Friday 1 April 2022

Birthday Boy Busoni

 Yesterday was the big day for musical birthdays – Haydn (born 1732) and Bach (1685) – but today comes the birthday of Ferruccio Busoni (born on this day in 1866), composer and pianist. Most would rate him one of the greatest pianists who ever played, but of course he lived and died before gramophone recording had achieved anything like high fidelity. Happily some recordings he made on the extraordinary Duo-Art recording piano have survived – I've written about these before – but here he is on shellac, recorded in 1922, playing Bach: first the C major Prelude that Valentin Silvestrov was playing the other day, then Busoni's own transcription of the Chorale 'Nun Freut Euch', the last section of which (after the 4-minute mark) he takes at dizzying speed. Beneath all the crackle and hiss, I think it's still possible to detect pianistic magic...

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