fuge, 1910

K256 Fantasia contrappuntistica, edizione definitiva, 1910

K256a Fantasia contrappuntistica, edizione minore, 1912

K257 Sonatina [no.1], 1910

— Indianisches Erntelied, 1911

K259 Sonatina seconda, 1912

K267 Indianisches Tagebuch, bk 1, 1915

K268 Sonatina [no.3] ad usum infantis, 1915

K274 Sonatina [no.4] in diem Nativitatis Christi MCMXVII, 1917

KB40 Zwei Kontrapunktstudien nach J.S. Bach, 1916–7: Fantasie und Fuge, a; Kanonische Variationen und Fuge

K279 Notturni, Prologo, 1918

K280 Sonatina [no.5] brevis ‘in signo Joannis Sebastiani Magni’, 1918

K284 Sonatina [no.6] super Carmen (Kammerfantasie), 1920

K287 Toccata: Preludio, Fantasia, Ciaccona, 1921

K289 Drei Albumblätter, no.1, from Albumblatt for fl, pf, 1917, nos.2–3, 1921

K213a Zehn Variationen, rev. of op.22, 1922

— Klavierübung, 1st edn in 5 parts, 1917–22, 2nd edn in 10 vols. (1925)

K296 Fünf kurze Stücke zur Pflege des polyphonen Spiels, 1923

K297 Prélude et étude en arpèges, 1923

Four hands

Op. 27 K227 Finnländische Volksweisen (1889)

Two pianos

K271 Improvisation über Bachs Chorallied ‘Wie wohl ist mir’, 1916

KB88 Duettino concertante nach dem Finale von Mozarts Klavierkonzert K459, 1919

List of Busoni's Writings / Essays

Lehre von der Übertragung von Orgelwerken auf das Klavier, Bach–Busoni gesammelte Ausgabe, 5 (Leipzig, 1894), appx

Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst(Trieste, 1907, 2/1916/R; Eng. trans, 1911); Eng. trans. repr. in Three Classics in the Aesthetic of Music (New York, 1962); repr. with marginalia by Schoenberg, ed. H.H. Stuckenschmidt (Frankfurt, 1974)

Versuch einer organischen Klavier-Notenschrift(Leipzig, 1910); repr. in Bach–Busoni gesammelte Ausgabe, vii (Leipzig, 1920), appx

Von der Einheit der Musik (Berlin, 1922), rev., enlarged 2/1956 by J. Herrmann as Wesen und Einheit der Musik; Eng. trans., 1957/R, as The Essence of Music

‘Franz Liszts Vorrede zur ersten Kollektivausgabe von Fields Nocturnes’. Die Musik, 16 (1924), 309–16

J. Kapp, ed.: ‘Ungedrucktes aus dem Nachlass: Aphorismen; “Das Geheimnis”, ein Opernentwurf’, Blätter der Staatsoper, 5/Nov (1924–5), 1–10

F. Schnapp, ed.: ‘Uber Melodie: nachgelassene Skizzen’, ZfM, Jg.97 (1930), 95–101

P. Rattalino, ed.: ‘Scritti giovanile di Ferruccio Busoni’, Musica d’oggi, 3–4 (1959), 105–11

F. d’Amico, ed.: Lo sguardo lieto: tutti gli scritti sulla music a le arti (Milan, 1977)

J. Willimann, ed.: ‘Magister und Scholarus: zwei Busoni-Texte von 1923’, Schweizer Jb für Musikwissenschaft, new ser., 11 (1991), 139–68

M. Weindel, ed.: “‘The Hundred Best Books”: eine unveröffentlichte Literaturliste aus dem Nachlass Ferruccio Busonis’, AMw, 53 (1996), 65–85

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