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Busoni: Piano Concerto, Op. 39
Ferruccio Busoni, Mark Elder, Marc-Andre Hamelin
Busoni: Piano Concerto, Op. 39
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #1

Back when the film Shine was popular, Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto became all the rage as a work making nearly suicidal demands of its soloist. But one mountain of challenges to the virtuoso you're not likely to en...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Ferruccio Busoni, Mark Elder, Marc-Andre Hamelin
Title: Busoni: Piano Concerto, Op. 39
Members Wishing: 2
Total Copies: 0
Label: Hyperion UK
Release Date: 12/14/1999
Album Type: Import
Genre: Classical
Styles: Forms & Genres, Concertos, Historical Periods, Modern, 20th, & 21st Century, Instruments, Keyboard, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 034571171432

Back when the film Shine was popular, Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto became all the rage as a work making nearly suicidal demands of its soloist. But one mountain of challenges to the virtuoso you're not likely to encounter in live performance is the Piano Concerto of Ferruccio Busoni. Its dimensions are Guinness Book material: Lasting over 70 minutes and cast in five epic movements, it not only uses a gargantuan orchestra but calls for an invisible male chorus singing a mystical hymn of stunning beauty in the finale. But the concerto isn't just about grandiosity. Its complex, symbolic architecture gives the work a searching intensity more akin to the trajectory of a Mahler symphony. In his preoccupation with synthesizing elements from North and South, incorporating contrapuntal complexity and flowing Italianate lyricism, introspective gloom and fevered excitement, Busoni sounds something like a character out of Thomas Mann. Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin--who has made a specialty of neglected masterpieces--performs with a tremendous range of expression and theatrical flair, clearly holding his own against the earlier celebrated account of John Ogdon. The sui generis nature of the piece requires an unusually high degree of sensitive interaction from the conductor. Mark Elder shows a magnificent grasp of Busoni's architectonic sensibility and his sculpting of musical space, as well as of the score's kaleidoscopic orchestration. Busoni may be bidding farewell to an entire tradition here, but it's his over-the-top originality that is likely to captivate you. --Thomas May

