One of the most grown-up review sites around

52,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!
£11 post-free

we also sell Skarbo

and Oboe Classics


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

WYASTONE releases

The Birth of Rhapsody in Blue
A superlative recreation

such a success

An outstanding performance

make acquaintance without delay

Violin Concerto
This is an impressive disc

Strong advocacy
for a British composer

Piano Music - Martin Jones
agreeably crafted

Piano Music 5CDs

Consistently fine

Rare and interesting repertoire

An excellent introduction

A Celebration on Record

An issue of importance

A splendid disc

both enlightening and rewarding
additional review


Plain text for smartphones & printers

We are currently offering in excess of 52,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

a vibrant slice of life

stylistically assured

About Every Hill and Valley
Swedish Songs

Hallberg and Dente
interesting and most welcome

An inspired partnership
additional review

A valuable document

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from

Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Piano Music Volume 8
24 Preludes, Op. 37 (1881) [52:23]. Macchiette medioevali, Op. 33 (1882/3) [12:54]
Wolf Harden (piano)
rec. Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, 21-22 January 2012
NAXOS 8.572845 [65:17]

I have reviewed several previous issues in this excellent series over the years, beginning in 2007 with volume 3: volume 4 followed in the next year. 2011 found volume 5 reviewed both by myself and my dearly missed colleague, Bob Briggs; finally, I reviewed volume 6 in 2010. The previous efforts were recorded in Potton Hall, Suffolk. There a change to Monmouth for the present disc, over to Wyastone Concert Hall where the engineers have found a warm sound for Harden that suits this music well.
The 24 Preludes obviously follows on in the manner of Chopin, retaining that composer's key scheme. Busoni's Preludes are, on average, a little longer, though (the longest is 4:24), taking the running time of the cycle to some 52 plus minutes. This gives Busoni time to spread his compositional wings, and explore the territory he sets up. Although relatively early in his output, these pieces could be by nobody else. There are references to his model occasionally. In the second Prelude, an Andantino sostenuto, Chopin meets Brahmsian sonorities for example, and also in the grace of No. 15. Elsewhere one can find hints of Beethoven: the somewhat gruffly playful No. 13 in F sharp. The spirit of the dance enlivens some: both numbers four and five, E minor and D major, respectively. Baroquerie is affecting in the gigue-like A major (No. 7). Harden can turn on the charm when necessary: No. 17. Counterpoint in any Bach-like sense is by no means as common as one might reasonably expect, although No. 21, surely not coincidentally the longest of the cycle, offers this aspect of the composer in spades before the ensuing Prelude adopts a more playful counterpoint.
It would not be Busoni without darkness, however, and this is hinted at in the very first Prelude before being taken up again, more seriously, in the storm cloud saturated No. 14: Lento, E flat minor. Harden is mightily impressive here, and then manages to provide just the right amount of contrasting light in the ensuing Prelude (D flat). Harden rises to each challenge admirably. No. 19 (E flat) offers a demonstration of how fine he is, technically; but he has the full measure of the more expressive Preludes, also. Interestingly, I hear Impressionist tendencies in the final Prelude (No. 24), while booklet annotator Richard Whitehouse finds Mendelssohn. In fairness I see what he means in the lightness of this Prelude's later stages.
It is medievalism that informs the Macchiette medioevali, a set of six brief sketches of character types: Lady, Knight, Page, Warrior, Astrologer, Troubadour. Each and every portrait is absolutely captivating, from the suave Knight to the fanfares of the Page, a piece that I suspect carries more sophistication than the innocent ear might initially pick up. Then comes the simple yet effective heaviness of the Warrior, the studious tread of the Astrologer - which takes us into harmonic territory most readily associated with Busoni - through to the final, bright and dignified Troubadour. There are superb spread chords from Harden in that last piece. A delightful discovery.
In short, a fascinating disc and a vital part of this unfolding series from Naxos.
Colin Clarke