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Busoni the Visionary
Red Indian Diary (Book One): Seven Elegies: Chaconne
Jeni Slotchiver - Piano
Centaur CRC2438
 Amazon UK 


This disc of music for piano by Busoni is well titled The Visionary, contaning as it does the Seven Elegies of 1907 - the first of which the composer entitled "Nach der Wendung - Recuiellernent" (After the Turning - Resolution), dated the same year in which he published his Outline of a New Aesthetic. It is perhaps significant therefore that this disc is the first of a series or recordings of Busoni's piano music on which the present soloist is embarking.

Although Busoni himself averred "As a human being and an artist I prefer to look forward rather than backward" there is also a hint of nostalgia in the embodiment, in five of these strange pieces, of earlier material from previous important compositions - the Piano Concerto, Turandot, and Die Brautwahl. It is perhaps at the same time janus-headed - the third, the climax of the seven, was later used as introduction to the Fantasia Contrapuntistica. They contain 'the essence of myself' which he himself saw as the consummation ,at that point, of those musical ideas and thoughts to which he gave shape in the 'New Aesthetic'.

Coupled in this recording, significantly, is the Red Indian Diary - four studies on Red Indian motifs. It is often forgotten that Busoni held a professorship in Helsinki for some ten years, and there is a northern influence in his music, of which these four melodies are an example. Each reflects some visionary philosophy with which individual tribes are identified - one of the most poignant being the song of the Bluebird - a dance-song of the Pima Indians, as simple unwarlike people. It is noticeable that the inflexions of those melodies by which Busoni was so much affected can be heard at several points in the Elegies which follow.

The philosophical depths of these pieces, played with a fine regard for clarity and tempi by the American pianist jeni Slotchiver (here making her recording debut) are plumbed in the penetrating programme notes which she herself has written, and which augur well for future interpretations of this by no means easy music.

The disc ends with a beautifully shaped performance of the majestic Chaconne - which is the perfect summation of the Janus-aspect.

Colin Scott-Sutherland


Colin Scott-Sutherland

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