to Naxos for foregrounding the music of Busoni, a composer often
thought of as 'difficult' and hard to approach. This is the
third volume - my colleague Christopher Howells has reviewed
the second elsewhere on this site.
Bach transcription is an easy inroad, it has to be said. While
the arrangement is undeniably expert, with the Fugue invoking
huge sonorities towards the end, it is not that interventionist.
Harden plays extremely well, making the Adagio an identifiably
first cousin to the slow movement of the famous Italian Concerto.
The Fugue is rather peaceful but active.
the Three Morceaux, the Scherzo - the first piece - sounds
rather slow, almost as if taken at half-speed. It leads to another
Prelude and Fugue, the latter an extremely skilful example of
its genre. Harden's light touch informs the First Ballet Scene,
his light staccato adding an appealing cheekiness to the Second.
The Fourth Concert Waltz is parenthesised, 'In the Form of a
Concert Waltz' and is bitter-sweet; rather darker than anything
so far - especially so towards its close. The Tanzwalzer
is similarly half-lit, exploring its territory even more, veering
on the hallucinatory at times.
Indian Diary is one of Busoni's most famous pieces. If
it appeals you might wish to explore the Indianische Fantasie
on Chandos 10302 played by Nelson Goerner on a superbly recorded
disc that also includes the Brautwahl Suite. Harden finds
the quirky side of the first movement ('Corn Blossom'), the
sweetness of the 'Bluebird Song' and makes the final 'Passamaquoddy
Dance Song' remarkably broad-shouldered.
recording (Potton Hall) is good, if perhaps a tad light. A fascinating
disc, with a value-for-money playing time.