Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Ferruccio Busoni

Dr. Bob Prescribes Ferruccio Busoni: Fantasia Contrappuntistica

Yesterday’s Music History Monday post marked the death on July 27, 1924 of the musical polymath Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924). Today’s Dr. Bob Prescribes post picks up where yesterday’s Music History Monday left off, with an examination of what is, perhaps, Busoni’s single most representative work: his massive, 30-plus minute-long Fantasia Contrappuntistica for piano. Hugo Leichtentritt – Ferruccio Busoni’s first biographer – wrote on the occasion of Busoni’s 50th birthday in 1916 that: “He is a campaigner, not a quiet, complacent inheritor. He is a pioneer [and yet] he is anchored in the past by many roots.”  A good choice of words, that: “anchored” in the past, not “stuck” in it. The core belief of Busoni’s artistic worldview was be yourself but be yourself responsibly. Like Beethoven, he believed in contextuality – use those rules, those elements of the past that speak directly to your creative heart when you can – and then ignore them when expressive context demands. Busoni believed that it was the essential responsibility of every composer to decide what was right, and to never dogmatically follow any tradition that went against his or her own grain.  (For example, Busoni was repelled by the Wagner fetish of his […]

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