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Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in E minor Op. 29 (1890) [26:38]
Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor Op. 36a (1898-1900) [32:56]
Four Bagatelles Op. 28 (1888) [6:53]
Joseph Lin (violin)
Benjamin Loeb (piano)
rec. The Country Day School, King City, Ontario, 1-4 August 2005. DDD
NAXOS 8.557848 [66:27]

Busoni is a good example of a composer whom Naxos is doing proud. So far largely concentrating on his earlier works, it has begun a complete piano series which has reached volume 3. Discs of orchestral music, songs, music for two pianos and his complete works for the cello and piano have also been issued. Making such by-ways of the repertoire readily available and affordable could be regarded as an international public service. This new disc also contains early works although it is worth noting that Busoni virtually stopped writing chamber and instrumental music after 1900.
The two violin sonatas are in three movements and are quite extended but the second is markedly more original. The first was written in Helsinki and is conventional in form. The opening allegro pays an audible debt to Beethoven in particular. Violinist Joseph Lin finds pathos in the central slow movement, taking the marking Molto sostenuto as literally as possible. The material for the finale which follows is, unfortunately, rather less inspired.
By the time the second sonata was composed Busoni was living in Berlin although it was premiered in Helsinki by Viktor Nováček with the composer at the piano. During the 1890s he had been preoccupied with his career as a virtuoso pianist but now feeling that he had found his voice as a composer Busoni declared the work to be “his real opus one”. Structurally, it turns the form book upside down with two slow movements flanking a central tarantella taken at Presto and lasting a mere two and half minutes. This movement is the only Italian footprint on the disc – all the rest bears out Busoni’s adopted Germanic heritage. The first movement is even marked Langsam while the extended finale is a set of variations which follows the tarantella without a break.
The bagatelles which conclude the disc are brief but pleasant diversions – perhaps another way of saying they were allotted appropriate titles. Each has an underlying theme which Busoni takes and develops a little further. No one is likely to fail to spot the Viennese Dance Tune of the third bagatelle, although picking the composer might be more of a challenge.
Joseph Lin’s tone is pleasing and he receives excellent support from Benjamin Loeb. The performances are dedicated and have been sympathetically recorded. There are informative liner-notes are by Richard Whitehouse.
As previous reviewers have found for most of the discs cited above, Busoni’s cause is very well served.
Patrick C Waller

see also review by Evan Dickerson 


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