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Busoni: Late Piano Music / Marc-Andre Hamelin

Busoni / Hamelin
Release Date: 11/12/2013 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67951  
Composer:  Ferruccio Busoni
Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 3 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BUSONI Elegies: Nach der Wendung—Recueillement; All’Italia!—in modo napolitano; Meine Seele bangt und hofft zu dir; Turandots Frauengemach; Die Nachtlichen; Erscheinung; Berceuse. Nuit de Noël. Fantasia after J. S. Bach. Giga, bolero e variazione (after Mozart). Sonatina 1910. Sonatina seconda. Sonatina “ad usum infantis Madeline M* Americanae.” Sonatina “in diem nativitatis Christi MCMXVII.” Sonatina brevis “in signo Joannis Sebastiani Magni.” Kammer-Fantasie über Carmen (Sonatina No. 6) . Indianisches Read more Ernetlied. Indianisches Tagebuch, Book I. Three Album-Leaves. Toccata: Preludio, Fantasia, Ciaccona. Prologo. Klavierübung: Preludio (“On scale-derived forms”) ; Preludio (without the third finger) ; Veloce e leggiero; Vivace moderato, con precisione; Variations-Studie nach Mozart (Serenade from Don Giovanni ) ; Motive—Allegro risoluto (from Book 6, “Staccato”) ; Allegro (from Book 6 “Staccato.”) Nine Variations on a Chopin Prelude. Seven Short Pieces for the Cultivation of Polyphonic Playing. Perpetuum mobile. Prélude et étude en arpèges. BACH-BUSONI Canonic Variations and Fugue Marc-André Hamelin HYPERION 67951/3 (3 CDs: 195:54)


Taken with Holger Groschopp’s four-CD collection of Busoni’s transcriptions (Capriccio 7015, Fanfare 33:4), Hamelin’s is the only notable tilt at Busoni’s piano music since Geoffrey Douglas Madge’s wildly uneven and ultimately disappointing six-CD collection issued by Philips in the late 1980s ( Fanfare 11:5) and revived by Arkiv in 2008. In this arena, Wolf Harden’s workmanlike miscellanies of juvenilia and mature works for Naxos do not signify. Just as Groschopp’s collection resurrected a number of delightful novelties, Hamelin offers several pieces new to discs. The Indianisches Ernetlied , which remained unpublished until 2001, for instance, was a first attempt to adapt Native American melodic materials. Busoni evidently felt that he had essayed too much and too little in its 80 bars and took both a closer and more exhaustive look in the two books of the Indianisches Tagebuch that he found fit to publish, that is, the four piano pieces of Book I, included here, and the extended rhapsody for piano and orchestra of Book II. As one reads Busoni’s biographies and letters, knowing that illness will end his concert career in 1922 and kill him in the summer of 1924, his obsession with piano technique and the inordinate amount of time spent compiling exercises for his Klavierübung , while his major work, the opera Doktor Faust , remained unfinished, becomes a particular nagging grief. Of the seven studies from the Klavierübung included here, only two possess musical—versus pedagogical—value: the oft-recorded transcription of the Serenade from Don Giovanni , and the untitled study directed to be performed Veloce e leggiero which Antony Beaumont pressed into service for Helena’s apparition in his completion of Doktor Faust . While the remainder may be of particular interest to pianists—for instance, the “Preludio” from the Trills book, directed to be played “without the third finger”—they offer the general listener little beyond the satisfaction of curiosity. Together they amount to about 10 minutes. Perhaps you are that curious. The Variations on a Chopin Prelude are usually heard with 10 variations. Hamelin accedes to the composer’s deathbed wish to excise the seventh variation; hence, Nine Variations on a Chopin Prelude. The Canonic Variations and Fugue are Busoni’s realization of the puzzle canons from Bach’s Musical Offering . And if An die Jugend has been largely ignored, it may be because so much of it became the first of the Sonatinas.


