Ferruccio Busoni

(1866—1924) Italian composer, conductor, and pianist

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(b Empoli, 1866; d Berlin, 1924).

It. composer, conductor, and pianist. Son of a clarinettist and a pianist, with whom he studied. First public pf. recital, Trieste, at age 7. Studied comp. at Graz, 1880–1 and Leipzig 1886. Teaching posts at Helsinki 1889, Moscow 1890, Boston, Mass., 1891–4. After 1894 settled mainly in Berlin. Although his brilliance as a pianist earned him most fame, from 1898 concentrated on comp. and also est. master classes at Weimar in 1901 and 1902 which broke new ground as meeting‐places for young composers and performers. From 1902 to 1909 cond. orch. concerts in Berlin at which contemporary works were perf. From 1913 to 1915 was dir. of Liceo Rossini, Bologna, but disagreements with the municipal authorities over reforms ensured failure. Lived in Zurich from 1915, refusing to enter the belligerent countries, but returned to Berlin 1920. Resumed pianist career despite failing health.

Busoni's pf.‐playing, of virtuoso quality, was also notable for its grandeur and poetry. His mus. found mixed favour in his lifetime but has become increasingly admired for its visionary nature and for its anticipation of many of the devices and styles of ‘advanced’ composers. Deriving from the impressionistic late works of Liszt, it ventured into harmonic and rhythmic territory that became the preserve of Webern, Bartók, and Messiaen. His earlier works, in a classical‐romantic style, are best represented by the vn. sonata in E minor, the vn. conc., and the pf. conc. (in 5 movts., with male ch. in finale). His change in style dates from the Elegies for pf. of 1907. His most elaborate work was his opera Doktor Faust, begun 1916 and left incomplete. His writings were both progressive and influential, particularly the Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst (Trieste, 1907). Prin. works:


Die Brautwahl

(The Bridal Choice) (1908–11);




(1917, orig. incid. mus. 1911); Doktor Faust (1916–24, completed. by P. Jarnach).


Symphonic Suite



, pf., orch. (1890);


, pf., orch. (1888–9), rev. as Symphonisches Tongedicht, orch. (1893);


No.2 (1895, rev. 1903); vn. conc. (1896–7);

Comedy Overture

(1897, rev. 1904); pf. conc. (male ch. in finale) (1903–4);

Turandot Suite

(1904); Berceuse élégiaque (1909, orig. for pf.);

Symphonic Nocturne

(1912); Indianische Fantasie , pf., orch. (1913);

Rondò Arlecchinesco

(1915); Indianisches Tagebuch (Book II) (1915); cl. concertino (1918);


, fl., orch. (1920);



Romanza e Scherzosa

, pf., orch. (1921).

voice & orch.:

Ave Maria

, bar., orch. (1882);

Unter den Linden

, sop., orch. (1885, 1893);


, bar., orch. (1923);

Schlechter Trost

, low v., orch. (1924).

chamber works:

str. qt. No.1 in C minor (1880–1), No. 2 in D minor (1887); vn. sonata No.1 in E minor (1890), No.2 in E minor (1898);

Little Suite

, vc., pf. (1886);


, vn., pf. (1888);


, vc., pf. (c.1882);


, cl., pf. (1920).


Prelude and Fugue

in C minor (1878);

24 Preludes


3 Pieces


Study in Form of Variations


5 Pieces



(7 pieces) (1907–9; No.7, Berceuse, comp. 1909 and orch. as Berceuse élégiaque);


Subjects: Music.

Reference entries