Ferruccio Busoni

Sarabande & Cortège, for orchestra (Zwei Studien zu "Doktor Faust"), Op. 51, KiV 282

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    With the completion of the Nocturne symphonique in July 1913 Busoni seems to have felt like Wagner after the earthshaking audacities of Tristan und Isolde--which amazed even their composer--prompted composition of the harmonically conservative Die Meistersinger, in which there is hardly an harmonic sequence which would be found extraordinary in the music of Haydn. Following a deepening curve into the expressively unexplored, beginning with the Berceuse élégiaque (1909) and the Sonatina seconda (1912), the Nocturne symphonique (1912/13) marked Busoni's profoundest throw into a Faustian "language of terror" which brought forth, as a counterbalance, the Indian Fantasy for piano and orchestra (1913/14)--despite its employment of American Indian themes, an old-fashioned extravaganza more akin to Liszt's Hungarian Fantasy than to the Nocturne symphonique's divinatory ne plus ultra Modernism. The Gesang vom Reigen der Geister (1915) returns to the Faustian orbit--distinguished by angstvoll polyphony the more disturbing for being couched in muted, caressing tones--before the Faustian conception takes a startling turn. "The comment of a Berlin critic with regard to my Nocturne, that ‘my harmonic system was only suitable for slow and muted compositions', stimulated me to apply this system to an animated, noisy piece," Busoni writes to Hugo Leichtentritt, June 27, 1916. "Thus arose the Rondò arlecchinesco…" (1915) whose music was soon adapted to the brilliant, rapidly unfolding, satirical--sarcastic--"theatrical caprice," Arlecchino (1914/16). Thus, Busoni's Faustian style delved not only an eldritch midnight but acquired a Nietzschean high noon of expressiveness. Both take on quintessential embodiment in the Sarabande und Cortège for orchestra, frankly titled Zwei Studien zu Doktor Faust. Composed in Zürich over December 1918 and January 1919, and dedicated to his friend, the Swiss conductor,Volkmar Andreae--who led the première with the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra, March 31, 1919--the Sarabande und Cortège took shape during intensive work on Doktor Faust and were taken bodily into the score, the Sarabande as a symphonic intermezzo before the opera's two final tableaux, and the Cortège, somewhat shortened, as an introduction to the dance suite ushering in festivities at the court of Parma, the opera's "principal action," where Faust seduces the Duchess of Parma on her wedding day. Antony Beaumont, pointing out Busoni's cabalistic preoccupation with the Sarabande's rhythm of three and sequences of falling thirds and sevenths, remarks "…the Sarabande is one of Busoni's most sublime compositions. Like the Berceuse élégiaque, it is a meditation on death and rebirth." The Cortège mingles sardonic exhilaration with luminous distancing.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Sarabande
    2. Cortège

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 SWR Music SWR 19061CD
    2017 Chandos CHAN 24157
    2014 Profil / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 14006
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099945632
    2010 EMI Classics 5099962797
    2010 EMI Classics
    2008 Music & Arts MACD1213
    2007 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 6011
    2002 Chandos 9920
    2002 Naxos 555373
    2000 Capriccio Records 49576
    1999 Music & Arts 1052
    1995 Capriccio Records 10479
    Vox 5137