Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Busoni and his legacy
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Prelude and Fugue in C major BWV846
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) arr. Busoni

Chorale Prelude; Nun freut euch, lieben Christen BWV734
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) arr. Busoni

Ecossaise Wo083 Scotch Step
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Prelude in A major Op 28/7
Etude in G flat Op. 10/5
Nocturne in F sharp Op. 15/2
Etude in E Op. 25/5
Etude in G flat Op. 10/5
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13 S244
Ferrucio Busoni (piano) recorded in London 27 February 1922

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Jeux díeau à la Villa díEste
Sonata après une lecture du Dante
Rosamond Ley (piano) recorded privately in London 1942

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Totentanz [minus first section]
Ferrucio BUSONI (1868-1924)

Piano Concerto Op. 39 [Movement IV only]
Egon Petri (piano) with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud recorded live in 1936 (Totentanz) and 1932 (Concerto)

ARBITER 134 [71.51]

Busoni was famously contemptuous of the recording process and his anguished letters on the subject at the time are reprinted here ("tiredÖillÖunprepared!"). In total only four English Columbias were published and all are collated here along with very rare recordings by Busoniís greatest pupil, Egon Petri, and by a much less well-known musician, his English pupil Rosamond Ley who left no commercial discs behind. Busoniís recorded pianism has occasioned considerable, frequently negative, comment over the years and has occasionally disconcerted even his greatest admirers in its neutrality towards the romantic repertoire. In all Busoni bequeathed less than half an hourís recorded music making to posterity. Itís known that he made discs of others works, the hyphenated Mozart-Busoni Andantino, Gounod-Liszt Faust Waltz, Lisztís Petrarch Sonnet, the Paganini-Liszt Etude No. 5, Valse Oubliée and Weberís Perpetuum Mobile, but these were all rejected for publication.

The Bach C major Prelude and Fugue from Book I of the Well Tempered Clavier allows one to hear Busoniís extraordinary tonal beauty but along with it some extreme rubati and unexpected accelerandi and decrescendos. He subjects the Prelude in particular to some real metrical extension. The Bach-Busoni Chorale Prelude sounds, indeed is, rushed but itís gloriously fluent and clearly articulated nevertheless. Coupled with this on Columbia L1470 was the Ecossaise known as the Scotch Step and as with its discmate itís full of verve and wit. When it comes to Chopin things are highly personalised and problematic. The G flat Etude is crisp and impressive but the F sharp Nocturne makes little effect other than one of blank neutrality. The E minor Etude is rather mauled through excessive rubato. In the main his Chopin can be disappointing, mirroring perhaps something of his own ambiguity about the composer. His Liszt, the sole surviving Liszt, is the Hungarian Rhapsody in A minor and itís a magnificent performance, powerful and incisive, and one that makes one regret anew the lack of those unpublished Liszt sides.

His legacy was cemented by Petri, pupil and assistant Ė hence the title of the CD. He is represented by the earliest surviving off-air survivals of his art, Frankfurt performances dating from 1932 and 1936. The sound, given the precarious nature of the discs, which were taken by the Soviets as artistic war booty at the end of the War, is in pretty good shape. The performances are necessarily incomplete but pay testament to Petriís utter identification with and absorption of Busoniís idiom in the movement from the Piano Concerto. They also reveal him in the Totentanz extract to be, as his reputation suggests, one of the centuryís great Lisztians. The extract is in fact almost complete and derives from a concert in which Petri and Rosbaud coupled the Busoni Concerto. The Fourth Movement of the Concerto presented by Arbiter is not from this concert but actually derives from a much earlier concert in 1932, the only movement they performed on that occasion. The Liszt is fast and fiery and daemonic and as Allan Evans eloquently notes in the documentation the Busoni is technically, virtuosically engaged to a remarkable degree.

Busoniís legacy also encompasses Rosamond Ley, born in 1882 and a pupil of Oscar Beringer at the Royal Academy of Music. She made her debut in 1905 and studied briefly with Busoni in 1908. She later translated Busoniís letters to his wife and helped organise two concert performances of Doktor Faust in London. She died in 1969. In 1942 she went to private recording studios in London, returning the following year, to set down her only aural testament. She had long since given up a public career Ė in fact her career as a recitalist seems to have trailed off in the mid-1920s Ė but enough remains to show that she had been a formidable pianist in the first two decades of the century. Thereís some inevitable acetate scuffing but her Liszt Jeux díeau à la Villa díEste is reasonably well played and the Dante Sonata rather more than that Ė clarity and drive showing her mechanism in good condition. Inevitably perhaps the recording canít quite cope with some forte passages.

The Busoni recordings were last on Pearl Gemm CD 9347 where they were coupled with a number of Petriís Busoni recordings, some with Mitropoulos conducting the Minneapolis Symphony. Arbiter employs what they call sonic depth technology in their restoration. Pearlís transfer was much less interventionist retaining more surface noise, maybe also more high frequency sound Ė but Arbiter are to be congratulated on their very listenable transfers and the intriguing couplings they provide.

Jonathan Woolf

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