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  Classical Editor: Rob Barnett  
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Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Bach/Busoni Partita No 2 in D minor, BWV1004 – Chaconne
Turandots Frauengemach (Intermezzo), K249 No 4.
Sonatina No 6, ‘Fantasia da camera sur Carmen’, K284
Fantasia Contrappuntistica, K255 No 6.
Murray McLachlan (piano)
rec. "live", capacity audience, Fourth Chetham’s International Summer School and Festival for Pianists, The Whiteley Hall, Chetham’s School of Music, Long Millgate, Manchester, 2 August 2004, Seiler 208 Grand Piano DDD

Ferruccio Busoni was one of the greatest musicians of his time, whether as composer of operas and vast concertos as well as of piano music, as arranger/transcriber, as teacher or as pianist.

His visit to my home town of Doncaster in December 1908 when he played Chopin, Liszt and his own transcription of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D, was reckoned noteworthy at the time. To a present-day researcher this seems to be an occasion to conjure with. It is a pity that in our day, some technically well-equipped pianists have no particular interest in Busoni’s music and that several who are attracted to it do not quite have the technique to match their aspirations. Luckily there are some who do. I have heard some fine Busoni from James Kirby, for example, while, on the strength of this CD, Murray McLachlan is most certainly a major Busoni advocate.

The recording is of a live recital given at Chetham’s Fourth International Summer School and Festival for Pianists (2004). This included four works, two of them mighty pillars of Busoni’s output: his transcription of Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin and, also based on Bach’s example, the even more monumental Fantasia Contrappuntistica in the 1910 Definitive Edition. Both are majestic; Bach viewed through the eyes of late Romantic pianism but with a grasp of counterpoint which is astonishing.

Mr. McLachlan’s formidable technique is equal to the huge demands made on it, his booklet note is helpful and the recording is more than adequate, with little or no distracting background noise, despite this being "live". If sometimes the bass register seems to emerge particularly strongly, this is perhaps no bad thing – these are, after all, contrapuntal essays and in the Chaconne, both in Bach’s original and Busoni’s transcription, indeed in all chaconnes, the bass is especially important.

Two shorter and more relaxed, though far from slight, pieces separate these colossi. Turandot’s Intermezzo, Elegy No.4 (of seven, 1907-8), frames, in its 3½ minutes, a richly harmonised version of Greensleeves with bravura figuration. The Fantasy on themes from Carmen is no commonplace potpourri but a pianistic - and of course virtuosic - extension of the main themes of the opera.

All told, the recital represents a valuable introduction to Busoni’s output for his own instrument and I am pleased to recommend it as such.

Philip L. Scowcroft

see also review by Colin Clarke

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