★★★☆☆

Ferrucio Busoni (1866-1924) was the outstanding piano virtuoso of his time. Performance activity interfered with his composing, much to his annoyance, but he produced highly individual works. 

He also made transcriptions of music by Bach, mainly of organ works. Two such pieces are played here: the Prelude and Triple Fugue in E Flat (St. Anne), and a Fantasia after Bach (1909). The original works, all from Busoni’s later years as he suppressed most of his earlier music, are the exquisite Ravelian Nuit de Noël, the Prélude et étude en arpèges, Variations on a Prelude of Chopin, and Toccata: Prelude, Fantasia and Chaconne. The Toccata was his final composition, a fine example of his unique harmonic sense, as well as the tremendous technical difficulty of his piano music. His Chopin Variations of 1922 give Brahms’s Paganini Variations a run for their money.

American pianist Jeni Slotchiver is a Busoni specialist. This is the third disc in her series; earlier issues contain the slightly better known Elegies and Sonatinas. Some unevenness in descending arpeggios aside (in the Etude), she undoubtedly has the necessary technique, and her booklet note attests to her deep knowledge of this music. However, Marc-André Hamelin recorded a 3CD set of late Busoni in 2013 for Hyperion, which contains all the original pieces played here. His pianism goes beyond any level that other humans could hope to attain. Buy the Hamelin.

Download this Album

Contribute to Limelight and support independent arts journalism.