WORKS: Turandot Suite; Paganiniana; Notturno; Novelletta; Giga
PERFORMER: La Scala PO/Riccardo Muti
CATALOGUE NO: SK 53280 DDD
The many-sided Busoni remains an enigmatic figure. In moving away from a late-Romantic ethos, he achieved a kind of low-key Expressionism in the Nocturne symphonique (1912), and evinced a capacity for strange and fantastic dreaming in the Sarabande and Cortège (1918-19), one of several pieces here that are spin-offs from stage works (in this case, his philosophical opera Doktor Faust).
Another is the orchestral suite from Arlecchino (1915), in which late-Romantic resonances are set against the more brittle world of the Italian commedia dell’arte. Both the Concertino and the Divertimento are neo-Classical in style, paying oblique homage to Weber and Mozart respectively. The soloists are closely recorded, but everything registers clearly.
In the Muti collection, one finds less immediacy though a better orchestra, as is quickly apparent from the silky strings and sharply etched woodwind in the Turandot Suite (1904): the unwary listener may experience culture shock on encountering ‘Greensleeves’ (!) amid Busoni’s rather menacing toybox chinoiserie. Casella’s showpiece and three miniatures by Italy’s leading 19th-century orchestral composer complete an enterprising disc. George Hall