Talk:Ferruccio Busoni

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Russolo citation[edit]

Does anyone know of the citation where Russolo is listed as one of Busoni's pupils? I'm currently researching both and it would help me out a lot, but I haven't come across it in any of my readings.

I inserted a request for a reference. (I don't believe Russolo was a Busoni pupil.) Unfortunately, it now appears on another web site as fact without substantiation, e.g., Piano Society:Ferruccio Busoni. This author probably got it from Wikipedia. I don't think that would make a valid citation for Wikipedia, would it... Robert.Allen (talk) 08:41, 13 April 2009 (UTC)


Hi Helohe, Unfortunately listing the recordings of Busoni's music is not viable (Amazon has almost 300 of them!) so I changed this section to be about Busoni's recordings. I would suggest that if you want to mention specific recordings that you do so in a subarticle on the specific piece. Or if you want to mention musicians who championed Busoni's music in general... Tedneeman 23:57, 24 May 2005 (UTC)

The Recordings section was very confusing. It did not distinguish clearly between his audio recordings for Columbia and the piano rolls, so I split it into two subsections. Here is a good example of what I mean: it mentioned recordings of Liszt's Sonata in B minor and Beethoven's Hammerklavier; these may actually be intended to refer to piano roll recordings which have been lost, but I don't know for sure, and don't have a reference yet, so I left them in the section about the well-documented lost audio recording of Gounod-Liszt Mephisto-Waltz where they originally appeared and asked for references. (Regarding the Gounod-Liszt, see Recordings by Ferruccio Busoni). Also the "La Campanella" in the list of surviving recordings probably refers to a piano roll recording as well. I hope we can straighten this out as some point. --Robert.Allen (talk) 05:08, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

Fantasia Contrappuntistica[edit]

I think Fantasia Contrappuntistica should get its own page. Including a description whats the difference in the 4(?) Versions. helohe 08:12, 22 July 2005 (UTC)

Cramer and Busoni[edit]

Regarding Busoni's "edition" of Cramer: I think the etudes in the Klavierubung, even though they are called "nach Cramer", are close enough to Cramer's originals so that "edition" is the right word. In the first few he hardly changed anything. Tedneeman | Talk 22:25, 17 August 2005 (UTC)

Turandot Link[edit]

The link in the article goes to Puccini's Turandot - there is no article here on the Busoni opera of that name. --Philip Howard 23:58, 24 November 2005 (UTC)

Detailed addresses of burial place, etc.[edit]

The descriptions of his burial place and last home seem to be a bit overboard. I think few English speakers have any idea what all that stuff, especially the numbers, means. I know I don't. I think that information should be made more concise, or cut out entirely. --Rschmertz 05:52, 12 March 2006 (UTC)

International Piano Contest[edit]

I've added the link to the Busoni Contest in Bozen / Bolzano. I would quote it on the article with a little citation. It was started in 1949 by Cesare Nordio enrolling judges such as Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Maybe we should think to link to the English page only. Alegreen 07:27, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

State of the article[edit]

I feel this article needs a good rewrite. There are sections that are poorly organized, and other sections that sound as if they have been ill-translated from (maybe) German. I am not a Busoni expert by any means but I will try my hand at doing some work when I can; feel free to beat me to it! --Wspencer11 (talk to me...) 18:02, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

Which sections are poorly organized? How so? Which sections sound poorly written? How could those sections be improved, specifically? Hyacinth (talk) 22:13, 14 June 2008 (UTC)

~~ The very first paragraph reads horribly to begin with. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:15, 8 April 2009 (UTC)


Has anyone else noticed that a number of the recordings in the media section are not by Busoni? The transcriptions of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, Sinfonia to Cantata no. 29, and Sheep May Safely Graze are by Myra Hess, Wilhelm Kempff, and Egon Petri (respectively). Wsupianist (talk) 14:57, 7 October 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for the information. I was the original uploader of the files, and I found them at this directory of Pandora Records. They were all labelled as being by Busoni. Wikipedia's catalog of adaptations by Ferruccio Busoni confirms what you are saying. I'm quite embarrassed that these files stayed on Busoni's article for over fifteen months, and I wish I'd found your message sooner. I have removed the files from this article, and marked them for deletion. They are probably copyright violations as well because their transcribers died relatively recently. Graham87 14:57, 2 June 2009 (UTC)

Composer project review[edit]

I've reviewed this article as part of the Composers project review of its B-class articles. This article is B-class; it lacks a complete works list, and has relatively little popular reaction to his playing or compositions. My full review is on the comments page; questions and comments should be left here or on my talk page. Magic♪piano 14:46, 5 February 2009 (UTC)

