Busoni Works for Piano & Orchestra
Busoni's Concerto for piano and strings was in fact written (at the age of 12!) for piano and string quartet; it is played here by a modest-sized string orchestra, including double-basses. It is extremely accomplished, not in the least like mature Busoni, but revealing how closely he had already studied the concertos of Field, Hummel and Mozart. That he was mature beyond his years as a performer is suggested by the cheeky way that the soloist intrudes with stormy gestures before the orchestra has finished announcing the first subject and by the brief, study-in-velocity cadenza at the end of the finale. The most striking movement is the Adagio, rather Beethovenian at its opening, more so as it proceeds. No major discovery, but fascinating evidence of Busoni's precocity.
The Konzertstuck, dating from 12 years later, shows him still emerging from Brahms's shadow. There is a lot of padding and of excessive piano display, a fugato is almost comically abandoned, another seems to herald the coda but doesn't - at 20 minutes the piece is at least 10 minutes too long. But amid all this one is aware of strong ideas stirring; one of them is a dark, bold melody that would not be out of place in Doktor Faust. The Indian Fantasy, from very much later, is one of Busoni's most intriguing but most uneven works (he seems to have known it and produced, in the Indian Diary for solo piano, a vastly improved revision of it). Its folk melodies are striking, their development often no less so, but passages of pianistic digression are very frequent. A reviewer for The Times complimented Busoni on his use of 'aposiopesis' in this work: it means 'breaking off' or 'hesitating'; in plain words proceeding in fits and starts. Infuriating, but the best bits are real Busoni, and any admirer of his should hear it. Carlo Grante's playing is commandingly accomplished, but the recording places him in exaggerated close-up, sometimes obscuring orchestral detail.'