Ferrucio Busoni in the United States – composer
In 1933 Edward J. Dent (1876-1957) published what is still the most substantial biography of Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924), composer, pianist, author, transcriber, editor, and teacher.(1) Current interest in Busoni is such that a new biography, replete with documentary notes (which are lacking in Dent) and written with full access to sources, would be not only appropriate but highly desirable.(2) A major problem with Dent’s book (as with all biographies of Busoni) is that some periods of Busoni’s early career are too briefly covered, chiefly because of the geographical distance between the authors and the sources; this is especially the case for the years in Russia (1890) and the United States (1891-94).(3) Busoni resided in the United States longer than in any other country except Switzerland, where he lived in exile from October 1915 to June 1920, and, of course, Germany.(4) Altogether, he spent forty-nine months in the United States–thirty-one months between 1891 and 1894, when he was based first in Boston and later in New York, and an additional eighteen months when he made four extended concert tours in 1904, 1910, 1911, and 1915.(5)
In this article I document Busoni’s career during the time he spent in the United States. I also consider the reception that American critics gave his original compositions during his lifetime and discuss his rather negative perception of the United States. Busoni provides an especially interesting example of a European artist’s career in America. He was one of the towering pianists of his era. As a composer, he was a moderate, progressive artist during the stylistic transition between the late romantic era to the early twentieth century. He received many creative stimuli from musicians in the United States, and he provides examples of an important European figure reacting to music-making in the New World. In addition, Busoni was a much-admired personality, a highly respected intellectual who exerted a deep influence on several important musical individuals, several of whom made certain that his memory would not be forgotten.
I will cite numerous documents–many of them culled from the pages of Musical America and the Musical Courier (as well as scattered little-known sources)–to shed light on an important chapter in the composer’s life. A detailed chronological list of the various creative activities to which Busoni devoted himself during his stay in the United States is found in appendix 1; this list also chronicles his contacts with American musicians and institutions. A separate list of the performances of his original works in the United States between 1891 and 1924 is given in appendix 2.
Busoni in Boston and New York (1891-94)
When Busoni arrived in North America in 1891, the German domination of classical music in the United States was still nearly total. Numerous American musicians studied with German or German-trained teachers, and many American students went to Germany for further study. These musicians tended to perpetuate the Germanic traditions in which they had been trained. Concert programs prominently featured German music from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and several important orchestras were largely composed of musicians of German birth or origin.(6) It was thus in the normal course of things for a young and brilliant virtuoso pianist like Busoni, who was trained in the German tradition, to receive an invitation to teach in the United States, where virtuosos were greatly admired by the public. He was, moreover, not without credentials as a composer: in the summer of 1890 he had received the first prize for composition at a competition established by the pianist-composer Anton Rubinstein, who was known to North American music lovers for his Melody in F, “Reve angelique” (“Kammenoi-Ostrow”), and “Ocean” Symphony.
While living in Leipzig (1888) Busoni had enjoyed the friendship of piano manufacturer Theodore Steinway (1825-89); his “attitude towards me,” Busoni wrote, “is more that of a father than of a businessman.”(7) Steinway had given Busoni financial assistance, and he wanted to send him to America for a winter season. For some unknown reason, however, that proposed tour did not materialize. Busoni went instead to Finland, where he was hired as a piano teacher at the Helsinki Conservatory of Music at the recommendation of Hugo Riemann (he remained there from Sept.1888 to Sept.1890). At the end of September 1890 Busoni arrived in Moscow, where he had been hired at the local conservatory. At first he welcomed this new appointment; he found that the Moscow Conservatory had the best teachers and that the city had much to offer.(8) By his eighth month there, however, he had become thoroughly dissatisfied with his colleagues, and he announced to his father that he had received an offer in January 1891 from the New England Conservatory in Boston, which he saw as “the leading city in musical life.”(9)
Busoni’s letter of May 1891 provides much insight into his attitude toward his forthcoming assignment in Boston. He wrote that he would enjoy the support of William Steinway (1835-96), the brother of his recently deceased protector, and that he would be close to his friend Arthur Nikisch (1855-1922), the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, “who will certainly give me the opportunity for publicity and financial gain.”(10) It is clear that Busoni saw the Boston appointment as a temporary one, serving strictly as a stepping-stone for his budding career:
My plan is: to occupy a permanent post for the first year and then, in the
second (having made my name), to embark on a major tour, thus gaining
peace of mind for two or three years in which I can improve myself….
I shall be occupying the leading position in the country; while here
in Russia I shall never manage to oust the Russian celebrities . . .
And if I should not be happy, well–after a year I shall return with a
little money in my pocket and the pleasure of having made a fine journey
free of charge!(11)
Arriving in New York at the end of August,(12) Busoni immediately wrote to his parents, telling them how impressive the city appeared to him; he marveled at the buses, streetcars, and fourteen-story houses that contrasted so much with “barbarous Moscow.”(13) He then headed to Boston, where the city’s two-mile-long streets made a favorable impression on him, even though he found the Bostonians to be rather intolerant about wine; indeed, he was disappointed to learn that only lemonade and ice cream would be served at a reception given in honor of his arrival.(14)
On September 6, 1891, the New York Times reported that the New England Conservatory of Music(15) had made “strenuous efforts to induce him [Busoni] to come here, and this season the conservatory will have in its Faculty two of the greatest of young pianists.” Busoni was one of fourteen members of the conservatory’s Graduate Department, which included, among others, composer George Whitefield Chadwick (18541931); the Boston Advertiser’s music critic, Louis Charles Elson (18481920);(16) and Carl Stasny (1855-1920), a former pupil of Liszt.(17) The conservatory’s Calendar indicates that Busoni was “professor of pianoforte and composition” and gives the names of the class of 1892. Eighteen piano students are listed, two men and sixteen women–not one of these names appears in modern music encyclopedias.(18) One of the voice students at the conservatory, Oliver H. Clark, should be mentioned, however, because there is evidence that he remained in contact with Busoni. He is certainly the dedicate of the revised version of Busoni’s song “By the Waters of Babylon” (BV 202a),(19) which was written as a fragment in 1901 and completed in 1930 by Egon Petri (1881-1962), a Busoni disciple.(20)
Even though Busoni’s salary appears to have been quite generous by the standards of the day ($810 per term), he soon became disgusted with his activities as a piano teacher, teaching four pupils each hour.(21) He wrote his father before the end of his first year in Boston that he had decided to free himself once and for all from the tedious and harmful pedagogical career and to devote himself to piano playing and composing music.(22) His intention was to become known as a pianist and make money at all costs in order to return to Europe.(23) That urge must have been quite strong, because he refused, among other enticements, an offer from the University of Chicago.(24) His dissatisfaction with his appointment in Boston might explain why he failed to cite this job (along with the Helsinki one) in a list of his titles that he wrote down in a letter to his son Raffaello in 1921.(25) Another reason might have been that Busoni did not like the director of the New England Conservatory, Carl Faelten.(26)
At the beginning of September 1892 the Musical Courier announced the composer’s resignation: Busoni “will not be connected with the New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, this season. He will probably concertize.”(27) Busoni elected to remain in Boston, however, and he managed his career as a free-lance pianist out of the city until the fall of 1893.(28) Although he had wanted to return to Europe in the summer of 1893, he did not have enough money for the journey.(29) In September he decided to buy a house in New York for $780 (he had spent $600 to purchase his Boston house), and he looked forward to a new life in a city that, as he wrote to his wife, Gerda, surpassed everything he knew (although he noted that he still did not know Paris and London).(30) He was joined in October 1893 by his wife and their one-year-old son, Benvenuto.(31)The Musical Courier reported the event: “Mr. Busoni, the eminent pianist and composer, has removed from Boston and made this city [New York] his place of residence. We welcome most heartily this accomplished and gifted man.”(32)
Busoni free-lanced actively in New York as a pianist, giving recitals and concerts. He most probably also taught a number of private pupils, although details are available about only two: Augusta Cottlow (18781954), whom he taught piano and to whom he later dedicated the Etude in D-flat Major (BV 198), written in 1882 or 1883,(33) and ethnomusicologist Natalie Curtis (1875-1921), whom he taught harmony. Curtis would later introduce him to Native American music in 1910,(34) and Busoni would eventually dedicate to her his Indian Fantasy for piano and orchestra (BV 264, 1913-14).(35)
During his first American visit Busoni played publicly at least seventy-five times, including ten performances in chamber concerts with the Kneisel Quartet(36) and sixteen appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, both in and outside Boston.(37) He made his New York debut on December 7, 1891, three weeks after Paderewski’s debut there on November 17, giving a joint recital at the Fortnightly Club with a singer identified as Miss Hall. It was not until January 17, 1892, however, that he publicly performed a work of his own in New York. The occasion was a performance of his Konzertstuck for piano and orchestra at one of Walter Damrosch’s Sunday Concerts at the Music Hall (soon to be renamed Carnegie Hall).(38) In the spring of 1893 he made a tour of the states bordering the Great Lakes,(39) after which he wrote his mother that a one- or two-year trip to the United States was essential for any cultured man.(40)
Prior to his departure from the United States in 1894, Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) invited Busoni three times to play at Fenway Court, her palatial home.(41) In April 1894, after slightly more than seven months in New York, Busoni sailed home to Europe,(42) with the intention of resuming to the United States at a later date as part of a well-organized tour.(43) He wrote Gardner from Berlin on October 13, 1894, stating that his conviction and his way of thinking about music-making made it difficult to attract new contracts. At his request, Gardner loaned him $1,000 to alleviate his financial problems; Busoni probably never repaid the money, which Gardner obviously did not need.(44) His dedication to her of numbers 4 through 6 of his Six Pieces (BV 241, 1895) may have been the sole compensation he offered her.
