Sunday, 21 June 2009


A storming pianist [I remember one supervisor at Downing showing off his vinyls of Busoni at the piano and telling me how the Italian was the greatest pianist who had ever lived]. And a great composer. Am currently enjoying his Violin Sonata No.1 in E minor (can’t yet understand the second sonata so well), brimming with energy, deceptively simply, and possibly something I could even play in the coming year.

The best moment comes 4’50” into the opening movement [on the recording by Per Enoksson and Kathryn Stott]. This is a spine-tingling, heart-surging, blurry-eyed moment for me… After the extended counterpoint, a jagged and almost bitter section, Busoni gives us a series of 4-3 suspensions/appogiaturas beginning on a deeply underwritten Vb chord – we can’t decide whether this passage is major or minor, we can’t decide if this is triumph rising above the darkness and unsettled counterpoint, and we move on again before we have a chance to reflect. Wow!

The power of the 4-3 was never better employed, except possibly in the closing bars of Scriabin’s Piano Concerto in F# minor (probably written around the same time as the Busoni) where the plagal cadence – in itself an unusual ending for a concerto work – is drawn out by the B of B major staying in the F#sus4 chord that precedes the final arrival of the tonic major. Made all the more effective by big arching horn lines and the pianist bouncing up and down, producing swelling and receding waves that are slightly out of sync with the orchestral harmony.

Just thinking about it is exciting.

Which shows what a vivid imagination some people have!