Compositions for Orchestra

Busoni appraised the composition of the Berceuse élégiaque as a successful realization of his own aesthetic demands formulated in the Neue Ästhetik. Premiered by Gustav Mahler in New York in 1911 and dedicated to the memory of Busoni’s deceased mother, this short, atmospherically dense, elegiac lullaby belongs to the Sechs Elegien cycle composed for reduced orchestral scoring within the ten-year period (1909–1919). All six elegies (Berceuse élégiaque, Nocturne Symphonique, Rondo Arlecchinesco, Gesang vom Reigen der Geister, Sarabande and Cortège) are related to dramatic works, some of them never fully elaborated.

Although in his aesthetic draft Busoni clearly rejects program music, he does at times rather approach it in his compositions, as, for example, in the works based on fairy-tale dramas. Included here is the monumental Concerto op. 39 of 1904, which, lasting 70 to 80 minutes, is one of the longest and most pianistically demanding of piano concertos. The five-movement work culminates in a choral finale on the closing verses of Adam Oehlenschläger’s fairytale play Aladdin.

Another orchestral work with a dramatic reference is the eight-movement Turandot-Suite op. 41 (1905), the result of Busoni’s preoccupation with Carlo Gozzi’s commedia dell’arte Turandot.