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Ferruccio Busoni: Seven Elegies; Piano Works
Ferruccio Busoni, Roland Pöntinen
Ferruccio Busoni: Seven Elegies; Piano Works
Genre: Classical
Busoni composed the Seven Elegies while teaching the master class at the Vienna Conservatory, and, according to Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt, they "bear the mark, Janus-faced, of past and future." Many pieces are linked to ot...  more »


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All Artists: Ferruccio Busoni, Roland Pöntinen
Title: Ferruccio Busoni: Seven Elegies; Piano Works
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Cpo Records
Release Date: 9/21/2004
Genre: Classical
Styles: Chamber Music, Forms & Genres, Suites, Historical Periods, Classical (c.1770-1830)
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 761203985326, 761203985326


Album Description
Busoni composed the Seven Elegies while teaching the master class at the Vienna Conservatory, and, according to Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt, they "bear the mark, Janus-faced, of past and future." Many pieces are linked to other works by Busoni, were the core for them, or are arrangements of them including: Turandot, Brautwahl, and the monumental Piano Concerto. The Elegies, including the famous Berceuse élégiaque reflect the hovering between traditional tonality and symptoms of the abandonment of tonality so typical of him and making his work so unique and fascinating.

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CD Reviews

Piano Works from Busoni's Maturity, Beautifully Played
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 09/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) had a hard time arriving at his compositional maturity. His early works were more or less Schumannesque, and although many of them are lovely, they don't have the unique sound one associates with a great composer. But by the time he reached his forties he had developed a style that is easily recognized as his own. It tends to be a bit off-putting at first, with its polytonality, frequent use of chords built mostly of thirds piled on top of each other, its incessant modern counterpoint. But once one gets inside Busoni's sound world, it becomes accessible and at times profoundly beautiful. I first became aware of the breadth of Busoni's compositional range when, more than twenty years ago, I bought Geoffrey Douglas Madge's recordings of Busoni's complete piano oeuvre. I'm glad I have them, but Madge's clunky playing leaves a great deal to be desired. In this regard, Roland Pontinen clearly outshines his earlier competitor. He has earlier recorded Busoni's six wonderful sonatinas (don't let the word 'sonatina' fool you; these are big pieces) and clearly is fully conversant with Busoni's personal style. All of the pieces on this CD are relatively brief (the longest, 'Erscheinung,' lasts six minutes) but there are two large collections here: the seven 'Elegien' ('Elegies') and 'Sieben kurze Stücke zur Pflege des polyphonen Spiels' ('Seven Short Pieces for the Cultivation of Polyphonic Playing'). Both sets are among Busoni's highest achievements. Also included are the breathless 'Perpetuum mobile,' which is a revised version of the middle movement of his Piano Concertino, based on a Rossinian model, and the 'Prélude and Étude en arpèges' ('Prelude and Etude in Arpeggios').

Each of the Elegies is completely different from its mates. Of particular note are No. 2, 'All'Italia,' which, although in Busoni's advanced style, quotes wittily from Italian folk music and includes a canzona and a tarantella. It is highly virtuosic, brash even, in contrast to most of the other companion pieces. It takes some of its materials from his humongous Piano Concerto. (The only other really virtuosic piece is No. 4, 'Turandot's Frauengemach,' which is partly based on Busoni's orchestral suite illustrating Gozzi's 'Turandot,' the same source as Puccini's opera. Amusingly, like the orchestral suite, it quotes 'Greensleeves'; Busoni was under the mistaken impression that the tune was Chinese in origin!) The rest of the Elegies are quiet and more obviously elegiac. 'Die Nächtlichen' ('The Night Person') is fleet, pianissimo and shadowy. 'Erscheinung' ('Visage') is a study for his opera, 'Brautwohl,' and in his most advanced style. It is quietly restless. It quotes the first piece of the cycle towards the end. It was originally the final piece of the suite but later the moving 'Berceuse' ('Lullaby'), written at the death of his beloved mother, was added. It also exists in a ethereally beautiful string orchestra version.

The 'Seven Pieces for the Cultivation of Polyphonic Playing' are mostly brief études that do indeed help a pianist develop independence of fingers in playing contrapuntal music. But there is also valuable music qua music. 'Preludietto' is a 33-bar Bachian two-part invention. (Let us not forget that Busoni made many piano versions of Bach pieces and 'Bach/Busoni' still figures on piano recital programs occasionally.) Others in the set are written as chorale preludes (or rather, chorale fantasias) with chorale melodies embroidered above and below by almost Hindemithian counterpoint. No. 3 is a two part-canon with an eighth-note triplet accompaniment in thirds and sixths. It is followed attacca by a perpetuum mobile (primarily carried out in the left hand) against a cantus firmus. Nos. 5 and 6, also played without pause, are a prelude and fugue, the latter based on the chorale of the Armored Men in Mozart's 'Die Zauberflöte.' The seventh piece makes use of the piano's third pedal only recently introduced by Steinway. It is written in four staves with two of them for long-sustained tones against which counterpoint in contrary motion is set.

Pontinen's playing on this CD is exemplary. He clearly knows and admires Busoni's oddly endearing peculiarities of style and technique. Probably the highest compliment I could pay him is to say that he makes music out of these thickets of notes. One hopes he will record more of Busoni's works. I'd love to hear what he makes of the 'Fantasia contrappuntistica.'



Scott Morrison"
An excellent release
G.D. | Norway | 03/25/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The second installment in this valuable series exhibits much the same qualities as the first, and also the modest drawbacks. The seven elegies are at the centre of Busoni's piano output; they are masterly contrapuntal, complex and expressive works, even if they might come across as a bit forbidding on a first listen. Despite the variegated character and expressive outlook of the elegies, you also do get a sense that the works form a cycle. Pöntinen's approach underlines exactly this point, and his abilities to draw out the long lines, not only in each particular piece but also across pieces, is very impressive. It is possible to object, as on the first disc, that Pöntinen is better at conveying subtlety, poetry and reflection than fire and power, but these are all, in the end, extremely satisfying performances.

The other works aren't quite in the same league; the perpetuum mobile is a joyful if slight work while the interesting seven short pieces also forms something of a coherent whole, something Pöntinen again nicely brings out. The Prelude and Etude is a near-masterpiece, however; very Bachian in conception and a powerful and expressive work. Pöntinen handles everything admirably and the sound quality is warm and excellent. As with volume 1 I judge this disc as deserving 4.5 stars - but since I gave volume 1 four stars, and since this is even a little better, I'll give it 5. Strongly recommended anyway."