The Tours of 1904, 1910, 1911, and 1915
Almost ten years elapsed before Busoni returned to the United States in 1904 for an extended three-month concert tour. He was by then thirty-eight years old and a mature virtuoso pianist; he was also about to complete his Concerto for Piano, Orchestra, and Male Chorus, which would become the crowning work of his career as a nineteenth-century composer. Other visits to the United States would follow in 1910, 1911, and 1915. On the first three occasions Busoni stayed from January through March or April. On his 1915 tour, however, he remained in New York until the end of August for several reasons:(45) managerial problems with the Steinway firm, which now acted as his agent, would lead to his being “out of work” on his return in Europe;(46) he needed to supervise the engraving of his edition of book 2 of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier;(47) and the political situation on the Continent made it difficult for him, as an Italian residing in Germany, to return to Europe. He wrote to Harriet Lanier, saying “Yes, I have to remain here indefinitely, on account of the awakened heroism of my sympathetic countrymen. The way leading back to my home is cut off and peace-making is postponed.”(48) On August 28, 1915, he finally sailed for Europe, arriving sick in Milan around the middle of September and then going to neutral Switzerland, where he resided until June 1920.(49)
Busoni’s tours to North America encompassed an average of ten states: he visited seven states in 1904, fourteen in 1910, fifteen in 1911, and six in 1915. Using New York as his home base, he went only as far as Illinois in 1904; in 1915 he toured as far as Georgia. The 1910 and 1911 tours took him to more distant states, such as Louisiana and Colorado (1910) and California and Washington (1911). His visits to Canada were limited to two cities with a well-developed musical life: Montreal and Toronto. He appeared in Toronto in 1910 as soloist with the Thomas Orchestra under the baton of Theodore Thomas (he had already played there in 1892 with the Chicago Orchestra); in Montreal he gave recitals during 1910, 1911, and 1915.(50)
Busoni gave at least 140 concerts in North America, with the tours of 1910 and 1911 featuring twice as many concerts as his other two tours.(51) Several of his letters to his wife testify to the difficult life he experienced as a touring virtuoso, and they give accounts of his impressions of the cities that he visited. It is likely that his manager, Martin H. Hanson, subjected him to more traveling than necessary.(52) Hanson seems to have had some problems in planning the most logical tour. Busoni wrote his wife on March 29, 1910, complaining of the backtracking: “Denver lies eleven miles from Col. Springs, but I must travel the whole way back (as far as Boston) and then back to Denver, which makes about 5,000 kilometres extra!”(53) In a letter to his friend Edward J. Dent, the pianist wrote, “While you have been enjoying the pleasures and the wine of my home country, I have had to cover 35,000 miles of the Wild West.”(54) In a letter written to his wife from Chicago on March 12, 1904, Busoni sketched a map that he labeled “Map of the West of the United States, Showing the Long and Dolorous Tour, the Antisentim[ent]al Journey of F.B.” In another letter to his wife, Busoni complained of his schedule: “I am convalescent to-day, after a severe attack of influenza (or something similar). Hanson’s people have been pitiless and I have been obliged to play with fever and pain[,] and last night was the first time since the fourth of March that I have had a long enough night’s rest.”(55)
The various cities that Busoni visited during his tour of 1910 and the dates of his possible arrivals there provide some idea of the to-and-from zigzagging of his itinerary (table 1) (56) However hectic his touring conditions might have been, other pianists born in the nineteenth century (e.g., Thalberg, Rubinstein, Bulow, and Paderewski) had to cope with a much more exhausting schedule during their American tours.(57)
Table 1. Cities Busoni visited during his 1910 concert tour
Jan. 6 New York, N. Y. Mar. 5 Toledo, Ohio
Jan. 10 Pittsburgh, Pa. Mar. 7 Indianapolis, Ind.
Jan. 14 Chicago, Ill. Mar. 10 New York, N. Y.
Jan. 18 St. Paul, Minn. Mar. 11 Boston, Mass.
Jan. 21 Minneapolis. Minn. Mar. 14 New York, N. Y.
Jan. 25 New York, N. Y. Mar. 16 Boston, Mass.
Jan. 26 Cleveland, Ohio Mar. 21 Columbus, Ohio
Jan. 60 Chicago, Ill. Mar. 22 Pittsburgh, Pa.
Jan. 31 Milwaukee, Wis. Mar. 24 New York, N. Y.
Feb. 1 Baltimore, Md. Mar. 27 Chicago, Ill.
Feb. 3 Toronto, Ontario Mar. 28 Des Moines, Iowa
Feb. 4 Montreal, Quebec Mar. 31 Colorado Springs, Colo.
Feb. 6 New York, N. Y. Apr. 6 New York, N. Y.
Feb. 11 Buffalo, N. Y. Apr. 8 Washington, D.C.
Feb. 15 Philadelphia, Pa. Apr. 11 Boston, Mass.
Feb. 18 Cincinnati, Ohio Apr. 14 Terre Haute, Ind.
Feb. 21 Louisville, Ky. Apr. 16 St. Louis, Mo.
Feb. 23 Louisville, Ky. Apr. 18 Denver, Colo.
Feb. 24 Kansas City, Mo. Apr. 23 Chicago, Ill.
Feb. 27 New Orleans, La. Apr. 25 Columbus, Ohio
Mar. 2 Atlanta, Ga. Apr. 26 Oberlin, Ohio
Mar. 4 Dayton, Ohio Apr. 28 New York, N.Y.
Busoni’s concerts attracted a large number of would-be piano pupils, which was not a part of his design. According to the Musical Courier, Busoni’s manager had “registered over 400 applications from people all over the United States who clamor and beg for lessons from the master.” The journal added that the master could not “bring himself to accept pupils, as his mind is too full of schemes for future work to permit his settling down to the task of daily teaching.”(62)
A typical recital program for Busoni on his American tours comprised a standard repertory of works, emphasizing large-scale pieces such as his piano transcriptions of organ works by Bach, the late sonatas of Beethoven, the complete sets of etudes or sonatas by Chopin or Liszt, and transcriptions of popular nineteenth-century operas (table 2 provides a sample of four Busoni programs).
Table 2. Four Programs for recitals performed by Busoni in the
United States, 1904-15
Mar. 9, 1904, Music Hall (Chicago)
Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C Major, BWV 564 (Bach-Busoni)
Sonata No. 30 in E Major, op. 109 (Beethoven)
Twelve Etude, op. 25 (Chopin)
Variations on a Theme by Paganini (Brahms)
Jan. 25, 1910, Carnegie Hall (New York)
Chromatic Fantasy and Fague, BWV 903 (J. S. Bach)
“In dir ist Freude,” BWV 615 (Bach-Busoni)
“Nun freut ech lieben Christen [gmein],” BWV 734 (Bach-Busoni)
Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, op. 111 (Beethoven)
Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, op. 35 (Chopin)
Memphisto Waltz (Liszt-Busoni)
Wedding March and Dance of the Elves (Mendelssohn-Liszt)
Waltz from Faust (Gounod-Liszt)
Feb. 28, 1911, New england Conservatory of Music (Boston)
Four Ballads (Chopin)
“Mazeppa,” “Feux follets,” and Etude No. 10 in F Minor from the
Transcendental Studies (Liszt)
Two Legends (Liszt)
Reminiscences de “Don Juan” (Liszt)
Mar. 7, 1915, Carnegie Hall (New York)
Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Major, BWV 552 (Bach-Busoni)
Capricio in B-flat Major on the Departure of His Beloved
Brother, BWV 992 (Bach-Busoni)
Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, op 111 (Beethoven)
Phantasiestucke, op. 12 (Schumann)
Studies after Paganini (Liszt)
Hungarian Rhapsosy No. 19 (Lizst)
Sources: Chicago Record Herald, Mar. 6, 1904; New York Times, Jan. 26, 1910; Boston Symphony Orchestra Program Notes (1916-17), 876-80; and Musical Courier 70, no. (Feb. 17, 1915): 29.
