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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Ferruccio Busoni, The Late Works, Svetlana Belsky

It is difficult to pay attention to everything. All good music? There is too much, not too little! So I try and help by picking out the good things, the best things I am sent. One of those is an extraordinarily nice program of The Late Works (Ravello 8007) of Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924), as played with dramatic vigor by pianist Svetlana Belsky, who holds forth over at my alma mater, the University of Chicago.

This disk gives you three compositional groupings, all exceptional in their own way. The "Sonatina Seconda" (1912) begins the program. How modern, how dissonant, how amazing for its time, rousing, and how well played. This is worth the price of admission alone. I never paid enough attention to later Busoni, so this woke me up and made me very aware and very pleased. Ms. Belsky plays it all like she owns it, and indeed she does. There is a sure-footed expressive chromaticism that leaves Romanticism in the dust and sounds a clarion call to the future Modernism that was coming every day.

Then we segue into the playfully inventive brilliance of "Nine Variations on a Chopin Prelude," that one that Donna Summer made a disco tune out of if you are old enough to remember. Busoni takes it along with him on various rather exciting junkets, from the steeples to the mountains (as Ives declaimed), pouring down like happy spring rain.

Then we top it off with the 1908 "Elegies," all six of them, each of which says something expressively Busoni-ful.

I cannot but recommend this recording, for performances and for a window on Busoni in his final pianistic wonderment.

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