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Beethoven Piano Concertos


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Ferruccio BUSONI (1886-1924)
Piano Music - Volume 3: J.S. Bach/Busoni
Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, BWV546 (c1900) [17:03]; Trois Morceaux, K197  (1883/4) [9:40]; Second Ballet Scene, Op; 20/K209 [5:31]; Two Dance Pieces, Op; 30a/K235a (1889) [6:18]; Fourth Ballet Scene, Op; 33a/K238 (1894) [7:39]; Tanzwalzer (1920, arr. Von Zadora, 1921) [8:42]; Indianische Tagebuch, Book 1, K267 (1915) [10:58]
Wolf Harden (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, 11-12 March 2006. DDD
NAXOS 8.550249 [69:40]

 


Congratulations 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.

The 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.

Of 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.

The 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. 

The recording (Potton Hall) is good, if perhaps a tad light. A fascinating disc, with a value-for-money playing time. 

Colin Clarke

 


 

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