List of compositions by Ferruccio Busoni: article created 9 Feb; not yet complete, but getting there Robert.Allen (talk) 08:48, 13 April 2009 (UTC)

Busoni's name[edit]

Is Busoni's middle name really "Michelangiolo" as opposed to the more familiar "Michelangelo" ? MUSIKVEREIN (talk) 13:17, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

According to Dent (who may have actually checked a document, since he specifies that Busoni was "christened" with the name), it is "Michelangiolo". Antony Beaumont lists him as "Michelangelo" in the New Grove entry. Couling also uses "Michelangelo", but she probably used Beaumont as her source. --Robert.Allen (talk) 03:35, 15 July 2009 (UTC)

Brahms and Neo-classicism[edit]

I removed the following because it does not really fit in at this point:

"Earlier, Brahms had also made a transcription of the same chaconne, but for left hand only. Thus some consider him an originator of neoclassicism in music."

When we add a section on Busoni's theories about Neo-classicism, which he called "Young Classicism", it would be very appropriate. --Robert.Allen (talk) 22:41, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

Actually the German title reads: Von der Einheit der Musik, von Dritteltönen und junger Klassizitat... --Robert.Allen (talk) 03:49, 15 July 2009 (UTC)

Met Liszt?[edit]

Currently, we have: "A couple of years later he played some of his own compositions in Vienna where he heard Franz Liszt play, and met Liszt, Johannes Brahms and Anton Rubinstein".

Well, Grove V says, of Busoni: ".... Liszt, for whom he always had the greatest admiration, although he never heard Liszt play and never even saw him". What do we make of this discrepancy? -- JackofOz (talk) 04:55, 1 November 2009 (UTC)

Is the author of the Grove V entry Antony Beaumont? Dent (p. 24) asserts that Liszt was in Vienna for the celebration of the fiftieth anniversay of Beethoven's death in 1877 and (1) Busoni heard Liszt play the Concerto in E-flat and was "bitterly disappointed with his performance" (Liszt was getting pretty old by then) and (2) Busoni played for Liszt a few days later at a meeting in the rooms of Liszt's cousin Eduard von Liszt with whom Liszt stayed when in Vienna. He says the event was arranged by Busoni's patroness Caroline Gomperz-Bettelheim. Beaumont's 1987 book of letters repeats this information (in the chronology on p. xvii). Couling repeats Dent's story in her 2005 book, so she was apparently unaware of any change as of that date. Perhaps later research has shown it to be false. I would tend to trust the most recent information, but it might be best to search for confirmation, and/or consult the source of it, to see more details of the argument. --Robert.Allen (talk) 11:00, 1 November 2009 (UTC)

Couling also quotes a 3 April 1879 letter (pp. 31-32) from Busoni (perhaps written by his mother) to Otto von Kapf in which it is claimed that Ferruccio was examined by Liszt (among others) for his competency on the piano (Couling's footnote cites the original letter in the Berlin State Library). (Actually a different translation of this letter is also in Beaumont, 1987, p. 8.) --Robert.Allen (talk) 11:27, 1 November 2009 (UTC)

I just realized you are using the old Grove (1954). I was wondering whether "V" was some sort of typo, now I understand. I would guess that the information in that edition is out of date, but I'm surprised it did not take Dent into account. That was first published in 1933. I'm curious whether the Grove V articles had bibliographies, and if so, whether the article listed Dent. --Robert.Allen (talk) 17:08, 1 November 2009 (UTC)
Surprise, surprise! The Grove V article was written by none other than "E.J.D" = Edward J. Dent. He seems to have been relying on his faulty memory, rather than checking the facts recorded in his own book written 21 years earlier. Unless, maybe, he had reason in 1954 to gainsay what he'd written in 1933. -- JackofOz (talk) 20:36, 1 November 2009 (UTC)

That's a hoot! I expect you're right about him relying on his memory. (He turned 78 in 1954.) Also, I seem to remember that Busoni himself claimed late in his life that he had never met Liszt, but I haven't been able to find where I read it. I'll keep looking. --Robert.Allen (talk) 21:09, 1 November 2009 (UTC)

Something I didn't mention, he (Dent) said in his book that there was no longer any documentation of the event, but doesn't say who his source for the information was. --Robert.Allen (talk) 21:29, 1 November 2009 (UTC)
Well, how odd. I'm quite prepared to believe he met Liszt, however briefly, and that does seem well documented. So it's surprising he would have denied it in his latter years. Maybe it was always a legend around which certain "facts" accreted, which he wanted to put to rest before he died. -- JackofOz (talk) 08:14, 2 November 2009 (UTC)

Bach/Busoni Chaconne - A Musical Myth[edit]

This text focuses the musical myth in which has been transformed the piano transcription done in 1892 by the pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924), based on the composition of Johann Sebastian Bach named Chaconne – BWV 1004, the 5th Movement of the Partita Nr 2 for solo violin.

