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Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Verzweiflung und Ergebung Op. 41 from the music to Gozzi's fairytale drama Turandot (1915) [4.05]
Nocturne Symphonique Op. 43 (1913) [8.18]
Arlecchino: Orchestral Suite (from the theatrical Capriccio: Arlecchino) (1917) [13.52]
Divertimento for flute and orchestra (1920) [9.15]
Sarabande and Cortège Op. 51 from Dr Faust (1924) [17.17]
Concertino for clarinet and orchestra Op. 48 (1918) [10.39]
Tanz-Walzer for orchestra Op. 53 (1920) [11.36]
Robert Wörle (ten)
Jean Claude Gérard (flute)
Ulf Rodenhäuser (clarinet)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Gerd Albrecht
rec. Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin Dahlem, 4-8 Dec 1991, 2-4, 21-25 Jan 1992. DDD
CAPRICCIO 10 479 [56.07]

Busoni - the philosopher of the keyboard - is here presented in the first of two volumes documenting his orchestral output (excluding the two concertos). The accent is on Busoni as the writer for the operatic stage. This represents a major contribution to Capriccio's Busoni Edition complementing discs on DG, EMI and other labels.

The fleetingly short Turandot extract starts and ends like a thunderous mix of Tapiola and Bruckner 8 with a calming central episode. The score is dedicated to Karl Muck.

Busoni's ‘theatre capriccio’ Arlecchino provides a source for the orchestral suite. The music contrasts with the Turandot extract being elfin and circus-ring orientated. It sounds very close to Prokofiev at first but other voices emerge in more ways than one. Sibelius can be heard unmistakably and uncannily at 1.20 in the Rondo Arlecchinesco first movement of the suite and Mahler is hinted at from time to time. Towards the end and for a very few moments there is a part for a tenor vocalise in Neapolitan mode. Here it is taken with gusto by Robert Wörle. Although dubbed a suite it is essentially an 11 minute Rondo and two microscopic anhangs: a 1.45 Processione e danza and a Osmin-accented Presto.

The Nocturne suggests dark deeds, plotting - almost the backdrop to a Restoration play with bloodletting aplenty but with a Rubbra texture rather than anything flamboyant. It is dedicated to Oskar Fried. In this piece the music drifts close to Berg territory. In fact it also reminded me a little of 1930s Wellesz and occasionally of one of Busoni's pupils, Sibelius (4th symphony vintage). Albrecht sustains the demanding mood very well and injects plenty of interest. The piece ends expectantly with a ‘sigh’ from tam-tam and cymbals and a passive gesture.

The Nocturne's concert companion the Sarabande and Cortège (or Two Studies) from Dr Faust is also here and impresses afresh with its single-mindedness of mood. Sombre colourings, a Wagnerian rasp to the brass, an Italianate sweetness to the yearning melodic content and a Sibelian/Rubbra like epic tread (4.13) all impress. Busoni ends the piece downbeat. The Cortège has a heavy beetling tread (remarkably like the ostinato in Sibelius's Nightride and Sunrise). Here is another nocturnal-conspiratorial mood piece carrying the rumour of war.

There are two concertante works here: a Flute Divertimento and a Clarinet Concertino, each about the length of a concert overture. The flute work has some stunningly recorded flights for the brass and indeed for the flute which caprices and volplanes in light-hearted (well almost) Germanic mood. This sometimes veers very close to bel canto as in the whisper ostinato set up at 4.10 over which the flute, here breathily played, sings a long-lined melody - a bit of a stunner! The mood of this music parallels that of the Violin Concertos of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari and Siegfried Wagner (see CPO reviews elsewhere on this site). The clarinet work is again in one movement and is full of grateful writing, at times sounding like the more serenading parts of the Nielsen Flute Concerto and at others like Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. There is no capitulation to the bankrupt stock of vapid virtuosity for its own sake.

The Tanz-Walzer were written in memory of Johann Strauss and in sincere admiration. However this is no pastiche. A typically darkling plain is conjured in the Introduction. Then come four waltzes. The first sounds rather Tchaikovskian with some delightful antiphonal effects faithfully picked up between the loudspeakers. The explosive second also sounds Tchaikovskian with a dash of Mahler sauce. The Third smiles in Neapolitan charm. The final waltz oompahs with the best before decorative silvery flummery beams in confidence and even brashness.

The performances are superbly rounded and confident in their Tchaikovskian optimism as well as in their conveying of dark moods. I am still recovering from the many Sibelian cross-references - fascinating.

The disc carries exemplary documentation from Reinhard Ermen - translated by Lionel Salter no less.

Rob Barnett

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