An excerpt from an unsigned review in the January 1911 issue of the Musical Courier gives a fair idea of the reception that Busoni enjoyed as a pianist:
It is practically impossible to speak of Busoni’s stupendous pianism in the measured and limited terms of ordinary musical phraseology, and yet the very essence of his art is so musical that to drift into superlative comparisons outside of the strict realm of tone were to give the reader a wrong impression of this astonishing man and the marvelous things he does….
The audience fairly hurled its applause at Busoni after each number and the “Don Juan” ended in a riot of cheers, hand clapping and foot stamping so clamorous that the hall appeared to shake with the cyclopean tumult. It was a triumph of illimitable proportions and constituted a scene never to be forgotten by those fortunates whom Busoni had raved with the balm of his art and led as close to the throne of the great gods of music as any lowly humans ever may hope to approach. Those who have music in their souls must well nigh tremble when they think of the giddy eminence to which Ferruccio Benvenuto Busoni has climbed along the road to Olympus.(63)
A less flowery but more representative review appeared in the Musical Courier on March 3, 1915, following Busoni’s appearance with the New York Symphony Orchestra on February 28:
Ferruccio Busoni, in Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto, was the
“star” of the New Symphony Orchestra concert . . . and deservedly
so, for he played the great piano classic with superb musicianship,
voluminous yet many colored tonal application, and masterful
phrasing and analytical dissection. It was a performance laid out
and executed on the broadest possible artistic plane and showed
Busoni to be more than ever a consummate master of music and
a veritable necromancer on the instrument which he uses as the
medium for voicing his tonal inspirations. He was acclaimed by
the audience as a king of the keyboard.(64)
Busoni one of the greatest piano virtuosos of his era, did not fail to attract audiences eager to hear brilliant performances of the masterpieces of nineteenth-century piano literature. Near the end of his 1910 tour, he wrote his wife that the Musical Courier had emphasized that he had “brought a new tone into concert life.”(65) The journal’s editor had written:
Busoni has been the most remarkable stimulus for the legitimate
propagation in music we have had in America for many years, if
not the most remarkable of all. The vital force, the artistic devotion,
or rather the devotion to the artistic, the solemn and serious treatment
of the classical models, the supreme command of the complete
resources of technic, the splendor of delivery and poetry of
the touch . . . are characteristics of Busoni’s manifestations that
have made him a center, a focus of the general American season.
. . .(66)
Busoni further confided to his wife, writing, “After the second tour I believe I shall possess enough authority to make experiments here too.” Unfortunately, he did not give specific details about what he meant by this statement, but one might suspect that he was referring to performances of his original compositions. As we shall see, performances of his music in the United States were rare during his lifetime.
The Performance and Reception of Busoni’s Original Compositions in the United States during His Lifetime
At least thirteen concerts or recitals featuring Busoni’s original works took place between 1891 and 1894 while Busoni resided in the United States (appendix 2 lists those performances that could be traced). Seven were solo recitals given by Busoni or performances with chamber ensembles in which he played the piano part; one performance included his appearance as soloist with orchestra. The six remaining performances were given by the Boston Symphony Orchestra (in Boston or on tour in neighboring cities) or they involved the BSO’s conductor, Arthur Nikisch, and his wife, Amelie. The Nikisches gave, for example, four performances of Busoni’s song “Unter den Linden” (two in the voice and piano version [BV 207] and two in the orchestral version [BV 207a]); Busoni would later dedicate to Nikisch, whom he had befriended during their Leipzig years, his Symphonic Tone Poem (BV 240). Busoni also performed some of his chamber compositions with the Russian violinist Adolf Brodsky (1851-1929) and the German cellist Alwin Schroder (1855-1928), who were also friends from his Leipzig days; he likewise dedicatee works to them–to Brodsky the Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 (BV 234, 1890) and to Schroder the Short Suite for Cello and Piano (BV 215, 1885).
The performances of Busoni’s works often were reviewed quite severely by music critics in Boston and New York. Max Graf has pointed out, for example, that artistic taste in Boston–a city with old traditions–was conservative and that the influence of the Boston critics was an important force in shaping musical criticism in New York.(67) Even though most of Busoni’s works that were performed were quite traditional, critics often found that the music sounded too modern.
For Busoni, the most important performances of his music during his first stay in the United States were those given by the Boston Symphony Orchestra (under Nikisch) of his Symphonic Suite (BV 201, 1883) and his Symphonic Tone Poem, which were performed on February 19, 1892, and April 14, 1893, respectively.(68) The performance of the first piece was reviewed by Louis C. Elson (Busoni’s colleague at the New England Conservatory), who has been described as the “only outright conservative, indeed reactionary, among the leading Boston critics of the day.”(69)
And now there followed a composition in the old forms, but in
the most modern style . . . The suite might also be called a suite
de spectres, so weird, uncanny and ghost-like are many of its
effects…. The Gavotte also was in the spirit of the new school,
while observing the shape of the old…. The final allegro fugato
was not so inspired as the two preceding movements, although
the musicianly knowledge of the young composer was evinced in
every measure, and the scoring throughout was of wonderful efficacy.(70)
One year later Elson reviewed the performance of Busoni’s Symphonic Tone Poem:
Now followed a tonal labyrinth by Ferruccio B. Busoni. It was
called a Symphonic Tone-Poem and it reminded strongly of the
style of the orchestral rhapsodies in which Liszt has indulged. It
began with a moan in the deepest woodwind and continued in
the atmosphere of agony and conflict to the very end. Yet the
writer received the impression that there was some beauty in it,
and some coherent ideas somewhere, if he could have had the
opportunity to have studied it. The wild boldness of it all made
it comparable to a [Joseph] Turner painting of the latest epoch.
. . . Such a work, by a man of proven genius, is a strong argument
for a return to more definite forms; it would be unfortunate to
have the Wagnerian spirit. . . attempt to seize upon the
symphony…. One may remonstrate against Mr. Busoni[,] charging
with the same “forlorn hope.”(71)
The critic Philip Hale (1854-1934), whose articles were reputed to have been often “tinged with caustic wit directed against . . . many modern composers,”(72) also commented very critically about Busoni’s Symphonic Tone Poem in the Musical Courier:
The poem is without form and void. There are no themes of marked
originality or beauty. There are no effective combinations of themes.
There are no effects in any way, in spite of the boisterous attempts
of the composer. Although the instrumentation shows a thoroughly
trained hand, there are no sensuous or serene tonal moods. There
are abrupt contrasts; there are tremendous explosions; there is fury
in plenty. Ideas, however, are few and far between.(73)
Busoni sent Hale a letter following the BSO’s performance of the Symphonic Tone Poem on April 14, 1893, stating, “The fundamental idea and the pessimistic idea (if you allow the phrase) of my composition is found in a poem by [Niklaus] Lenau entitled `Der Indifferentist.’ For obvious reasons I did not prefix this title to my composition.” Hale quoted this excerpt from Busoni’s letter in an article he published one week later. In that article he referred to Busoni’s “extraordinary orchestral poem”(74) before discussing at some length the possibilities of expressing Lenau’s poem in music.
Busoni’s symphonic works notwithstanding, Hale had reacted favorably a few months earlier to Busoni’s recital at Union Hall on January 30, 1893, when the composer played two of his piano compositions: the Fugue from the Six Etudes (BV 203, 1883) and the Second Ballet Scene (BV 209, 1884). Here Hale’s well-known love of France might help to explain why he felt that Busoni, the composer, should probably have remained a Latin and not followed the “modem” German School.(75) Hale’s review also critiqued Busoni’s arrangement of Bach’s Chaconne, which received its world premiere on the aforementioned recital.
The chaconne of Bach sounded in the arrangement by Busoni as
though it were conceived and worked out originally for a modern
piano…. This particular arrangement was thoughtful, dignified,
and in the true spirit of Bach.
