Busoni: Piano Music Vol 1 / Wolf Harden

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Here comes yet another cycle from Naxos, this time Ferruccio Busoni's piano music. Presumably this overview will encompass all the original works and transcriptions. Busoni's original compositions, in fact, often behave like transcriptions. The mighty Fantasia Contrappuntistica, for example, is a full blown fantasia with the final, unfinished contrapunctus of Bach's The Art of Fugue as its centerpiece. An die Jugend's five movements pay a sort of hommage to keyboard styles past and present (meaning Busoni's present). The Preludietto, Fughetta ed Esecizio's whole-tone scales sound like Debussy echt Deutsch. The third movement is essentially Bach's D major Prelude and Fugue from the Well Tempered Clavier Book 1 with discreet textural padding, followed by the prelude and fugue ingenuously combined.

It reminds me of Godowsky's chicanery (his combination of Chopin's "Black Key" and "Butterfly" Etudes, for example), but minus the fun. Like Messiaen and Reger, Busoni's music is utterly devoid of humor, and it requires a special kind of pianist. Although Wolf Harden may not possess the visionary drive and narrative sweep distinguishing recorded Fantasia Contrappuntistici from Christopher O'Riley, John Ogdon, Alfred Brendel, and Egon Petri (the latter two were on long-out-of-print mono LPs), there's much to savor in his clean fingerwork and rich, bass-oriented sonority. He digs into Busoni's massive chord climaxes like a hungry trencherman about to enjoy his aged Porterhouse steak, and he shades the composer's polytonal arpeggios with great sensitivity. There's no doubt that Harden has the technique and temperament for this repertoire, and I look forward to more. Next time, however, I hope the piano tuner doesn't leave when the recording sessions start.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8555034

  • UPC: 747313503421

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Ferruccio Busoni, Johann Sebastian Bach

  • Performer: Wolf Harden