ALBUM TITLE: Busoni
WORKS: Goethe-Lieder; Des Sängers Fluch; Album Vocale; Hebräische Lieder; Zweei Lieder
PERFORMER: Martin Bruns (baritone), Ulrich Eisenlohr (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557245
The majority of Busoni’s songs, both German and Italian, were very early productions – the biggest item on this programme is a 17-minute setting of an Uhland ballad, full of rhetoric and egotism, composed when the wunderkind was 12. (This is one of several world premiere recordings.) In truth, they are all enjoyable but not especially important, though developing to a fine grave expressivity in the two Hebräische Lieder (actually to German translations of Byron) of 1884. On the other hand, Busoni’s five Goethe-Lieder of 1918-24, contemporary with Doktor Faust, are spare, shadowy, ironic, rhythmically clipped and polyphonically intense works (and in the vampire-story of Zigeunerlieder, absolutely scarifying). They are, in themselves, a brilliant achievement, utterly justifying this disc. Bruns and Eisenlohr also include a delightful squib – a Rossinipastiche of 1923 sent to EJ Dent, asking him to track down volumes of Wilkie Collins – surely the only Italian song whose text includes the name ‘Chatto & Windus’!
Bruns has a beautiful rich baritone and sings all the repertoire with affection and intelligence, expertly partnered by a pianist who supplies the requisite virtuoso technique. The lack of texts – you’re invited to download them from the Naxos website – is a drawback. About three-quarters of the songs on this disc were recorded in the 1970s by Elio Battaglia with Erik Werba for Fonit Cetra and appeared in 2000 on a Warner Fonit CD; but in excellence, completeness and price the Naxos is the version to go for. Calum MacDonald