Mr. Busoni’s own compositions show originality, fine taste and at the
same time a hankering after cool harmonies. I wonder what Busoni would
be now if he had not touched German soil in his youth and turned his
back on Italy. When an Italian is possessed thoroughly with the demon
of Germanism he is more German than the Germans.(76)
Busoni rarely programmed his own piano works on concert tours, save for his transcriptions of music by other composers. In 1910 he gave a few performances of pieces from An die Jugend (BV 254, 1909), most notably at Carnegie Hall on February 2; he was careful, however, not to play the original, more “advanced” pieces from this set, limiting himself to those pieces that are reworkings of music by Mozart and Paganini. Only once did he devote an entire program to his own works and transcriptions, at a recital for the Society of the Friends of Music at the Ritz-Carlton on February 14, 1915. On that occasion he played his Sonatina No. 1 (BV 257, 1910) and the full set of Elegies (BV 249, 1907).(77)
At least eighteen concerts that featured Busoni’s orchestral music were performed between 1905 and 1924 (the year of his death): four in Boston, six in Chicago, four in New York, three in St. Louis, Missouri, and one in Philadelphia. The Geharnischte Suite (BV 242, 1894-95, rev. 1903), the Lustspielouverture (BV 245, 1897, rev.1904), and the Turandot Suite (BV 248, 1905) were heard, respectively, one, five, and three times. The Turandot Suite received its first American performance on March 10,1910, by the Philharmonic Society under Gustav Mahler. In addition to these conservative works, the bold Berceuse elegiaque (BV 252a, 1909) was performed a total of five times: it received its world premiere at Carnegie Hall on February 21, 1911. On that occasion Mahler, already ill, conducted the New York Philharmonic in what would be his final appearance before any audience as a conductor.(78)
These performances were extremely isolated events–they did not point toward a recognition of Busoni as a composer by the public and music critics. They resulted largely from Busoni’s well-placed connections in the United States. He enjoyed the friendship of several prominent musicians who wanted to honor their much-admired colleague. Indeed, in almost all performances of Busoni’s symphonic music, the conductor was a personal friend of the composer. There were also other personal connections between Busoni and the conductors or sponsors of these concerts: Wilhelm Gericke was the dedicated of Busoni’s Lustspielouverture; Karl Muck, who conducted the first Berlin performance of Busoni’s Concerto for Piano, Orchestra, and Male Chorus, was the dedicatee of the composer’s Turandot Suite; Frederick Stock, who prepared an orchestral arrangement of Busoni’s Fantasia contrappuntistica (BV 256, 1910), was the dedicatee of his Rondo arlecchinesco (BV 266, 1915); and Artur Bodanzky was the dedicatee of Busoni’s opera Arlecchino (BV 270, 1914-16). Busoni’s friend Harriet Lanier (1866-1931) headed the Society of the Friends of Music, which she founded in 1913 and of which she remained president until 1929. Rudolph Ganz had been Busoni’s piano pupil in Berlin, and Max Zach probably became acquainted with Busoni’s music during his tenure as first viola in the Boston Symphony Orchestra (ca. 1886-1907).
It seems clear that Busoni owed his occasional appearances as a composer in the United States to friendships with several influential musicians–all of whom were born in Europe. Busoni never saw his name on the repertory lists of major orchestras. (In fact, prior to 1966, the centenary of his birth, most performances of his music given in the United States were sponsored or given by people who had known him and succumbed more or less to the Busoni “spell.”)
American critics in the early 1900s remained divided in their opinions about Busoni as a composer. Louis Elson, in his review of Karl Muck’s performance of Busoni’s Geharnischte Suite in Boston on March 30, 1906, used his review to draw the readers’ attention to his dislike of the “modern” composers.(79)
Mr. Ferruccio Busoni has proved himself such a great student of
Bach that we may assume that if he adopts the ultra-modern vein
in his compositions he does it from choice and not from any
inability to work in the accepted shapes. We can only say therefore
that we wish he had kept to the musical highway and not struck
off through the brambles….
While we emphatically do not like the school, we demand for
Busoni the same respect that is accorded to other modern
dissonancists. The more we get of this rambling, difficult,
“impressionist” school, the better, for the fever will have
sooner run its course.(80)
Arthur Farwell (1872-1952) reviewed Mahler’s performance of Busoni’s Turandot Suite in New York on March 10, 1910, for Musical America. He was much more receptive to Busoni’s music than was Elson. Farwell, who was by then very interested in Native American music, probably felt a kinship with Busoni as he critiqued this “exotic” work, which quotes actual Oriental melodies rather than freely invented ones.
The whole work is distinctly spicy. Being primarily theatrical music, the separate movements scarcely give the impression of lucid, well-outlined and self-supporting musical form. One feels the theater back of the suite at almost every point. The composer has been happy in his choice of motives, and has worked them out with much elaboration, displaying extraordinary ingenuity in the orchestration. The latter is often as piquant as Ravel, and there are moments when one can almost imagine Busoni also to be an exponent of pointillisme….
The work, all in all, has by no means the orchestral or thematic lucidity of Rimsky-Korsakow’s [sic] ventures in Orientalism, as in “Scheherazade,” nor has it the ineffable, languorous beauty of the Orientalism of Mussorgsky. It is, however, extremely pleasing, and never lets go its grip upon the attention. It was greatly applauded for itself, and Busoni was hailed with enthusiastic plaudits upon his appearance on the stage to bow his acknowledgments.(81)
The world premiere of the Berceuse elegiaque (Des Mannes Wiegenlied am Sarge seiner Mutter), which was scored for thirty-eight players, received very unfavorable reviews due to its bitonality and heavy reliance on muted sounds.(82) An unidentified critic for Musical America wrote, “To judge by this work, Mr. Busoni has gone over heart and soul to the cacophonies of Strauss and, to a certain extent, the color scheme of Debussy.”(83) This critic continued, making reference to the dark drawing (charcoal on brown paper) of the title page that showed in the background a man following his mother’s coffin, “Mr. Busoni has emphasized the gruesome aspects of the idea by a scheme of acidulous dissonance that few ultra-moderns could improve upon.”(84) The New York Time$ probably represented by Richard Aldrich (1863-1937), another critic who vehemently opposed the “extreme” trends of modem music,(85) noted that “the harmonic and instrumental combinations were singular to a degree. It is a gruesome work in a modern composer’s most modern manner.”(86)
The New York Tribune expressed a similar opinion in an unsigned review, probably written by Henry Edward Krehbiel (1854-1923), who, in the words of Max Graf, “sat on his throne with dignity, blessing right-thinking composers and banishing the sinners against what he believed to be the unchangeable laws of music.”(87)
They [other composers on the program–Leone Sinigaglia, Giuseppe
Martucci, and Enrico Bossi] adhered to some old-fashioned notions
touching tonality as well as melody, which in a little book [Entwurf einer
neuen Asthetik der Tonkunst (Sketch of a new aesthetic of music)] in
which he [Busoni] outlines a new system of musical aesthetics he seeks
to brush aside as old-fashioned rubbish. He
could not introduce his new scale of third-tone intervals, but he
could, and did, introduce enough cacophony to make the audience
wish he had never perpetrated his “Berceuse Elegiaque,” or if he
had, he had not honored New York with its first performance. It
is not always possible to escape a first performance, but it is easy
to avoid a second. It is not likely that the New York public will
be aggrieved by the “Berceuse Elegiaque” again.(88)
Another anonymous critic reviewed the Philadelphia performance of Busoni’s Indian Fantasy, which employs authentic Native American themes: “He has given the composition some melody, a mildly pathetic appeal, and a good deal of dissonance and rambling indefiniteness. All in all, it is too suggestive of the Wild West show or the Midday Plaissance [recte Midway Plaisance] to rise much above the commonplace.”(89)
It is obvious from these reviews that Busoni was not as welcomed in the United States as a composer as he was as a pianist. As a performer, he was considered among the greatest keyboard artists of his generation. As a composer, he was coldly received by those American critics who were baffled by his compositions and found them too modern. Of Busoni’s works that were performed in the United States, only Berceuse elegiaque was open to that criticism, and Busoni was probably wise not to play his Sonatina seconda (BV 259, 1912) or let his Nocturne symphonique (BV 262, 1913) be performed. The critical assessments of his music, which probably mattered more to him than any comments about his playing, surely did not contribute to giving him a positive outlook toward the United States.
Busoni’s Perception of the United States
Busoni’s years in the United States were far from being futile (see appendix 1). During his stay he completed and published several works and essays. He also made many friends who played a role in his creative life, individuals to whom he would dedicate his musical compositions.