Bach composed the Partita Nr 2 between 1720 and 1723 and according to some scholars, prominently Professor Helga Thoene,1 the Chaconne was done in homage to Maria Barbara, his first wife, unexpectedly died in July 1720 during his absence by reason of work. Bach was not informed about the wife’s death and when he returned the body had been buried a week ago. This loss motivated him to compose the Chaconne.

Busoni became known mainly because of his many transcriptions for solo piano of Bach’s compositions, specially the Chaconne and the Chorale Preludes as, by example, that named “Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland” (Now comes the gentiles’ Saviour) – BWV 659. Being a great pianist, he influenced new pianist generations at the transition from the Romanticism to the Modernism.

Usually the transcriptions are done with the purpose of performing the music through a different instrument of that the composer had chosen for the original score. Concerning the Bach’s Chaconne, many and several transcriptions have been done for piano, guitar, organ, bassoon, orchestra and even one for choral (See Frequently the transcriptions of Bach’s compositions are object of polemic arisen by purist critics who do not accept modifications in the opuses of that, who is considered the Music’s father, or by other critics who accept changes, but with reservations, mainly those concerning the original’s content or essence.

The Busoni transcription of the Bach’s Chaconne has been object of criticism by both the tendencies. Busoni did so many alterations to the original – of expression, rhythm, time and even quantity of measures – which affected strongly the opus’ content of deepest feelings and expressive emotions. It’s impossible to believe that Busoni, with his vast knowledge on the Bach’s music, was not conscious of the intrinsic but not written performance indications in the original, since they were not used at that period. However, even who knows a minimum about baroque music (See Doctrine of the Affections) and, particularly, a little of Bach’s music, can almost naturally see the presence of narratives and dialogs in the ascendant or descendant, bass or treble phrasing, which concern the expression. Because of the deliberated distance from the original, it is not wrong to say that this transcription could be another composition, a great composition if it were not the fact that, in despite of the alterations, still it is the Bach’s Chaconne, even though transfigured. It’s, for example, as if the Da Vinci’s Monalisa were redone with other colors, other lines and proportions, but even so it could be recognized.

What would have been the Busoni’s purpose in doing these alterations? It’s known that Busoni, answering the pianist D’Albert’s criticism in May 1894, argued that the violin, for its limitations, wasn’t suitable for the Chaconne performance.2 According to this declaration, Bach would have made a mistake, or it would have been impossible for him to choose the adequate instrument or instruments. There are even people who suppose, without proof, that the Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin would be a reduction from other composition for orchestra, whose score would have been lost. These favorable arguments to the Busoni’s transcription work to justify its orchestral character. But this character is just the Achilles heel of this argumentation.

The arts, particularly the music, consist in feeling and expressing emotions. Regarding this Chaconne, it´s a deep emotion of a man who lost his wife and, after visiting her grave, is now alone in his room. Nobody, at this moment, feels like him that pain. Would he have than inspiration to compose for an orchestra or it would be more naturally adequate that he had chosen an intimist instrument as the violin to compose for? Let’s listen to an expert so qualified as Johannes Brahms:

“The Chaconne is the most wonderful, unfathomable pieces of music. On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind."

Brahms did also his piano transcription from the Bach’s Chaconne in the most simple and faithful way to the original and for left hand performance. A caprice or a gift and respect to those pianists who lost the use of one of the hands? It’s a beautiful transcription that causes emotion. It’s worthwhile to watch the pianist Anatol Ugorski playing it in the You Tube.

All those people who have done a transcription for orchestra from this Chaconne did not get a corresponding success to the original masterpiece weight, nor to the experience and competence of great composers as Leopold Stokowski whose transcription for symphonic orchestra, even being grandiose, don’t awake emotion with the same intensity like the original for solo violin. Why? I’ll try to answer, paradoxically, with other question: why the piano transcription done by Franz Liszt (1811-1886) from the Funeral March, 2nd Movement of the Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, the Heroic, also doesn’t correspond to the Liszt’s mastery of the piano, neither to this Beethoven’s masterpiece? Each opus owns an essential character which is built from the initial idea, impulse or motivation of its creator. The Beethoven’s motivation to compose this Funeral March wasn’t based in an individual feeling, particular like that which motivated Bach to compose the Chaconne, but in other feeling of universal or collective ambit and resulting from that historic moment, a feeling of deep respect for the died and anonymous heroes of the French Revolution. This motivation couldn’t prosper through a solo instrument composition, but only by a Symphonic Orchestra executing a symphony. Nevertheless, the Bach’s Chaconne also moves millions of people around the world because, in the likeness of the spectator, the listener also abandons himself to the catharsis process by feeling as his own the another’s pain.

