Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924)
Complete Cello and Piano Works
The Chromatic fantasia and fugue BWV 903 for harpsichord by J.S. Bach and the Valse oubliée for piano by F. Liszt are both transcribed works. The first is contained in Vol. VII of the Bach-Busoni gesammelte Ausgabe (Bach-Busoni Edition) and dates to 1915, while the second is one of a vast number of transcriptions dedicated to various authors and dated from 1917. The renown today of the double name “Bach-Busoni” is the fruit of what was a continuous and painstaking labor of revision, elaboration and transcription of a conspicuous number of Bach’s works, a labor that lasted more than a quarter of a century (concluding in 1920). Busoni’s limitless reverence for the great German composer, passed down from his father, is expressed in these words: “From him [Bach], I learned to recognize the truth: that music which is good, grand and ‘universal’ remains the same, regardless of the means by which it is heard. ”Such a statement offers precious testimony to the importance which Busoni attributed to the act of interpretation and, at the same time, a response to a legitimate question which may arise spontaneously in each one of us: why dedicate so much time to an activity which we might define as “para-compositional”? Perhaps, the role of the composer-transcriber brought him closer not only to Bach but also to Liszt who, like Busoni, dedicated himself assiduously to the activity of transcription and elaboration of works—his own and those of others. Indeed, Busoni also dedicated words of profound praise to the Hungarian composer, such as the following: “The works of Liszt became my guide […] It was his very special ‘treatment of periods’ [‘periodare’] upon which I based my own ‘technique’”. In listening to these two pieces, created for a single instrument but transcribed by Busoni for two instruments (with the addition of the cello), one should concentrate on the unique timbres which arise and which undoubtedly reflect the way the composer himself felt the two works in question resonated within him in their original version.