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Work

Ferruccio Busoni

Ferruccio Busoni Composer

24 Preludes, Op.37, KiV 181   

Performances: 2
Tracks: 48
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Musicology:
  • 24 Preludes, Op.37, KiV 181
    Year: 1881-81
    Genre: Prelude / Fugue
    Pr. Instrument: Piano
    • 1.Moderato
    • 2.Andantino sostenuto
    • 3.Andante con moto
    • 4.Allegretto: in carattere di danza
    • 5.Vivace assai quasi presto
    • 6.Moderato: in carattere d'un corale
    • 7.Allegro vivace: in carattere di giga
    • 8.Allegro moderato
    • 9.Allegretto vivace e con brio: in carattere campestre
    • 10.Vivace ed energico
    • 11.Allegretto piacevole "alla danza"
    • 12.Andantino
    • 13.Allegretto scherzando
    • 14.Lento: Funebre
    • 15.Andantino sostenuto
    • 16.Maestoso ed energico
    • 17.Allegretto vivace
    • 18.Allegretto con moto
    • 19.Allegro vivo
    • 20.Allegro moderato
    • 21.Andantino sostenuto
    • 22.Vivace e sherzoso
    • 23.Allegro vivace
    • 24.Presto
Busoni was a child prodigy whose gifts were compared, not unjustly, to Mozart's. At the age of 7 he made his first public appearance playing works by Schumann, Clementi, and Mozart. At 9 he was performing Mozart's C minor Concerto. And at 15 the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna awarded him honors in piano and composition given only once before—to Mozart. Brilliant as that seems, it signals being led by his parents, itinerant musicians, down the path of relentless exploitation made legendary by Mozart to blight the tender years of legions of gifted youngsters, including Franck and Liszt. Busoni's biographer, E.J. Dent, gives a horripilating account of the family's catch-as-catch-can travails—presenting Ferruccio to packed or empty houses from Italian backwaters to Vienna as he played Bach, Scarlatti, Mozart, Hummel, Chopin, Schumann, Schubert, and his own compositions, and took themes from the audience to improvise upon. Inevitably, the stress of being the primary breadwinner provoked periods of illness. "The strain was aggravated," Dent wrote, "by the boy's consciousness that he himself was the only member of the family who had a real sense of their responsibilities and the only one who made a serious attempt to grapple with them." A period of private study with Wilhelm Mayer over 1880 came as a godsend and laid the foundation for the composer Busoni was to become. "When he left Graz in April 1881," Dent noted, "he took with him a book of 430 folio pages written out in his own hand with every elegance of Italian calligraphy—a complete treatise on composition, beginning with the rudiments of music and proceeding through harmony, counterpoint, and fugue to instrumentation and composition in all forms. But Mayer, for all his German thoroughness, was no dry pedant. 'Möglichst vielseitige Bildung macht den Künstler' (the widest possible culture makes the artist) was the motto written at the foot of the table of contents." The 24 Preludes for piano, composed the following month, afford a close conspectus not only of Busoni's technical grasp at 15, but a glimpse into his effusive, if undeveloped, inscape of feeling. Though obviously prompted by Schumann and Chopin, there is a preponderance of pseudo-Baroque and dance pieces, and a number of neo-Classical miniatures (similar to what Saint-Saëns, d'Indy, and Magnard would compose through the next dozen years) facilitated by virtuoso writing, hobbled occasionally by awkwardness, and suffused with that melting Italianate lyricism that takes one by surprise through much of Busoni's juvenilia.

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