Busoni mentioned the United States several times in his published essays and private correspondence. The two writings about his reactions to the United States that North Americans of the period likely would have seen are two items from the Musical Courier. The first was a letter written on April 12, 1910, to his manager, Hanson, who forwarded it to the magazine. The editor introduced the letter as follows: “His [Busoni’s] opinion of America . . . should fill the musical part of our nation with pride, for to win the respect and esteem of a Busoni is to be appreciated by one of the world’s leading figures in the inner brotherhood of artistic intellectuals.” In this letter Busoni commented briefly about the geographical proportions and beauty of the land and noted the “bold way of thinking in its people.” He then discussed the steadily growing longing for music in the United States, the flourishing orchestral institutions, and the eminent musicians who were making “an honest endeavor on behalf of music.” He advised, however, that an American school of music was needed (as there had been a German, French, and Italian school) before the United States could enter the ranks of musical nations. He concluded this letter with the hope that Europe would soon be able “to receive worthily, and in a festive manner the great heads and masters of an American school of music.”(90)
The second document was “Busoni’s Tribute to America,” a five-paragraph essay that appeared in the Musical Courier on January 13, 1911, with no information about its source or date. Busoni wrote that America was “rapidly coming into its own, particularly in its interest and appreciation of music” and that “American audiences have come to know what they want and insist upon getting it. Mediocre compositions and mediocre performances have been tabooed by the men and women forming the audiences that attend the musical undertakings of this country:” The author further stated that “with the critical ear of the American people focused upon them, the performances of the great artists now seeking the endorsement of the American people must constantly surpass their previous achievements.” He concluded by observing that “America has not only an appreciation for the best in music, but it has developed fine musicians who are certain, in time, to place the name of their country high on the roll of the world’s musical achievements.”(91)
Busoni must have written these two texts (probably with some encouragement from his manager) to please his paying American audience, which enabled him to earn between $600 and $1,200 per concert in 1915.(92) He obviously saw the concert tours as a way to earn his livelihood, but he considered himself foremost a composer and secondly a pianist–any time not spent composing was time wasted for him. His “debt” to his public was well expressed in his letter to his wife, dated April 14, 1910: “Hanson in his reply to-day says that my little letter about America is `magnificent…. God, but I have a feeling for the country! I have sacrificed three years of my life here, and shall be obliged to sacrifice as many again, and Benni was born here, and they have received me very heartily, and if everything goes according to plan I shall have to thank them for my little bit of wealth! I cannot `overlook’ all this any more!”(93)
Despite the numerous positive contacts that Busoni made in the United States, he made several critical statements that suggest that he disliked the country. The earliest negative statement appears to be that in a letter written in 1893 to Martin Wegelius (1846-1906), the director of the Helsinki Conservatory, to whom he wrote that the average stood considerably higher in the United States than elsewhere and was therefore dominating.(94) In the third of his six aphorisms about America, he claimed that “the Americans are still in the second stage of development, when one assumes three such stages.”(95) His sixth aphorism asked the question, “What if European artists decided to `boycott’ America? Then America would be like a large hall in which the electrical light has gone out; it would have to find its way with wooden matches and would burn its fingers.”(96)
Up to 1915 Busoni’s thinking about the United States was not fundamentally negative, and he made some positive statements about the country. He wrote, for example, “What strikes me this time, and which I did not notice before, is the necessity for cordiality and warmth in the Americans, and that is a beautiful impulse which reconciles one with them”;(97) “But now I am bound to admit that America is young; that it is not yet born. It was a revelation. Now I am pacified about America: it still has work to do for centuries to come.”(98) And he made a few negative statements: “Immediate impressions of New York are always barbaric; one would like to return home on the next boat available./ Gradually one grows accustomed to it–(i.e. lowers one’s standards appreciably)–and in the end, as when constantly in the company of unsightly people–one does find a few attractive features.”(99)
The published letters from Busoni’s last tour in North America during 1915 contain a number of unfavorable remarks about the United States, suggesting that his unpublished letters might contain more grave pronouncements. To Egon Petri he wrote, “I shall not trouble you with my grievances about the U.S.A., which I could substantiate 100 times over.”(100) To his Swiss friend Edith Andreae he confided, “I would give 100 United States for one corner of old Europe,”(101) and to Harriet Lanier he complained, “here is also the reason why America seems so undesirable to me. In order to make money I have to prostitute myself,”(102)
Busoni’s most fiercely negative writing was his little-known “Open Letter about America,” which he wrote in July 1915 and sent to the Vossische Zeitung in Berlin shortly before his departure from the New World.(103) The letter, which was not published until after his death, resulted in part from Busoni’s desire to denounce an unwelcomed comment made by a woman whom he identified as the “President of the Philharmonic Society”–most likely Mary R. Seney, the wife of New York banker George Rumsey Sheldon (1857-1919).(104) (Mary Sheldon had approached Busoni and Mahler at the end of a rehearsal of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto for a concert on January 6, 1910, and shouted through the hall, “This will never do!”)(105)
Busoni argued in his “Open Letter about America” that American men relied on women’s wisdom and determination for everything. That reliance, he maintained, extended to all areas of life-art, society, or laws. To support his argument, he accused the Philharmonic Society’s “president” of having “murdered” Mahler, maintaining that she precipitated the composer’s death by embittering his life so much that he could not overcome his final illness.(106) He further complained that such outrages were never reported because no one dared to criticize America, which was immature as a country because it could not tolerate criticism. He castigated Americans for their feeling of superiority and for the importance they gave to money, and he drew attention to their lack of a sense of humor, which he attributed to a primitive character (Primitivitat).
It thus becomes obvious that Busoni was profoundly embittered by his experience of living in the United States, despite the numerous creative activities afforded him on these shores. In August 1915, shortly before his departure from the United States, he wrote Harriet Lanier:
It is not the fault of your country that I seem not to be fit for
it, nor is it mine.
This has been my fifth visit to America and will remain most probably
the last…; everyone of the five visits has proved a disappointment, and
every time I have returned with renewed faith and with hopeful
anticipations.–I tried to give my best, but they refused it and asked for
All my achievements and hardest labours during a lifetime do not
prove of any value to the American managers and to the public of this
They who heard me or approached me have appreciated me (I am
thankful to them)–but the echo of my efforts remains confined to this
handful of people.(107)
For Busoni, the United States was a country to be visited, not one in which to reside. According to one of Busoni’s friends, Dutch composer Bernard van Dieren (1884-1936):
In his [Busoni’s] last years this [feeling of discomfort with life in
America] grew almost to an obsession. He had tried hard to show
interest in the country where he resided for some years. . . . Occasionally
he would give a tendentious interview after a tour, but he nursed his
resentment until he could speak with voluptuous pleasure of a planned
holiday which should be the excuse for a journey to New York, when he
would stay on board ship in the harbour for the sole satisfaction of
returning to Europe without having set foot on land.(108)
In the detailed diary that he kept of his contacts with Busoni prior to the composer’s death, the Austrian-American pianist Gottfried Galston (1879-1950) gave some indications that Busoni harbored a very negative memory of his visits to the United States. On April 1, 1924, Galston noted that no evening went by without Busoni criticizing America and Wagner.(109) He also reported what was most probably Busoni’s last recorded statement about America, which Galston claimed Busoni to have uttered on his deathbed on July 4, 1924. Busoni made the statement in response to an anecdote that Galston told him about Horace Fletcher (1849-1919), the highly popular writer and lecturer on nutrition who advocated chewing each mouthful thoroughly. An embittered Busoni responded, “Do you hear, Gerda, what Galston just said[?] Of course in America. Where else? They make shit a religion …. Do you hear, Gerda…. Goats, shit…. This is America.”(110)
Ferruccio Busoni came to the United States in 1891 as a young pianist eager to acquire a reputation rapidly. His recitals there obviously benefited him and helped him to acquire the maturity that would to be an asset for him when he returned in 1904 for the first of four additional, triumphant concert tours. Numerous reviews and reports of his playing in the American press sometimes bordered on deification; they testified to the tremendous success that Busoni enjoyed as a performer wherever he went.
Despite the important ideas and stimuli for new works that his presence in the United States brought him, Busoni’s interest in America appeared to be in the financial reward that he could reap from concert tours. Frequent performances and constant travel undoubtedly took precious time from his composing schedule, which might help to explain the negative comments that he made about the United States, its people, and the state of music-making in this country. Extended periods of absence from the cultural ambience of Europe, where he had been raised, was painful for him, as were the countless receptions that he attended with well-meaning amateurs, as well as the constant pressure for publicity by his agent and, above all, the cultural differences between Europe and America.
It was largely through the efforts of several European friends who had settled in the United States around the turn of the century that Busoni was introduced to the American public as a composer. Although there were a few scattered performances of his music after his death, he would have been virtually forgotten after 1915, the year of his last American tour, had it not been for another group of supporters–friends, performers, pupils, and pupils of pupils–who admired him(111) and prevented his memory from vanishing completely by writing about him, giving occasional performances of his music, recording his compositions, or transmitting a sense of his importance to their own pupils. Some eventually formed societies with noble aims but little or no financial resources to fulfill them.
Because of more frequent performances and recordings of Busoni’s music and more serious study of his compositions by U.S. and Canadian scholars, the future for Busoni scholarship in North America no longer looks as bleak as it once did. It is apparent that Busoni owes much to both foreign- and American-born musicians. As a full record of his American legacy will show, these individuals played a very important role in raising the level of recognition that he now enjoys. One can hope that the 1992 New York City Opera performance of Doktor Faust (BV 303, 1916-23), the first production of that work outside Europe in fifteen years, is an indication that Busoni is progressively leaving the fringe and moving toward the center. Can one dream of attending a performance of this twentieth-century masterpiece at the Metropolitan Opera?
Chronology of Busoni’s Creative Activities in the United
States Composed Chorlied der Deutschen in Amerika for
unaccompanied male chorus (“Nicht festgebannt an
Deutschlands macht’ge Eichen”).(112)
1892 Wrote sketches for an opera libretto titled
Ahasvers Tod. (This work was never set to music.)
