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Inspired By Bach - Busoni, Troncon / Carlo Grante

Release Date: 04/26/2005 
Label:  Music & Arts Programs Of America Catalog #: 1157   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ferruccio BusoniPaolo Troncon
Performer:  Carlo Grante
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Piano aficionados will know Carlo Grante as one of a small but amazing tribe of supra-virtuosic pianists with a penchant for keyboard arcana—Busoni, Godowsky, Sorabji. The items in his small but distinguished discography are always interesting and often compelling—as here. From the outset, Busoni’s Fantasia nach Bach in memory of his father, is enveloped in velvety pianissimos through which Bach’s chorale melody looms suavely, distantly (instead of the usual tolling) in a raptly hieratic meditation, a ritual, a divination. Which is to say that the percussive contraption of wires and levers that is a piano has been transformed into something strange, magical, marvelous. The Prélude et étude en arpèges—one of Busoni’s Read more last pieces and the harbinger of a new direction he did not live to take—pours forth in delicate washes and corrosive cascades of glowing color. The Perpetuum mobile is taken at a relatively relaxed tempo, allowing its melodic oddments to flicker seductively to an effect of scintillant fleetness eschewing the usual high-speed hustle. Busoni incorporated it in Doktor Faust as Mephistopheles appears with the putative corpse of the child Faust has fathered upon the Duchess of Parma. From it he conjures an apparition of Helen of Troy, for whose ideal beauty Busoni could find no corresponding music. On his deathbed, he sketched the use of his final piano piece, a Trills Study composed over January 1–3,1924, for the lacuna—rather than a representation of the Ideal, it projects Faust’s frantic pursuit. Busoni’s desideratum was deftly realized by Antony Beamont in his completion of Doktor Faust and included in Kent Nagano’s revelatory recorded performance (Erato 3984-25501-2, Fanfare 23:5). The “study” is an extreme awkwardness of hands overlying one another in rapid motion inviting an entangling disaster. Complete finger independence and preternatural deftness are sine qua non, which is very likely why it hasn’t been heard before. Grante brings it off with aplomb.

The fancifully titled Six Preludes and Fugues of Paolo Troncon (b. 1959) are studies in sonority—or a counterpoint of sonorities—with very little in the way of thematic or melodic punctus contra punctus. Dorianna Attili, his explainer for the album booklet, asserts that they “stand midway between tradition and modernity. The composer’s aim was to re-elaborate the fugal gestures and expressive formulas of earlier epochs, while avoiding any ideological preconception that might result in a ‘novelistic’ development of individual pieces, or indeed of the entire cycle. He avoids cliché and shuns all form of nostalgia.” Got that? Following her expositions as Troncon’s music unfolds is, as we used to say, a trip—if not a reach. Of No. 2, for instance, “The dry, nervous character of the prelude’s recitative contrasts with the regular pulse of a soft pedal point. The fugue, in six parts, is technically very demanding. It evolves spasmodically, propelled by sudden expressive outbursts which expand its total canvas.” Clever girl! The dry, nervous character of the Prelude may be characterized as On hearing the first woodpecker in spring. But that is probably to be “novelistic.” One may be left with the sensation that Attili’s descriptions are more involving and persuasive than what one is hearing. But, then, perhaps repeated hearing has not been repeated often enough for Troncon’s geste to become plausible to me, or perhaps native dullness has prevented my full appreciation. Grante’s advocacy is almost certainly a favor for a friend, and a finer favor he will never meet than these rich realizations—as pianistically astounding as Troncon’s music is stupefying.

Though taken in the spaciousness of Bolzano’s Michelangeli Hall, sound is less immediate than too close with some impacting of detail. That’s not as damning as the verbal description implies—it’s plenty listenable. And I suggest that you do . . . listen. Enthusiastically recommended for the Busoni.

Adrian Corleonis, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Fantasia after Johann Sebastian Bach for Piano, K 253 by Ferruccio Busoni
Performer:  Carlo Grante (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909; Berlin, Germany 
Length: 14 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Prélude et Étude en Arpèges, K 297 by Ferruccio Busoni
Performer:  Carlo Grante (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; Berlin, Germany 
Length: 8 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Perpetuum mobile, K 293 by Ferruccio Busoni
Performer:  Carlo Grante (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922; Berlin, Germany 
Length: 3 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Preludes and Fugues (6) for Piano by Paolo Troncon
Performer:  Carlo Grante (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997; Italy 
Length: 42 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Trills Etude by Ferruccio Busoni
Performer:  Carlo Grante (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924 
Length: 1 Minutes 40 Secs. 

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