Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Eine Lustspielouvertüre Op. 38 (1897) [7:01]
Gesang vom Reigen der Geister Op. 47 (1915) [7:39]
Rondo Arlecchinesco Op. 46 (1915) [13:00]
Clarinet Concertino in B flat major Op. 48 (1918) [11:56]
Divertimento for flute and small orchestra Op. 52 (1920) [8:57]
Tanzwalzer Op. 53 (1920) [12:06]
Giammarco Casani (clarinet); Laura Minguzzi (flute); Gianlucca Terranova (tenor);
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma/Francesco La Vecchia
rec. Auditorium Conciliazione, Rome and the ORS Studios, Rome, 7-8 December 2008, 27-28 March, 13-14 , 16-17 May 2011
NAXOS 8.572922 [60:38]
Busoni was not only a great composer and pianist but also a musical philosopher whose work extends beyond the realms of pure music. The Fantasia Contrappuntistica, the Piano Concerto and above all Doktor Faust are prime examples of this. One important aspect of this was his advocacy of a form of neo-classicism, in particular derived from the music of Mozart and Bach, and it is this aspect that is the main part of this disc.
It starts with what is usually known in Anglo-Saxon circles as the Comedy Overture, a neat, crisp work which goes well beyond what have become the clichés of the many “light, bright, Overtures” written since that time. It is a delightful piece surprisingly rarely encountered in the concert hall. The other works are all much later in date. The Divertimento is a particular joy to hear. In effect it is a Concertino in three sections, the first and last based on a clear-cut motif of very classical character but whose treatment is very individual. The slower middle section is even more so, with a haunting quintessential Busoni theme. All of this in less than ten minutes of pure pleasure.
The Clarinet Concertino and Rondo Arlecchinesco are similar in their ingenious use of classical features in a very individual context. The Tanzwalzer was dedicated to the memory of Johann Strauss II and is about as different from that nearly contemporary tribute to the Viennese waltz - Ravel’s La Valse - as it is possible to imagine. The odd work out here is the Gesang vom Reigen der Geister which, like the Indian Diary and Indian Fantasy, is based on American Indian themes and has an ambiguous and mystical character, another important aspect of Busoni as a composer.
All of these are essential works in the collections of any admirer of the composer, and it is good to have them brought together here in modern recordings. The performances are generally satisfactory although at times lacking that total confidence in phrasing and balance that comes with greater familiarity with the music. The recording is clear and full although at times the balance sounds artificial rather than a real representation of what one might hear in a concert hall. There are good notes by Richard Whitehouse. All in all this is a useful collection of short pieces which are too easily ignored when contemplating Busoni’s larger masterpieces.  

John Sheppard
A useful collection of Busoni’s short pieces. 

see also review by Brian Reinhart (September 2012 Recording of the Month)