Busoni: Symphonic Suite; Berceuse élégiaque; Lustspielouvertüre; Gesang vom Reigen der Geister

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COMPOSERS: Busoni
LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: Symphonic Suite; Berceuse élégiaque; Lustspielouvertüre; Gesang vom Reigen der Geister
PERFORMER: Berlin RSO/Arturo Tamayo
CATALOGUE NO: 10 480 DDD
Perhaps because his career as a pianist interfered with his activities as a composer, Busoni took a long time to find his small but distinctive musical voice, tragically silenced by his death two years short of his 60th birthday. This disc perfectly demonstrates what separates early Busoni from late. If the Lustspielouvertüre and Symphonic Suite still show the not-so-young composer finding himself, there’s certainly no lack of well-oiled compositional craft. The overture, as its title suggests, is an effervescent jeu d’esprit, looking back to the Gemütlichkeit of Brahms and sideways to the witty neo-classicism of Prokofiev. The suite is more ambitious, with its heavy-handed Präludium disproportionate in scale to the four shorter dance-based movements which follow, their Classicism (not untypically for this period) somewhat pulverised beneath the might of the late Romantic symphony orchestra.

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On the other hand, the two late works, Berceuse élégiaque and Gesang vom Reigen der Geister, each less than ten minutes long, inhabit a completely different world: a Debussian twilight zone, undermined by anxious undercurrents and wistful longings. This is the real Busoni. So too is his Arlecchino, now in a new recording conducted by Gerd Albrecht in the same series (Capriccio 60 038-1, S624). Although I still prefer the Kent Nagano/Opéra de Lyon version (coupled with Busoni’s Turandot on two CDs – Virgin VCD 7 59313 2), this remains a viable alternative, not least for its inclusion of the ‘Rondo Arlecchinesco’, Harlekins Reigen. As ever in this repertoire, the Berlin RSO plays idiomatically and sympathetically for both conductors. Antony Bye