In his Chaconne transcription Busoni has opted for the orchestral character by availing himself of and exploring at the utmost the sonority, timbre and pedals resources of the modern grand pianos made in Europe (Bösendorfer, since 1828 in Austria) and after in the USA (Steinway & Sons, since 1853). This transcription became a musical myth and also a challenge even to the great pianists because of its complexity, on the point of many of them, almost that obligatorily, have included it in their repertoires. However, not all of them. Why? Glenn Gould (1932-1982), the great Bach’s interpreter, didn’t record it although had done recordings of Beethoven-Liszt Symphonies transcriptions. Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) also didn’t it, but has recorded another Bach-Busoni transcription, the Chorale Prelude – BWV 659. Purists? Absolutely not. Are they from those who accept changes, but with some reservations? Personally, I think so.

According to some enthusiasts of this transcription, Busoni, by exploring the piano timbre resources, would allow the interpreter to “almost hear the roll of drums and the ringing of bells.”2 However much I have heard this transcription many times by many performers, I couldn’t hear bells. What one hears well is, surprisingly, the sound of a steam locomotive (mm. 40-47), an abrupt change of tempo and touch –“più mosso ma misuratto” – that interrupts the narrative and breaks the melodic line and the passage unity. Busoni, along the transcription, deliberately ignores the Bach’s typical poetic rhetoric, so exuberant in this Chaconne. The strong sonority effects and the emphasis in grandiosity, which don’t allow the interpreter to perform with coherent expression, hide the evocations, dialogs, affirmations, exclamations, questions and answers, so clear in the Bach’s original to an attentive audience.

In the initial measures Bach evokes the Barbara’s name, following a clear dialog between them (mm. 7-20). Successively the phrases and passages go ahead suggesting reminiscences from the courtship happy days in Arnstadt and the marriage in Dornheim (mm. 24-119); the lancinating lament for the loss of Barbara (mm. 124-131); the complaining and revolt while talking to God (mm. 132-147); the disapproval about the insatiability of the death (mm. 148-150); increasing desperation, delirium, loss and refinding of the faith (mm. 151-183); the God’s answer to Bach at the music climax (mm. 184-189); a laudation act (mm. 200-207); dedication of the Chaconne to Barbara (mm. 208-225); a flamenco theme of moorish influence (mm. 228-239) and at last the moving farewell (mm. 248-256). Evidently the impressions above are personal and were inspired by listening many times to some violin performances. They are cited only to show the idea and emotion richness of the Bach’s Chaconne. Deep emotion, for sure, is the essence of this masterpiece.

These few observations concerning the Bach’s original for solo violin certainly didn’t pass unperceived to Busoni, a great connoisseur of the Bach’s music, composer and great pianist. Why than would he have concretized his Chaconne transcription in this way, covering that essence with another kind of emotion, with grandiosity? Personally, I come to the conclusion that Busoni wished to make something greater than the original. But when you deal with masterpieces I would say that it’s impossible. To the pianists who play this Bach-Busoni transcription a note of respect because it’s a personal conquest and an important mark in their careers. Nevertheless, here remains the suggestion to perform, also, another piano transcription, faithful to the original Chaconne.

Luiz Antonio V Penteado

Nov. 2010

Notes: 1. Helga Thoene, “Ciaccona Tanz oder Tombeau?", ISBN 3-935358-60-1, 2005.

2. Fabrikant, Marina: “Bach-Busoni Chaconne: A PianoTranscription Analysis”, pag. 57

                    University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2006. 

3. Fabrikant, Marina: “Bach-Busoni Chaconne: A PianoTranscription Analysis”, pag. 4

                    University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2006.   


Rueb, Franz, “48 variações sobre Bach”. Ed.Companhia das Letras, São Paulo, 2001.

                 Fabrikant, Marina: “Bach-Busoni Chaconne: A PianoTranscription Analysis”.
                 University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2006.
                 Helga Thoene, Ciaccona Tanz oder Tombeau?", ISBN 3-935358-60-1, 2005.  — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:41, 24 August 2011 (UTC) 


The Aesthetics section of this article does not seem as if the author was even attempting to be objective. It expresses value judgments regarding tonality, and without evidence pronounces judgments on the degree to which Busoni is tonal. The only citation serves to contradict the authors interpretation. This section needs a complete rewrite. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:22, 28 July 2012 (UTC)