After settling in Berlin in 1894, Busoni returned to the United States four times for concert tours (in 1904, 1910, 1911 and 1915). In 1910 he met his former student Natalie Curtis Burlin (1875–1921), now an ethnomusicologist who, in 1907, had published The Indians’ Book
, a 550-page collection of songs and stories. On 12 April 1911, during the crossing from New York to Cherbourg, he wrote an eighty-bar sketch entitled Indianisches Erntelied
as a first attempt at using one of these melodies, an ‘Indian harvest song’ of the Laguna Pueblo. He dedicated the piece, whose flowing arpeggios and scale figurations are played quietly throughout except near the end, to the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, a fellow passenger along with the dying Gustav Mahler. Its first performance was given by Karl Lutchmayer at the Royal College of Music on 23 February 1999 as part of a celebration in honour of the composer (and great Busoni connoisseur) Ronald Stevenson. Following its presentation at a Busoni conference in November 1999 the score was published in 2001 by the Busoni specialist Antony Beaumont from the manuscript held by the British Library.
from notes by Marc-André Roberge © 2013