1892 Composed the Fourth Ballet Scene in the Form of a
Concert Waltz (ca. 1892), dedicating it to Carl
1892 G. Schirmer published Busoni’s edition of Bach’s
Two-and Three-Part Inventions (annotations trans.
Louis C. Elson).
1892 Transcribed the Scherzo from Ottokar Novacek’s
String Quartet No. 1 in E Minor.
Jan. 31, 1892 Gave the first New York performance of his Sonata
for Violin and Piano No. 1 (1890) with its
dedicatee, Russian violinist Adolf Brodsky, at
Chamber Hall, New York.(113)
Feb. 19, 1892 Arthur Nikisch and the Boston Symphony Orchestra
gave the first American performance of Busoni’s
Symphonic Suite at Music Hall, Boston.
Apr. 8, 1892 Gave the first American performance of Kulsatelle:
Ten Short Variations on a Finnish Folk Song for
cello and piano (1889?) with Alwin Schroder, at
Bumstead Hall, Boston.(114)
1893 Orchestrated his song “Unter den Linden” (original
version for voice and piano), dedicating it to
Amelie Nikisch, who first performed the work with
the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of
Arthur Nikisch at Mechanics’ Hall, Worcester,
Mass., on Feb. 16, 1893 (a repeat performance was
given at the Academy of Music in Brooklyn on Mar.
Jan. 30, 1893 Gave the first performance of his piano
transcription of Bach’s Chaconne at Union Hall,
Mar. 1, 1893 Completed his Symphonic Tone Poem, dedicating it
Arthur Nikisch, who premiered the work at Music
Hall, Boston, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra
on Apr. 14, Nov. 14, 1893 Completed the essay “Die
Unzulanglichkeit der musikalischen Mitteln [The
insufficiency of musical means],” which was
published as a letter to the editor of the
Musikalisches Wochenblatt, E. W. Fritzsch.
1894 G. Schirmer published Busoni’s piano and
arrangement of Liszt’s Rhapsodie espagnole.
1894 Completed piano transcription of Bach’s Prelude
Fugue in E Minor, BWV 533, which was published as
part of his edition of Bach’s Well-Tempered
Jan. 1894 Completed the essay “Einfuhrungswort zu dem
Wolh-temperierten Klavier [Introduction to the
Well-Tempered Clavier]” which formed the preface
his edition of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier; the
first volume was published in English translation
by G. Schirmer.
Jan. 26, 1894 Gave the first performance of his transcription of
Liszt’s Rhapsodie espagnole at Music Hall, Boston,
with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton
of Ernil Paur.(116)
1895 Dedicated nos. 4-6 from his Six Pieces to Isabella
1904 G. Schirmer published his transcription of Liszt’s
Jan. 29 1904 Gave a recital at the White House.(117)
July 1906 Read an article about Thaddeus Cahill’s
Dynamophone, which suggested to him the
possibility of microtonal music.(118)
Jan. 1910 Met theorist Bernhard Ziehn (1845-1912), who
introduced him to the technique of symmetrical
inversion. Ziehn gave him an important clue for
completing Bach’s unfinished fugue in The Art of
Fugue; this fugue would become part of Busoni’s
Jan. 1910 Completed the essay “Die Gothiker von Chicago [The
Gothics of Chicago]” in New York.(119)
Jan. 1910 Completed the essay “Was Busoni vom Pianisten
verlangt [What Busoni requires of the pianist]” in
Mar. 1910 Contributed an interview entitled “Neglected
Details in Pianoforte Study” to The Etude.(121)
Mar. 1, 1910 Completed his Grosse Fuge in New Orleans,
dedicating the work to the organist Wilhelm
Mar. 3, 1910 Completed the essay “Des Reich der Musik: Ein
Nachwort zur neuen Aesthetik [The realm of music:
an epilogue to the new aesthetic]” in Dayton,
Mar. 10, 1910 Received from Natalie Curtis a copy of her work
The Indians’ Book after Mahler’s Carnegie Hall
performance of the Turandot Suite. Her study led
him to compose several works based on Native
Mar. 22, 1910 Replied in the Musical Courier to the organist
Gilbert Raynolds Combs (1863-1934), who had
about Busoni’s proposal for a new notational
that had been recently published by Breitkopf &
Hartel as Versuch einer organischen
Klavier-Notenschrift [An attempt at an organic
notation for the pianoforte].(123)
Apr. 1, 1910 G. Schirmer published an edition of 100 copies of
the Grosse Fuge on handmade paper in time for
Apr. 12, 1910 Arnold Dolmetsch (1858-1940) introduced Busoni to
harpsichord, which he later used in the opera Die
June 1910 Completed Fantasia contrappuntistica.
Dec. 23, 1910 Completed the essay “Wie range soil das gehen [How
much longer]?” aboard the Oceanic on his way to
1911 Wilhelm Middelschulte wrote an organ transcription
Busoni’s Fantasia contrappuntistica.
1911 G. Schirmer published his orchestral transcription
of Liszt’s “Sonnet No. 104” and Busoni’s concert
ending for the overture to Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
Jan. 1911 Completed the essay “Die neue Harmonik [The new
harmony]” in Chicago.
Feb. 1911 Was elected unanimously to the New York
Feb. 1911 G. Schirmer published a translation of Busoni’s
Entwurf einer neuen Asthetik der Tonianst by
Theodore Baker (1851-1934) as Sketch of a New
Esthetic of Music.(126)
Feb. 21, 1911 Attended the world premiere of the Berceuse
elegiaque (1909) by the New York Philharmonic
under the baton of Gustav Mahler.
Feb. 26, 1911 Wrote a series of six “Aphorismen Uber Amerika
[Aphorisms about America].”(127)
Mar. 1911 Announced his intention to transcribe for the
piano one or more of the Sechs Kunstler-Etuden
fur die Violine, op. 4, by Theodore Spiering
(1871-1925), concertmaster of the New York
Mar. 15, 1911 Wrote the essay “Der Melodie gehort die Zukunft
[The future belongs to the melody]” in Los
Apr. 1, 1911 Completed the essay “Eine marchenhahe Erfindung [A
fabulous invention]” in New York.
Apr. 11, 1911 Completed “Indianisches Erntelied: Erster Versuch
einer Verwerthung fur das Clavier” (marked “fur
Herrn Stephan [sic] Zweig zur Erinnerung an
und an Ferruccio Busoni).”(129)
Apr. 11, 1911 Frederick Stock completed a transcription for
orchestra and organ of Busoni’s Fantasia
contrappuntistica, calling it Sinfonia
Aug. 11, 1911 Completed the edizione minore of his Fantasia
contrappuntistica, dedicating it to the American
pianist Richard Buhlig (1880-1952).
July 20, 1913 Translated into German Edgar Allan Poe’s
and “Annabel Lee.”
Feb. 1914 Completed the Indian Fantasy for piano and
orchestra, dedicating it to Natalie Curtis.
Feb. 2, 1914 Wrote a short text entitled “E. T. A. Hoffmann and
Edgar Allan Poe,” which compares the two
Apr. 1914 Contributed piano exercises to Alberto Jonas’s
Master School of Modern Piano Playing &
1915 Boston Music published a reprint of the fifth
piece from his Macchiette medioevali (1881), in
Album of Piano Music by Italian Composers (ed. G.
1915 Dedicated his edition of Liszt’s La campanella to
1915 Added a spoken prologue to his opera Doktor Faust.
1915 Had an Italian-born mechanic from Trentino modify
an old three-keyboard harmonium in New York to
it capable of playing sixth-tones, as proposed in
the Entwurf einer neuen Asthetik der Tontunst
Jan. 1915 Completed the essay “Einfilhrungswort zu dem
Wohltem-perierten Klavier [Introduction to the
Well-Tempered Clavier]” (book 2) aboard the
Feb. 13, 1915 Attended a smoker and a reception given in his
honor by the Bohemians. At the reception he gave
impromptu performance of his arrangements of the
organ works of J. S. Bach.(134)
Mar. 1915 Completed the essay “Nachteil des Sehenden [The
disadvantage of one who see]” in Detroit.
Mar. 1915 Completed the essay “`Englisch-Horn’ oder
`Alt-Oboe’ [`English hoary’ or `alto oboe’]?” in
Apr. 30, 1915 Completed the edition of the second volume of
Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and the essay
“Conclusio zu dem Wohltemperierten Klavier
[Conclusion to the Well-Tempered Clavier]” in
June 8, 1915 Recorded piano rolls of works by Bach-Busoni,
Chopin, and Liszt for the Aeolian Company
(Duo-Art) in New York.
June 15, 1915 Completed Rondo arlecchinesco, dedicating it to
June 30, 1915 Completed the libretto of Die Gotterbraut for his
former pupil Louis Gruenberg (1884-1964); he had
already dedicated the second piece from An die
Jugend (1909) to Gruenberg.
