Hyperion Records

Elegies, BV249
composer
Nos 1-6: 1907; No 7: 1909

Recordings
'Busoni: Late Piano Music' (CDA67951/3)
Busoni: Late Piano Music
Buy by post £26.00 CDA67951/3  3CDs   Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'Hyperion monthly sampler – November 2013' (HYP201311)
Hyperion monthly sampler – November 2013
HYP201311  Download-only monthly sampler   No longer available
Details
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
Track 7 on CDA67951/3 CD1 [4'25] 3CDs
Track 5 on HYP201311 [4'25] Download-only monthly sampler

Elegies, BV249
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The Elegies are a group of six pieces written in late 1907 (a seventh one was added in 1909). They are each dedicated to one of Busoni’s piano pupils, of whom three (Gottfried Galston, Egon Petri, Michael Zadora) would remain among the most devoted members of his entourage in the last years of his life. Appropriately enough for pieces that herald his entry into a new era of tonal organization, the first one is entitled Nach der Wendung (Recueillement). Shortly after reaching this ‘turning point’ in his compositional career, and having paused to meditate, Busoni wrote that he had finally found his real self. Yet the Elegies look as much to the past as to the future, and as such reflect the ambiguity that is part of his personality as a composer.

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

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