Ferruccio Busoni Composer
Prélude et Etude en Arpèges, KiV 297Performances: 4
Musicology:Isidor Philipp became acquainted with Busoni before the Great War, soon developing a close friendship. The serious pianist can hardly escape contact with Philipp's voluminous pedagogical works, among which is a valuable edition of Chopin, with whose pupil, Georges Mathias, he studied. With Élie Miriam Delaborde—reputed to have been Alkan's natural son—Philipp edited nearly all of Alkan's many piano works, which stimulated his rapport with Busoni, who, to the consternation of German critics, performed a number of Alkan's pieces through the first decade of the twentieth century. In June 1914, with the beginning of the Great War but two months away, he consulted Philipp about relocating to Paris. Philipp made it clear that Busoni would be welcomed as a pianist but not embraced as a composer. As late as 1919 Busoni was still considering Paris, though he eventually returned from Zürich to Berlin. Philipp proved invaluable in arranging Busoni's return to the Paris concert platform in 1922—his last season, for he was already in the grip of the chronic nephritis that would end his life two years later and about which Philipp was strangely prescient. Busoni's last public appearance took place in Berlin on May 29, 1922. His biographer, E.J. Dent, noted, "Busoni's interpretations at this time gave the listener a strange sense of perilous adventure." He was considering a complete change of repertoire—"I have devoted myself too much, I think, to Bach, to Mozart, and to Liszt. I wish now that I could emancipate myself from them. Schumann is no use to me any more, Beethoven only with an effort and strict selection. Chopin...I have heard his music too often—prostituted, profaned, vulgarized." As a composer, too, Busoni had reached another "turning point," evident in the Prélude et Étude en arpèges commissioned by Philipp for a volume of studies devoted to arpeggio playing. Composed over January/February 1923, it possesses the aura of an arcane ritual. The Prélude, marked Arioso, volante ma tranquillo, is awash in muted flourishes through which incantatory gestures—heard again in Doktor Faust as Mephistopheles conjures the vision of Helena from the corpse of Faust's child by the Duchess of Parma—flicker and plead, while the Étude, violinisticamente articolato, suggests an extended frantic pursuit ending enigmatically in a C major blaze. The "study" eschews thumb-under fingering. Egon Petri gave the premiere during Bauhaus Week, organized by Hermann Scherchen, in Weimar on August 18, 1923, where Busoni met Klee, Gropius, Kandinsky, and Stravinsky.
Prélude et Etude en Arpèges, KiV 297Year: 1923
Genre: Prelude / Fugue
Pr. Instrument: Piano
© Adrian Corleonis, All Music Guide