June 30, 1915 Paid homage to Walther William Stockhoff
(1876-1968) in a positive review of that
composer’s In the Mountains: Seven Impressions for
Pianoforte, op. 7, which had been published by
Breitkopf & Hartel (1914).(135)
July 1915 Composed Sonatina “ad usum infantis,” dedicating
to Madeline Mannheim, a friend of his son
July 1915 Wrote a letter to the Vossische Zeitung (Berlin),
explaining that a contract signed in peacetime had
forced him to leave Germany “at a time when the
country was striving in a unified direction, due
essential issues.” He maintained that he “[held]
culture of Germany in high esteem.”(136)
July 1915 Began composing Gesang vom Reigen der Geister,
which he dedicated to Charles Martin Loeffler
July 4, 1915 Completed a cadenza for cello to Beethoven’s
“Adelaide.” He dedicated it, along with his cello
transcription of the song, to cellist and
Hans Kindler (1892-1949).
July 21, 1915 Wrote an article entitled “Offerer Brief fiber
Amerika [Open letter about America],” which
remained unpublished until printed in the
Vossische Zeitung, May 27, 1928.
Aug. 1915 Completed his edition of Bach’s Goldberg
Aug. 1915 Dedicated the Indian Diary to Helen Luise Birch,
an amateur composer and friend.(138)
June 10, 1919 Sketched the song “Eldorado,” based on Edgar Allan
Poe’s poem (“Gaily bedight, A gallant knight”).
(b) New York–Oct. 11, 1893 (at the latest), to Apr. 11, 1894 (at the latest); see “At Home,” Musical Courier 27, no. 15 (Oct. 11, 1893): 19. For his date of departure, see “At Home: Busoni,” Musical Courier 28, no. 15 (Apr. 11, 1894): 21.
(c) First U.S. concert tour–Jan. 4, 1904, to Mar. 27, 1904 (at the latest); see Musical Courier 48, no. 2 (Jan. 13, 1904): 20. For his date of departure, see letter to Gerda Busoni, Mar. 27, 1904 (Briefe an seine Frau, ed. Friedrich Schnapp [Erlenbach-ZUrich and Leipzig: Rotapfel-Verlag, 1935]; trans. Rosamond Ley as Letters to His Wife [London: Edward Arnold, 1938; reprint, New York: Da Capo, 1975], 77-79).
(d) Second U.S. concert tour–Jan. 3, 1910, to Apr. 28, 1910 (at the earliest–that is, the date of his farewell concert); see “Busoni Here for His Concert Tour: Pianist-Composer Returns for Third American Visit, Shorn of His Beard,” Musical America 11, no. 9 (Jan. 8, 1910): 4. For his date of departure, see letter to Gerda Busoni, Apr. 29, 1910 (Letters to His Wife, 178).
(e) Third U.S. concert tour–Dec. 28, 1910, to Apr. 8, 1911; see “Busoni in New York,” Musical Courier 62, no. 1 Jan. 4, 1911): 37. For his date of departure, see “Busoni Sails after Remarkable Tour across American Continent,” Musical America 13, no. 23 (Apr. 15, 1911): 23.
(f) Fourth U.S. concert tour–Jan. 3, 1915, to Aug. 28, 1915; for his date of arrival, see letter to Edith Andreae, Berlin, Jan. 3, 1915, in Ferruccio Busoni, Selected Letters, trans. and ed. Antony Beaumont (London: Faber & Faber, 1987), 189 (no. 165). For his date of departure, see Musical Courier 71, no. 9 (Sept. 2, 1915): 20.
(6.) The New York Philharmonic, for example, hired hardly any American-born musicians (see Charles Hamm, “The USA: Classical, Industrial and Invisible Music,” in The Late Romantic Era: From the Mid-19th Century to World War 1, ed. Jim Samson, 295-326, Music and Society [Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1991], 315).
(7.) Letter, Busoni to Ferdinando Busoni, Leipzig, June 1888 (Selected Letters, 28 [no. 21]).
(8.) Postcard, Busoni to Gerda Busoni, Moscow, Sept. 4, 1890 (King’s College, Cambridge, Rowe Music Library, typewritten copies of letters owned by Gerda Busoni, transcribed from the originals by or under the supervision of Friedrich Schnapp or Edward J. Dent). Collection hereinafter cited as RML.
(9.) Letter, Busoni to Ferdinando Busoni Moscow, May 6, 1891 (Selected Letters, 46-47 [no. 28]).
(12.) It was announced that “Carlo [sic] Busoni the talented young pianist, composer and winner of the Rubinstein Scholarship in 1890, in St. Petersburg, Russia, arrived in this city last week. He goes to Boston to assume an important professorship at the New England Conservatory” (“Musical Items,” Musical Courier 23, no. 10 [Sept. 2, 1891]: 241). Three weeks later, a short biographical sketch was published as “Personals: Something about Busoni,” Musical Courier 23, no. 13 (Sept. 23, 1891): 327.
(13.) Letter, Busoni to Ferdinando and Anna Busoni, New York, Belvedere House, Aug. 30, 1891 (RML).
(14.) Letter, Busoni to Ferdinando and Anna Busoni, Boston, Sept. 14, 1891 (RML). Busoni was then residing at 73 Warren Street. His disappointment with Boston, however, soon went beyond drinks; he wrote his parents that everything was machinelike (letter, Busoni to Ferdinando and Anna Busoni, Boston, Nov. 30, 1891 [RML]).
(15.) “Prof. Busoni in boston,” New York Times, Sept. 6, 1891, 17. The New England Conservatory of Music, which was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee (1834-91), was located at that time at Franklin Square, on the corner of Newton and James Streets. Its director was Carl Faelten (1846-1925), a German-American pianist who had been teaching there since 1885; he served as the director from 1890 until 1897. Fourteen engravings in the conservatory’s 1891-92 Calendar show the building and various rooms during Busoni’s year of activity there.
The only published account of Busoni’s activities at the institution, Donald Harris’s “Ferruccio Busoni at the New England Conservatory of Music,” can be found on pp. 5-6 of the program notes for a concert given in New York on May 13, 1968, as part of the conservatory’s centennial festival. It featured Busoni’s Violin Concerto played by Paul Zukovsky. (Harris’s short text was later reprinted as liner notes for the New England Conservatory of Music recording of the work in 1969 [NEC101].)
(16.) Elson reviewed a number of concerts featuring either Busoni or his music. He also translated into English the annotations to Busoni’s edition of Bach’s Two-Part Inventions in the Breitkopf & Hartel printing (1892).
(17.) Busoni dedicated to Stasny his Fourth Ballet Scene (BV 238a) in 1913.
(18.) The list of piano pupils reads: Alice V. Anderson (New Brunswick, Canada), Elizabeth Campbell (Nova Scotia), Eliza R Cole (Mass.), Carolyn M. Cooley (Mass.), Edward E. Davies (Mass.), Harriet L. Fales (Conn.), Gertrude Freedman (Mass.), Bertha M. Haverman (Ala.), Laura M. Hawkins (Mass.), Julie Jonas (Ala.), Mary A. Lorish (N.Y.), Sarah R. McMurphy (Wisc.), Isabel M. Munn (N.Y), Carolyn S. Norton (Mass.), Lulu M. Pratt (Maine), Katharine H. Parker (Mass.), George W. Proctor (Mass.), Maude A. Richards (Kans.), Florence M. Ruddick (Iowa), and Prudence G. Simpson (Tenn.). Busoni reports another pupil, Marie Gesellschass, who had been working with him for two years, in a letter to Isabella Stewart Gardner dated New York, Mar. 1894 (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston).
(19.) Catalog numbers used in this study refer to Jurgen Kindermann, Tkematisch-chronologisches Verzeichnis der musikal ischen Werkev on Ferruccio B. Busoni [Thematic chronological catalog of Ferruccio B. Busoni’s musical works], Studien zur Musikge-schichte des 19. Jahrhunderts (Regensburg: Gustav Bosse Verlag, 1980).
(20.) Busoni’s correspondence with his wife contains two references to Clark: “I begged Clark to write at once and tell me what time the boat started. We had barely time to pack and have some breakfast; with both of which Mr. Clark `helped’ me with equal pleasure and taciturnity. Only once he broke out into a short but enthusiastic hymn about you: `if he married it would have to be a woman like you’ (but there is no second you)” (dated Mar. 3, 1904, Letters to His Wife, 70); and “I once made a good transcription of the `An den Wassern zu Babel’ for Clark, which I have mislaid or lost” (dated Sept. 21, 1920, Letters to His Wife, 298-99).