As we’ve come to expect from a preeminent “hypervirtuoso” (in the coinage of Peter J. Rabinowitz), Hamelin takes the most difficult passages of some extremely demanding music with seeming effortlessness. Incisive touch and sparing use of the sustaining pedal make for transparency, and what for other even very good pianists seemed involved becomes in Hamelin’s grasp strangely simple, straightforward, crystalline, and a bit offhand, somewhat detached. Nearly two decades ago, his traversal of the Scriabin Piano Sonatas (Hyperion CDA67131/2, Fanfare 20:1) prompted Rabinowitz to take issue with Gramophone ’s Bryce Morrison, who “was impressed by Hamelin’s fluency, but he complained about a lack of angst , a lack of ‘the music’s Slavonic intensity, its colour and character.’ Discussing the Second Sonata, he went so far as to suggest that ‘confronted by music above and beyond vortex of notes he has too little to say.’” To which Rabinowitz countered, “It’s not that Hamelin has too little to say. Rather, as I hear it, he has such technical resources at his disposal that he’s able to say things about this music that have never been said before—and the results bear little resemblance to the heavy-breathing, storm-and-stress Scriabin we’ve become accustomed to.” After many hearings of the present collection one may ask, What is he saying about Busoni? In the Carmen Fantasy he may have been seduced by the tunes, though the evident feeling is strutted with an aristocratic hauteur . But where is the lilt of All’Italia! ? The whimsy of the Sonatina 1910? The sinister mien and abstract iciness of the Sonatina seconda ? The night music mystery of the Sonatina “in diem nativitatis Christi MCMCVII” ? The song of the earth atavism of the Indianisches Tagebuch ? The ecstatic tension of the fifth of the Seven Short Pieces for the Cultivation of Polyphonic Playing ? And others. One has heard these things from a line of pianists beginning with Egon Petri and extending through Gunnar Johansen, Eduard Steuermann, the young Martin Jones, Paul Jacobs, or David (now Sara Davis) Buechner, among others, beside whom Hamelin seems, one might say, Apollonian … or, simply, deadpan. Or, perhaps, as Rabinowitz suggested about Hamelin’s Scriabin, we are so accustomed to hearing these pieces with certain unwritten nuances that we have difficulty hearing them washed clean and made new. There are felicities, too—the sardonic relish of his Sonatina ad usum infantis , the demonic crackle of the Perpetuum mobile , the disturbing turbulence of the Prélude et étude en arpèges —which only Hamelin could provide.


A wide dynamic range leaves pp passages nearly inaudible, though cranking volume to catch these mutterings risks blowing your speakers as the argument percolates. The five brief movements of the Sonatina ad usum infantis are separately cued, while the three large, distinct sections of the Toccata are not. How odd. Busoni mavens will know the portrait of Busoni by Umberto Boccioni. Titled Materia , another Boccioni painting is reproduced for the album and booklet covers, the prominent hands suggesting Busoni. Extensive annotations by Hamelin’s friend and chronicler, Marc-André Roberge, compiler of Ferruccio Busoni: A Bio-Bibliography , provide a serviceable context for Hamelin’s program. Despite reservations, this is phenomenal playing carrying us reliably through the heart of Busoni’s enigmatic utterance, hence, indispensable.


FANFARE: Adrian Corleonis
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Works on This Recording

1. Variations (10) on Chopin's Prelude in c, Op. 22/K 213a by Ferruccio Busoni
Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922; Berlin, Germany 
2. Toccata for Piano, K 287 "Preludio, Fantasia, Ciacona" by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; Germany 
3. Sonatina sopra Carmen, for piano (No. 6), KiV 284 by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: Modern 
Written: 03/20/1920 
4. Sonatina in diem Nativitatis Christi 1917, K 274 by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917; Berlin, Germany 
5. Sonatina for Piano no 2, K 259 by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912; Berlin, Germany 
6. Sonatina for Piano no 1, K 257 by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; Berlin, Germany 
7. Sonatina brevis, K 280 "In signo Joannis Sebastiani Magni" by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1919; Berlin, Germany 
8. Sonatina ad usum infantis, K 268 by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1916; Berlin, Germany 
9. Prélude et Étude en Arpèges, K 297 by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; Berlin, Germany 
10. Perpetuum mobile, K 293 by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922; Berlin, Germany 
11. Nuit de noël by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909; Berlin, Germany 
12. Notturno prologo for Piano in A minor, K 279 by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; Berlin, Germany 
13. Kurze Stücke zur Pflege des polyphonen Spiels auf dem Pianoforte, K 296 by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; Berlin, Germany 
14. Klavierübung: Variations-Studie nach Mozart: no 1, Canzonetta aus Don Giovanni by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917-1922 
15. Indianisches Tagebuch: Book 1, K 267 by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916; Berlin, Germany 
16. Fantasia after Johann Sebastian Bach for Piano, K 253 by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909; Berlin, Germany 
17. Elegies (7) for Piano, K 249 by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907; Berlin, Germany 
18. Albumblätter (3) for Piano by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917-1923; Berlin, Germany 
19. An die Jugend, K 254: no 3, Giga, Bolero and Variations "Study after Mozart" by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909; Berlin, Germany 
20. Indianisches Erntelied by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911 
21. Klavierübung: Preludio "Allegro festivo" by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1925 
22. Klavierübung: Preludio "without the third finger, Moderato alla breve" by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1925 
23. Klavierübung: Veloce e leggiero by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1925 
24. Klavierübung: Veloce e leggiero by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1925 
25. Klavierübung: Vivace moderato, con precisione by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1925 
26. Klavierübung: Motive "Allegro risoluto" by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1925 
27. Klavierübung: Allegro by Ferruccio Busoni
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1925 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Review November 14, 2013 By S. Loughman (Fairfield East, NSW) See All My Reviews "Perhaps the Reviewer needs to do more research before writing; Gunnar Johansen recorded the complete Busoni piano music (including the Piano Concerto) many years back - he presented them on cassette so this illustrates the era in which they were presented. Nevertheless, Mr Hamelin's excellent interpretations are indeed superb." Report Abuse
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