Ferruccio Busoni Composer
Kurze Stück zur Pflege des polyphonen Spiels, KiV 296
Musicology:Though Busoni came to despise his fame as a pianist—"...this strolling player's life," he called it—he never lost interest in piano technique, the accommodation of 10 fingers to the keyboard for maximum effectiveness. As the nephritis and heart disease that killed him tightened their inexorable grip, from March to July 1923 he composed Five Short Pieces for the Cultivation of Part-playing. In the second edition of his Klavierübung ("piano exercises," a title used by Kuhnau and Bach) he prefaces the original five studies with a single-page Preludietto composed in 1916 and rounds them off with a study for the Steinway piano's sostenuto pedal. Various reprints from these editions give either Five, Six, or Seven Short Pieces. Far from being mere pedagogical exercises, they are among Busoni's pithiest and most significant compositions—tissue for his opera Doktor Faust. The Preludietto suggests Bach in Modern dress. The second opens with slow chromatic chords harboring a three-note motto—an allusion to Bach's Three-Part Inventions in F minor ("pure 'Passion' music," Busoni called it)—made explicit and joined to its inversion in a serpentine arching and coiling figure through which an enigmatic aria makes its way before the opening chords return in odd tranquility, embroidered in sixteenth notes and confirming the allusion. Bach's contrapuntal art has been reformulated with existential prescience and made to bear the burden of Busonic polyphony. To a curiously percolating accompaniment of triplets in thirds and sixths, the third piece presents a serene canonic dialogue. By juxtaposing disparate materials the second and third pieces achieve an eerie distancing—hieratic utterance heightened by an abstract frame. Busoni's chronicler, Antony Beaumont, has shown that, contrary to all previous accounts, Busoni, on his deathbed, left a sketch for the unfinished final scene of Doktor Faust that incorporates material from the third, fourth, and seventh of these pieces. Faust, alone on a square in Wittenberg in the winter night, draws a magic circle in the snow around the body of his dead child. To the music of the fourth piece—rippling triplets accompanying a chorale whose "knocking" phrase of three repeated notes Beaumont identifies as the "death motif" in Busoni's work—Faust transfers his soul to the child's body. The fifth piece is an ecstatically visionary prelude to the sixth, a transcription of the duet of the two men in armor from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. The seventh, also employing the "knocking" motif, is a ghostly meditation imagined for Faust's death.
Kurze Stück zur Pflege des polyphonen Spiels, KiV 296Year: 1917-22
Pr. Instrument: Piano
- 2.Andante molto tranquillo e legato
- 4.Preludio: Andante tranquillo
© Adrian Corleonis, All Music Guide