No 1: Nach der Wendung (Recueillement)
No 2: All'Italia! (In modo napolitano)
No 3: Meine Seele bangt und hofft zu Dir (Choralvorspiel)
No 4: Turandots Frauengemach (Intermezzo)
No 5: Die Nächtlichen (Walzer)
No 6: Erscheinung (Notturno)
No 7: Berceuse
The second piece, All’Italia! (In modo napolitano), which uses material from the second and fourth movements of the Piano Concerto, begins with a striking juxtaposition of the major and minor versions of the same chords for the presentation of an elegiac Neapolitan song; its middle section is a brilliant tarantella. The third Elegy, which would find its definitive form as the opening Chorale Prelude of the Fantasia contrappuntistica, is based on the Lutheran chorale Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr. It bears the title Meine Seele bangt und hofft zu dir (‘My soul trembles and hopes of thee’), and several interpretative directions convey its oppressive atmosphere (ängstlich, mit unterdrückter Empfindung, ansioso).
The fourth and fifth Elegies use material from the Turandot Suite (1904–5), which Busoni wrote for Karl Vollmoeller’s adaptation of Carlo Gozzi’s play and later incorporated into the opera Turandot (1916–17). Turandots Frauengemach is a delicate ‘scherzando’ setting of the well-known melody Greensleeves framed by sections in a different tonality; it is sung on the syllable ‘la’ by women behind the curtain in the women’s quarters. The fleeting and veiled Die Nächtlichen (Walzer) freely adapts the suite’s seventh movement.
Erscheinung (Notturno) is taken from the opera Die Brautwahl (1906–11), on which Busoni was already working. This nocturne is heard when a vision of the heroine Albertine appears (hence the title) at the window of a clock-tower. Its highly original final page features chords in the left hand with swift scales in the right in a bitonal relationship. At the end Busoni provides a variant of the three opening bars of the first piece to round off the cycle when it is played complete. The pianist can also use the standard ending and continue with the Berceuse (1909), added in a later edition. This strange, misty piece in soft dynamics (with both pedals depressed throughout) begins with a theme in long note values in the middle register above a rocking pedal movement; it continues with a bitonal section whose harmonies are blended with the pedal and concludes with bell-like sonorities. In October 1909 Busoni prepared an extended version for chamber orchestra entitled Berceuse élégiaque as a tribute to his recently departed mother.
from notes by Marc-André Roberge © 2013