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Busoni Piano Concerto in C Major, Opus 39 (1904)



The Busoni Piano Concerto is a monumental work for large orchestra and men's chorus of over one hour in length.  Though it is in five movements, Busoni's wish was that it should be performed as an uninterrupted work.  The movements are

I. Prologo e Introito: Allegro, dolce e solenne  -  II. Pezzo giocoso  -  III. Pezzo serioso: Introductio: Andante sostenutoPrima pars: Andante, quasi adagioAltera pars: SommessamenteUltima pars: a tempo  -  IV. All'Italiana: Tarantella: Vivace; In un tempo  -  V. Cantico: Largamente (with chorus)

The Busoni Piano Concerto is not often performed.  The demands on the soloist are considerable, combining an incredibly difficult solo part without the rewards offered by displays of virtuosity typically a major attraction of the romantic concerto.  Initially, the concerto was dismissed as being a symphony with piano obbligato.  And it requires massive orchestral forces and a chorus.  But when it is performed, it is quite something to behold, as you will hear below.

Egon Petri, Busoni's pupil and disciple, was the first to record the fourth movement of the concerto in 1932.  The first complete recording of the work was made by Noel Mewton-Wood in 1948.  My own discovery of this extraordinary piece I owe to John Ogden's recording, made when I was a music student in the late 1960s.

The real surprises here are the recordings by David Lively and Peter Donohoe which breathe life and delicacy, drama and subtlety in this behemoth of a concerto, and seem to have achieved Busoni's vision to perfection.



Egon Petri (1881-1962)
German-born Dutch Pianist
Hans Rosbaud conducting the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra
Recorded in 1932


iv All'italiana (Tarantella) - Vivace




Noel Mewton-Wood (1922-1953)
Australian-born British Pianist
Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the BBC Symphony
Recorded in 1948


i Prologo e Introito. Allegro, dolce e solenne



ii Pezzo giocoso. Vivacemente, ma senza fretta



iii Pezzo serioso:

1 Introductio (Andante sostenuto, pensoso)
2 Prima Pars (Andante, quasi adagio)
3 A Rera Pars (Sommessamente)
4 Ultima Pars (a tempo)



iv All'italiana (Tarantella) Vivace, in un tempo



v Cantico. Largamente




Pietro Scarpini (1911-1997)
Italian Pianist
George Szell conducting the Cleveland Orchestra
Recorded in 1966




John Ogden (1937-1989)
English Pianist
Daniell Revenaugh conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the John Alldis Choir
Recorded in 1967




Volker Banfield (b 1944)
German Pianist
Lutz Herbig conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Recorded in 1966


i Prologo e Introito. Allegro, dolce e solenne



ii Pezzo giocoso. Vivacemente, ma senza fretta



iii Pezzo serioso:

1 Introductio (Andante sostenuto, pensoso)
2 Prima Pars (Andante, quasi adagio)
3 A Rera Pars (Sommessamente)
4 Ultima Pars (a tempo)



iv All'italiana (Tarantella) Vivace, in un tempo



v Cantico. Largamente




David Lively (b 1949)
American-born French Pianist
Michael Gielen conducting the SW German Radio Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden




Peter Donohoe (b 1953)
English Pianist
Mark Elder conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra




Marc-André Hamelin (b 1961)
Canadian Pianist
Osmo Vänskä conducting the Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Recorded in 2001










For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background

Murder in the House of the Muse

which is also available as an audiobook.



And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:

Murder Follows the Muse



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