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Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35a (1897) [24:22]
Violin Sonata No. 2*, Op. 36a (1900) [30:01]
Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin)
Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI/John Storgards (Violin Concerto)
*Enrico Pace (piano)
rec. “Auditorium Giovanni Agnelli” del Lingatto, Turin, Italy, 18 April 2003 (Violin Concerto); Bavarian Radio, Studio 1, Munich, Germany, 10 October 2004 (Violin Sonata)
SONY CLASSICAL SK 94497 [54:23]

Up to this point, Ferruccio Busoni was a one-hit wonder to me.  I knew of his Piano Concerto, that paragon of the late-late-Romantic.  However, I was not aware of other large-scale works of his until this disc featuring the Violin Concerto came my way.

Do the facts that this is a “major label” release, and carries the mug-shot of young, fresh-faced, big-name soloist augur its importance?  (OK, if one counts what one finds in the booklet and on the surface of the actual disc, there are seven head-shots of Frank Peter Zimmermann.)  I won’t argue that cause equals effect, but this is indeed a worthwhile release.

Tchaikovsky’s concerto appeared sixteen years earlier, yet Busoni’s is in the same sound-world, though it also has the sinuousness of melody one would find in the work of somebody like Szymanowski.  If anything, it is more relaxed, more lyrical, even pastoral in tone than those two composers’ works.  According the notes for this release, the work was championed by Szigeti after Busoni himself had repudiated it and moved on, and it served as inspiration to Jean Sibelius in his own contribution to the genre.  “Well yes, I must admit, it is a good work — if unpretentious,” Busoni responded to Szigeti after playing through the work together.  That too, concedes too much to modesty.  It is more graceful than bombastic, but it has its bravura moments — the right amount at the right time -- and it is far from unassuming. 

John Storgards was a completely unfamiliar name to me, but a quick internet search shows him to be a conductor of other things out of the mainstream—for instance, Corigliano’s 2nd symphony, and symphonies and concertos of Peteris Vasks, on Ondine.  The RAI National Symphony Orchestra (as its website tells us) combined ensembles from Italian cities that have, throughout the 20th century, had an illustrious performing history.  They serve as able accompanist here, even if they lack the greatest depth of orchestral expression and execution. 

When considering this recording, the Violin Sonata no. 2 should not be seen as afterthought or filler: it is a substantial and compelling work in its own right.  Not just music for musicians, as some chamber music can be, or seem to be, this work too tells a story that intends to communicate with an audience.  Enrico Pace - another new name to me - plays piano with a more-than-full palette of colors, a great virtue in a chamber musician.  The notes indicate that Zimmermann and Pace play together regularly; I would love to hear more of their work.

Zimmermann is a good guide for these works.  He’s more of a singer, and at times a dancer — elements that are plentiful in this music — than he is the sort of cutter or thunderer that might be more appropriate for other works in the repertoire.  The only drawback I would note about this disc is its lightweight, overly-glossy booklet that provides little concrete information for newcomers to this work.  But that’s a small quibble overall: If you are interested in investigating Busoni’s works beyond the Piano Concerto, this disc would be a great place to start. 

Brian Burtt



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