Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924)

An epochal European artist, Ferruccio Busoni, more than practically any other productive musician of his time, was part of a network that kept him up-to-date on events involving all the arts.


On 1 April Ferrucio Dante Michelangelo Benvenuto Busoni is born in Empoli (near Florence). He is the son of an Italian clarinet virtuoso (Ferdinando) and a mother of German descent (Anna Weiss from Trieste). First appearance as a child prodigy playing the piano in 1873 in Trieste. His earliest compositions also date from this time. Lessons (piano) firnt with his mother, then with his father.


Studies at the Vienna Conservatory. According to his own statement, until 1879 about 50-60 concerts as a child prodigy. Further studies (composition) in 1879-81 with Wilhelm Mayer-Remy in Graz. After that (1881), diploma for piano and composition of the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna, where also (1883), encouraged by Arrigo Boito, his large-scale cantata "Il Sabato del Villaggio" (alter Leopardi) is performed.


He settles in Leipzig, tries to make a name for himself as a pianist and composer. First Bach arrangement for piano in 1888.


Busoni assumes the chair of piano at the Helsinki Conservatory (until 1890). He wins the Rubinstein Prize in Moscow (first prize for composition, second for piano). Goes to Moscow as a piano teacher, then (1891) to Boston, and in 1892 move to New York.


Moves to Berlin. From there, he prepares his definitive breakthrough as one of the most important contemporary pianists. The composer stays distinctly in the background.


Reconsideration of his compositional work with his "ideal" Opus 1, the second violin Sonata op. 36a (1898). Since then, also intensified theoretical reflections on his aesthetic point of view that finds its boldest expression in the first publication of the "Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst" (Outlines of a new aesthetic of music), 1907. He is active as promoter of altogether 12 concertos for orchestra with the Berlin Philharmonic (1902-1904) in Order to present new music. In 1904, premiere of the piano concerto with male choir in the fourth concert. Starts working on the libretto of "Doktor Faust" in 1910 (completed in 1914). In 1912, premiere of the opera "Die Brautwahl" in Hamburg.


Busoni becomes director of the Liceo Musicale in Bologna. "Takes the first step with "Arlecchino", libretto completed in October 1914.


Fleeing from the war euphoria in Europe, he throws himself into a tour of America (his fourth), where his "Rondo Arlecchinesco" is completed (1916 first performance conducted by the composer in Rome). He returns to Europe in 1915 and settles in neutral Zurich, where he completes the score of "Arlecchino" in 1916. Premiere together with the remodelled version of "Turandot" on 11 May 1917 at the Stadttheater Zurich. From 1916, he also works on the composition of "Doktor Faust".


Busoni returns to Berlin, where from 1921 he holds a master class in com¬position at the Academy of Arts. Resumes work on "Faust', which, completed by Philipp Jarnach, is performed for the first time in Dresden in 1925. He dies on 27 July 1924.
(Reinhard Ermen, CD Capriccio; Translated by Yolanda Bertolaso)