Neoclassic Music Composers : Ferruccio Busoni

Born with the impressive name, Ferruccio Dante Michelangelo Benvenuto Busoni, this brilliant Italian composer was certainly destined to live up to the expectations that his remarkable title demanded of him. He took the music arena by storm on account of his original and colorful arrangements as a composer and his astounding, flamboyant piano skills.

Ferruccio Busoni was born near Florence in Italy, in April 1866. Both of his parents were accomplished musicians; his mother was a pianist and his father had trained in the clarinet. Classical music was literally in his veins and he was privileged to travel with his parents, as they toured during the early part of his childhood. He became his mother’s protégé at the age of eight and was a swift and able learner. He made his first public appearance as a pianist in Vienna, before his ninth birthday.

At the tender age of 20, Ferruccio Busoni embarked on his career as a composer, in Leipzig. It was at this time that he composed his first Opera and his first symphony. But this was not to be the only area of excellence in Ferruccio Busoni’s working life. Whilst in Leipzig he secured his first teaching position, where he was famed for his original techniques. He remained there for two years, supplementing his earnings as a composer.

Ferruccio Busoni

In 1891, Ferruccio Busoni made his first trip to the United States of America, where he again taught piano, whilst continuing to compose musical pieces of outstanding caliber. He completed two years touring and teaching there, before leaving for Berlin, where he decided to set up home permanently. From that point onwards, wherever he traveled, he always returned to Berlin. He was eventually laid to rest there when he died years later.

Perhaps greatest musical influences of Ferruccio Busoni were Bach and Liszt. He performed many recitals written by these two masters and was also famous for re-working their material. To a lesser degree, he also edited music by Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and Mozart.

Ferruccio Busoni’s largest and perhaps greatest work ever, was his 1904 Piano Concerto Op 39. It is an exquisitely intricate piece. Extraordinarily, this work of genius lasts for over one hour, making it an extremely challenging venture for even the most talented musician to play. Another one of his greats is Fantasia Contrappuntistica. This piece was inspired by Bach and is around 30 minutes long. The powerful music of Fantasia Contrappuntistica was not composed for a specific instrument. Of his Operatic work, the best known is Doktor Faust, which he started to work on in 1916. Ferruccio Busoni wrote both music and words of Doktor Faust. His Doktor Faust was based on puppet plays of the ancient times more than the work of Goethe. Unfortunately, this amazing theatrical piece, Doktor Faust remained unfinished at his death in July 1924. Doktor Faust remains out of opera standards and it seems impossible to compare it with other works. The musical forms of Doktor Faust were followed by other opera composers later.

Doktor Faust

His another great work, Turandot opera is more analytical when compared to Turandot of Puccini. However, both versions of Turandot opera are great works of 20th century, the two-act German version of Ferruccio Busoni and three-act Italian version of Puccini. First Ferrucio Busoni version of Turandot opera appeared in 1917 which is less emotional and more intellectual than the Turandot opera of Puccini. He simplified the Turandot play of Gozzi but remained closer to the original work of him when compared to unfinished Turandot opera of Puccini. Busoni set the Turandot opera based on his Trandot suite he wrote in 1905. He also used Chinese and Arabic tunes in his version of Trandot opera.

Turandot opera by Busoni

He was, for sure, one of the most original music composers of 20th century. His main tendency was anti-romanticism. According to one of his pupils, Ferruccio Busoni is the ‘originator of neoclassical music’. He is known for his lucid and clear works. Ferruccio Busoni was looking for a balance of expression and form in neoclassical music.  Before the premiere of his Sonatina Seconda, he called his work as atonal. Sonatina Seconda is an important work that represents the personal style of Busoni with basic principals of neoclassical music. The new ideas in his style and his contribution to neoclassical music cannot be denied. In his late years, his pupils had a chance to benefit from his ideas about neoclassical music.

In his own mind, Ferruccio Busoni had also reckoned himself to be a composer first and foremost. However, neither the music industry nor the public would allow his vision to become a reality. Although he was indeed a conductor of the highest order, it was to be his piano performances that won him the most fame and generated the bulk of his fortune. He was celebrated as a ‘fiery’ pianist and was renowned for the volume and force of his playing. This style of playing was appreciated by some, but not by all. However, whether the reviews were good or bad, he never failed to create a stir and he became an influential figure for neoclassical music.