September 16 2009

Review from April 2002




  AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Timpani UK distributor


Brautwahl Suite (1913) 33.06
Geharnischte Suite (1895-1903) 28.14
Orchestre Philharmonique de Timisoara/Jean-Francois Antoniolirec Timisoara, September 1998
TIMPANI 1C1054 [64.16]

Busoni is not exactly an over-recorded composer and the present disc ushers two works into the catalogue for the first time - that is until someone tells me otherwise.

Black arts, the supernatural and wizardry of the three hour opera Die Brautwahl made me think of the early German expressionist cinema: Der Golem and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. Busoni, wishing to rescue some vivid music from the oblivion into which Brautwahl fell after its first six performances at the Hamburg Opera, created a five movement suite. This was premiered in Berlin on 3 January 1913 by Berlin PO/Oskar Fried. Busoni conducted it with the LSO at London's Queen's Hall on 22 June 1920.

The Suite: 1. sample Ghostly Music: reeks with the influences of Dukas, Berlioz and even early Mahler (first symphony). 2. sample Lyric Music is affecting with a touch of Schreker and, over a barely audible pizzicato, a resilient string theme skating over the edge of bathos into John Barry territory without quite falling into the pit. Busoni handles his fine invention with delicacy and no hint of fatigue. 3. sample Mystic Piece is druidic - akin to John Ireland's Forgotten Rite (exactly contemporaneous) mixed with Rachmaninov's Isle Of The Dead, La Valse and Valse Triste. 4. sample Hebrew Music veers between sobriety and distrait emotionalism. Some wonderfully dry brass playing is to be heard amid all the Faustian wraiths. 5.sample Joyous Music: This brief toboggan ride of a movement, flits and effervesces: wind-blown, Hungarian (the similarity is to Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra) and aromatic.

Geharnischte Suite (The Armoured Suite) is in four movements (premiered in 8 October 1897) and is not linked to any opera. Busoni's spell (1888-1890) in Helsinki, then Helsingfors, brought him into contact with Sibelius and his circle. The four movements are dedicated to the friends of Lesko ('Den Leskowiten' in the score). Lesko was Busoni's dog. The booklet includes a photograph of Busoni with Lesko. The movements are: 1. sample Sibelius; 2. sample Adolf Paul (the playwright whose works were furnished with incidental music by Sibelius); 3. sample Armas Järnefelt (he of Praeludium fame); 4 sample Eero Järnefelt (Armas's brother).

The 'armour' of the title relates to the chivalric scene and can be equated with the shivered lances, metal-laden destriers and gleaming heroism of Elgar's Froissart Overture. For all this, Busoni's suite is frequently lighter in mood than the Elgar: Gallic and jolly - not at all Lutheran. The Grabdenkmal third movement is earnest with Sibelian eddies (symphony 1 and Kullervo, En Saga) and Brucknerian surges. This processional also links with Havergal Brian's In Memoriam. The Ansturm is as bellicose as Szymanowski's Concert Overture and as cheeky as Schwanda the Bagpiper though not as overblown as the Szymanowski. As remission from this mood there is a memorable interlude of wood-magic (which has nothing to do with assaults!) with wonderful hushed strings over the lightest brass staccato.

The playing of the Timisoara Orchestra is clean though not always totally as fluent as the music seems to demand. A greater luxuriance amongst the strings would have been desirable but there is nothing here to cause offence and much to reward.

An easily recommendable disc and one that bids fair to remind us of a little considered corner of the musical treasury.


Rob Barnett



Previous items here

Return to MusicWeb-International