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Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Orchestral Works
Orchestral Suite No.2, Op.34a, K 242 Geharnischte Suite (1895, revised 1902-03) [21:38]
Berceuse élégiaque, Op.42, K 252a (1909) [7:43]
Concertino for Clarinet and Small Orchestra, Op.48, K 276 (1918) [10:10]
Sarabande and Cortège - Two Studies for 'Doktor Faust', Op.51, K 282 (1918-19) [17:25 ]
Tanzwalzer, Op.53, K 288 (1920) [12:32]
Lustspiel-Ouvertüre, Op.38, K 245 (1897, revised 1904) [6:28]
Indianische Fantasie, Op.44, K 264 (1913-14) [23:19]
Gesang vom Reigen der Geister, Op.47, K 269 (1915) [7:14]
Die Brautwahl, (The Bridal Choice) Suite for Orchestra Op.45, K 261 (1912) [27:17]
John Bradbury (clarinet); Nelson Goerner (piano)
BBC Philharmonic/Neeme Järvi
rec. Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, 2001/4
CHANDOS CHAN241-57 [69:54 + 64:34]

Busoni's orchestral works have not attracted a great deal of attention; at least not sufficient for there to have been many recordings of his orchestral output. In addition to this one from the early 2000s there are only the differently constituted but in places overlapping two discs from Capriccio (review ~ review).

The Geharnischte Suite recalls happy days in Helsinki. It is here done with enormous élan and boisterous confidence. Listen to the bragging horns in the Assault movement. Järvi takes no prisoners and seems to harbour no doubts. The four movements are dedicated respectively to Jean Sibelius, Adolf Paul (author of the play King Kristian II of Sibelius fame), Armas Järnefelt and Eero Järnefelt.

The Berceuse élégiaque was a companion to EMI's Ogdon recording of the Busoni Piano Concerto dating all the way back to the 1960s. For that reason the Berceuse might well be familiar to some readers. It's an atmospherically thoughtful piece which is here allowed space to muse and meander. The score carries the enigmatic words 'A man's cradle-song at his mother's bier'.

The Sarabande and Cortège was also on that 2-LP set in which the RPO was conducted by Daniell Revenaugh (b.1934) - we never hear about him. He was in fact a pupil of Busoni's pupil, Egon Petri and was one of the founders of the Busoni Society. This substantial bipartite piece (here separately tracked) contrasts a walking-pace and pensive Sarabande with a quick tempo Cortege having Sibelian overtones.

The Tanzwalzer - an avowedly lighter piece - is in three movements which, after some Mahlerian rumbles, lilts flightily along. It will come as no surprise that it is dedicated to the memory of Johann Strauss. Roughly speaking it belongs in the company of the orchestral waltz works of Richard Strauss, Julius Röntgen, Joseph Marx and Erich Korngold without being quite as lush.

The cheery Clarinet Concertino is overture in scale. It bubbles smoothly along like a tarantella and is here under the trusty aegis and spur of John Bradbury. The effect is rather like Weber and only minimally updated.

The buzzing and bustling Lustspiel-Ouvertüre is a highly crafted successor to generations of 'comedy overtures' running forward from the Nozze de Figaro. It busily patters and crashes with the best of the genre.

The Indianische Fantasie for piano and orchestra is a more subtle work that is well endowed with both smiling glitter and stern virtuosity. Naturally enough Busoni has his nineteenth century credentials but here the style is more deliciously convoluted Cyril Scott than Indianist MacDowell. Goerner is a good partner to the dynamic Järvi. Neither sells the listener short.

I did not recall the introspective, murmurous Gesang vom Reigen der Geister but Calum MacDonald's note reminds me that this shadowy piece is described in the score as 'a study for strings, six wind instruments and percussion'. Its material has some association with the Indianische Fantasie in that it is based on a Pawnee song - a holy dance designed to bring back the dead. The Gesang is linked with American master-impressionist composer Charles Martin Loeffler.

Greater exuberance and amorous sentiment is to be found in the Die Brautwahl suite (drawing on his opera of the same name). The Suite was premiered in Berlin in 1913 by Oskar Fried. The finale has much of the fluttering eagerness of the Lustspiel-Ouvertüre but a degree more polish.

The notes are by two Busoni adepts: Antony Beaumont and Calum MacDonald. They are in English, German and French. Beaumont also worked with Capriccio, Chandos and Nimbus as a conductor - especially in Gurlitt and Zemlinsky. His 1985 Faber & Faber Busoni study is a standard reference.

These two Chandos discs were initially separately issued and reviewed here in 2002 and 2005.

There is no direct single conductor-single orchestra competition. This in any event scores as first class value for money - no compromise, premium music-making at 2-4-1 pricing and showcasing unusual and valuable repertoire.

Rob Barnett


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