CD Reviews

Mammoth Concerto Recieves Wonderful Performance!
Darin Tysdal | Bloomington, MN 55420 | 12/23/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This piano concerto could have been written by Mahler. It lasts 72 minutes, has 5 movements,and ends with a men's chorus offstage. This concerto was written by Feruccio Busoni, an Italian composer who is known more by reputation than by the appreciation of his music.The music is a combination of Italian warmth (the fourth movement is a Tarantella) and a Germanic seriousness reminicent of Brahms. This dichotomy confused the audiences of Busoni's day. With Mahler's music being more appreciated, this concerto now can be better understood. This concerto was first recorded by John Ogdon (now availible in the Great Pianists of the 20th Century Series) and has since been recorded by Volker Banfield, Viktoria Postnikova, Peter Donohoe, and Garrick Ohlsson. In fact, it was Ohlsson's recording which put this concerto more in the public eye, a fantastic performance using a Bosendorfer Imperial Grand Piano. His recording emphasised the seriousness of this concerto,and it's dark scoring. Hamelin's recording has more light and shade, however, there are many similarities between the two performances. The choir in the last movement is more in the background, and I am not yet used to it, but it is what Busoni intended. Hamelin and Elder throw more fantasy into the second and fourth movements while Ohlsson sounds more germanic, but in my view, not less valid. I have to call this one a tie-you cannot go wrong with any of these. I own both, but if you have Ohlsson's already, you might want to invest in Hamelin's new Hyperion disc of music by Gyorgy Catoire. Such a wonderful piece, however, can stand two very good performances and that is what these are."
Blockbuster Busoni
K. Farrington | Missegre, France | 05/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There are a handful of huge works that were composed at the turn of the 20th century that almost only exist in the musicologists museum as mere curiosities rather than works of art. These include Mahler's Eighth Symphony, Scriabin's 'Prometheus', Schoenberg's 'Gurrelieder' and Busoni's Piano Concerto. Histories have been penned which put this genre of work down to 'works of transition' yet as Heraclitus and Hegel said, isn't everything of human endeavour just that, a product of the becoming between being and nothingness? The development of the symphonic structures and sounds of the orchestra which gathered apace during the nineteenth century, were given additional spin by the likes of Berlioz and Wagner and inevitably led to an inflation of length and sonority whose climax came just before the old regime would tear itself apart in the Great War. However, just because a work belongs to this genre, does it mean that its integrity of expression is compromised de facto? A work of genius transcends all these critical pigeon holes and should stand on its own merits per se. Busoni's Piano Concerto is like no other due to the obvious attributions of length and orchestral size but it is so much more than this, so much more! The magnificent work stands alone for the purity of its expression. It is absolute music which happens to be scored for orchestra and piano, Busoni's instrument of which he is probably one of the most able performers in the whole history of music. We are conditioned by our prior knowledge of the particular genre of a piece of music. If you think of Tchaikovsky's concertos or Rachmaninovs, the Schuman or the Grieg, or even Bartok, they all have some common features of expression. It seems they are a showpiece for a soloist to shine against an orchestral background with a certain formula of cadenza and recapitulative expression. The demands on both soloist and orchestra in this work are huge but are entirely different than the other works mentioned here. For me, Busoni was a genuine artist who tried to break the bounds or artistic conventionalities of his day. Busoni did this again in his magnum opus, the opera Doktor Faust, which has always been neglected because of its 'strangeness'. The Piano Concerto attempts something of the same task as the opera, pitting the microcosmic piano against and with the macrocosmic orchestra. The amount of melodic and contrapunctal invention are a tour de force of genius and we are treated here to a magnificent performance by both soloist and orchestra. I have the Ogdon original, considered to be the definitive performance. To be sure, Ogdon is more mind numbing in the muscular regions of the work but this is de minimis. This work will never be in the 'pops' section of the record stores but I believe that it will emerge in history as something more than a musical curiosity with its sister 'Doktor Faust' and become an acknowledged work that will be get a hearing like, for example, Mahler's Eighth. This CD will win many friends for this work. It is all good. Just don't be put off by its initial Germanic, grim, saturnine exterior. Inside you will find a plentitude of beautiful expressive romantic music that is just aching to be listened to. The tarantella sits there happily alongide the north German Brahms sound with the fin de siecle chromaticism of Strauss. The result is brilliant!"
Bland orchestra keeps this from being 5 stars for me
chefdevergue | Spokane, WA United States | 06/14/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"John Ogdon was a head case (long before Helfgott made it trendy to be a crazy musician) but boy, could he play! To hear him play would make you forget that there could be anything amiss with his mind. What I especially loved about him was his affinity for zany masterpieces like Sorabji's "Opus Clavicembalisticum," virtually unplayable pieces that nobody else would touch with a 10-foot pole. The Busoni concerto was one of those masterpieces that Ogdon embraced, even though most pianists wouldn't go near it. Even today, you practically count on one hand the number of pianists that include this musical behemoth in their repetoire.One of those is Marc-André Hamelin, who demonstrates an admirable command of this densely-textured, mammoth piece. Certainly I cannot find any fault in his interpretation, but once again (as has happened all too frequently in this Hyperion series) the orchestra tends to undermine a great performance with a sometimes flat and disengaged accompaniment. That & a curiously unsatifisfying sound quality forced me to lop off a star, despite Hamelins admirable performance. No matter how good the soloist may be, a 2nd-rate orchestral performance really can drag down the overall quality of a recording, and that is the case here.Nonetheless, Hamelin is great, and this neglected masterpiece --- one of the most remarkable pieces ever written in the 20th century --- is definitely worth soldiering through. Like Nielsen's symphonies, it is not a piece casually approached, so be prepared for repeated listenings before you can fully appreciate the piece."