Two years before his death in 1924, Ferruccio Busoni admitted that ‘Chopin has attracted and repelled me all my life; and I have heard his music too often—prostituted, profaned, vulgarized …’. There are two versions of the Variations inspired by the funereal C minor Prelude Op 28 No 20, a miniature that would also inspire Rachmaninov to compose his Variations on a theme of Chopin. Busoni’s Variations and Fugue in free form on Chopin’s C minor Prelude (Op 22/BV213), dedicated to Carl Reinecke, was composed in 1884 and published the following year by Breitkopf und Härtel. It consists of eighteen variations, a four-voice fugue and extended coda à la Liszt. Busoni was barely eighteen when he wrote it, a calling card if ever there was one of sophisticated pianism and contrapuntal ingenuity. Later in life he came to view the work as reckless and excessive. In 1922 he produced a revised and compressed version for inclusion in his Klavierübung, the Ten Variations on a Prelude of Chopin in C minor (BV213a), dedicated to Busoni’s erstwhile pupil Gino Tagliapietra. A sostenuto re-harmonized version of part of the famous theme serves as an introduction to a complete statement of Chopin’s original. The first variation builds over a left-hand step-wise accompaniment leading seamlessly into a scherzando treatment and a third marked en carillon. After further virtuoso demands leading to a fugal scherzo finale, the tempo changes for a waltz variation (actually marked ‘Hommage à Chopin’) before returning to the tempo of the scherzo.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2010