(21.) Busoni’s salary at the New England Conservatory of Music was as follows: $875.00 (fall term); $775.85 (second term); $880.30 (third term); and $709.80 (fourth term). Details come from Harris, “Ferruccio Busoni at the New England Conservatory of Music,” who found them in the registrar’s log book (letter, Donald Harris to the author, June 10, 1992). (22.) Letter, Busoni to Ferdinando Busoni, Boston, Mar. 16, 1892 (RML).
(23.) Letter, Busoni to Ferdinando and Anna Busoni, Boston, May 21, 1892 (RML). Busoni was living at that time at 312 Warren Street, in Roxbury.
(24.) Letter, Busoni to Ferdinando and Anna Busoni, Boston, June 5,1892 (RML). Busoni would have been paid at a rate of $500 per year. This letter also mentioned that he would have to move again because there were objections to his practicing. (The reference to offers by several institutions comes from notes by Gerda Busoni, typescript, section 10, which is a document probably written at Dent’s request for use in his biography [RML].)
(25.) Letter, Busoni to Raffaello Busoni, Berlin, July 15, 1921 (Selected Letters, 344-45 [no. 316]).
(26.) Letter, Busoni to Ferdinando Busoni, Boston, June 5, 1892 (RML). His pupils in Boston must have appreciated him as a teacher because they gave him an armchair in Apr. 1892 (letter, Busoni to Ferdinando Busoni, Boston, Apr. 4, 1892 [RML]).
(27.) “Personals,” Musical Courier 25, no. 10 (Sept. 7, 1892): 11. On June 5, 1893, the Boston Transcript wrote, “Mr. Ferruccio B. Busoni is no longer connected with the New England Conservatory of Music, having withdrawn from the staff of instructors at the end of the season of 1891-92. This announcement is made in order to avoid misunderstanding, mention of the past [event] having been omitted from the annual report of the conservatory.”
(28.) Busoni’s agent at this time was Charles E Tretbar, an employee of Steinway & Sons, who had compiled Analytical Reviews of Classical and Modern Compositions, for the Use of Amateurs as Musical Entertainments, and Intended as a Guide for the Better Appreciation of the Beautiful in Music (New York: C.F. Tretbar, 1877-78). Tretbar, who was Paderewski’s agent, prepared Portraits of Musical Celebrities: A Book of Notable Testimonials (New York: C.F. Tretbar, nine eds. between 1894 and 1924). Helen D. Tretbar (his wife?) translated some books on music that he published.
(29.) Notes by Dent from a letter by Busoni (no recipient noted), New York, Sept. 11, 1893 (RML).
(30.) Letter, Busoni to Gerda Busoni (in Boston), New York, [Sept.] 1893 (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin–Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung mit Mendelssohn-Archiv, hereinafter cited as SBPK). Dent (Ferruccio Busoni 98) mistakenly states that the Busoni family moved to New York in the summer of 1892; this is contradicted by the previously referred to letter. Busoni was now living at 403 West Manhattan Avenue.
(31.) Benvenuto (Benni) was born in Boston on May 24, 1892; he died on Aug. 9, 1976, in Berlin, where he had been working as a graphic artist. Busoni’s second and last son, Raffaello (Lello), was born in Berlin on Feb. 1, 1900, and died in New York on Mar. 17, 1962. He was a successful illustrator of children’s books in the United States.
(32.) “At Home,” Musical Courier 27, no. 15 (Oct. 11, 1893): 19. Busoni’s move to New York in 1893 is corroborated by the Boston Symphony Orchestra program notes (p. 389) written by Philip Hale for the first performance of the Lustspielouverture on Nov. 24, 1905: “He came to Boston in 1891, and made it his home until the fall of 1893; he then moved to New York, and in 1894 went to Berlin.” (This information may have appeared in an earlier program.)
(33.) See Augusta Cottlow, “My Years with Busoni,” Musical Observer 24, no. 6 (June 1925): 11, 28; see also Cottlow, “A Tribute to Busoni,” Musical Courier 89, no. 8 (Aug. 21, 1924): 7. Busoni saw Cottlow again aboard the Rotterdam on his way to New York in 1915: “On board–the refuse of the war! Mamma Cottlow as a retired barmaid” (letter, Busoni to Egon Petri, Jan. 20, 1915, Selected Letters, 190 [no. 166]). Busoni later used the theme from the Etude in the third movement of his Concerto for Piano, Orchestra, and Male Chorus (BV 247, 1904).
(34.) Letter, Busoni to Gerda Busoni, Mar. 22, 1910 (Letters to His Wife, 163). Curtis’s name is entered under the year 1893, beneath the heading “Harmony,” in a list of his students that Busoni drew up in 1924 (RML).
(35.) For information about the American premiere of the work on Feb. 19, 1915, and some notes on the themes Busoni used, see Natalie Curtis, “Busoni’s Indian Fantasy,” Southern Workman, Oct. 1915: 538-44.
(36.) The Kneisel Quartet (1886-1917) was headed by Franz Kneisel (1865-1926), the concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1885 to 1903. The other members of the quartet were Emmanuel Fiedler (second violin), Louis Svecenski (viola), and Fritz Giese (cello).
(37.) Busoni played six times at the New England Conservatory’s Sleeper Hall in faculty concerts. He gave eight chamber concerts with the Kneisel Quartet, appeared ten times with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (both in and outside Boston), and performed in four recitals at Union Hall.
(38.) The reception given to Busoni’s original works in the United States is discussed in a separate section of this article.
(39.) Busoni visited the following cities before completing this tour in New York: Cincinnati, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Buffalo, Niagara, and Albany
(40.) Letter, Busoni to Anna Busoni, Boston, June 21, 1893 (RML).
(41.) The concerts took place on Jan. 27 and Feb. 18, 1894. The precise date of the first concert, which took place earlier in January, is unknown.
(42.) The press announced, however, that “E Busoni, the pianist, after a year’s residence [my emphasis] in this city, is now on his way for Europe” (“At Home” Musical Courier 28, no. 15 [Apr. 11, 1894]: 21). Busoni had arrived in Berlin by Apr. 24, 1894, which is evident from a letter to his parents written from the Hotel Kaiserhof (RML). In another letter, written to his mother from Kantstrasse 153 (parterre) on May 4 and 5, 1894, he said that he had made a very good journey from New York (RML).
(43.) Notes by Gerda Busoni, typescript, section 10 (RML). Dent incorporates much of the information contained in section 10 in Ferruccio Busoni, 97.
(44.) Letter, Busoni to Isabella Stewart Gardner, Berlin, Oct. 13, 1894 (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston). This anecdote is published in Nicolas Slonimsky, “Composers in Distress,” in A Thing or Two about Music, 162-70 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1948; rprt. 1972), 167-70.
(45.) During this extended stay Busoni rented a house at 264 Riverside Drive at the beginning of the tour (letter, Busoni to Egon Petri, New York, Jan. 31, 1915 [Selected Letters, 193 n. 1 (no. 168)]). He later moved to 214 Riverside Drive (letter, Busoni to Harriet Lanier, New York, June 6, 1915 [Selected letters, 198 (no. 172)]).
(46.) Letter, Busoni to Harriet Lanier, New York, July 2, 1915 (Selected Letters, 204 [no. 178]). Steinway had delayed arranging European engagements for Busoni out of fear that Hanson, who had been absent for three months, might avail himself of some rights.
(47.) Letter, Busoni to Hugo Leichtentritt, New York, Aug. 15, 1915 (Selected Letters, 209 [no. 183]).
(48.) Letter, Busoni to Harriet Lanier, New York, June 6, 1915 (Selected letters, 199 [no. 174]). Italy had recently joined the forces allied against Germany in May 1915.
(49.) Letter, Busoni to Isidor Philipp, Milan, Sept. 19, 1915 (Selected Letters, 219 [no. 185]). For an account of a gathering of friends at Busoni’s apartment prior to his final departure, see Edward Maryon, “When Busoni Excelled Himself,” Musical America 22, no. 20 (Sept. 18, 1915): 28.
(50.) Busoni played in Toronto on Dec. 27, 1892, and again on Feb. 3, 1910. The dates of his Montreal recitals are Feb. 4, 1910; Feb. 13, 1911; and Feb. 7, 1915. He may also have played in both Toronto and Montreal in 1904, although no dates have yet been found that document these appearances. The two Canadian cities prompted Busoni to make the following comment: “This city [Toronto] has the same relationship to Montreal as Glasgow to Edinburgh: the one industrial, the other cultural. (Perhaps `industry’ is the culture of our time.)” (letter, Busoni to Petri, London, Oct. 6, 1912, in Selected Letters, 155 [no. 1311). See also an anecdotal report about “the Lord’s Day Alliance, anxious to stop promiscuous Sunday entertainments, [which] made a test case of the Busoni recital . . ., claiming that this concert was an infringement of a Federal Law” (P.K., “Montreal Police Discovers Busoni’s Recital Is Not Like Minstrel Show,” Musical America 21, no. 20 [Mar. 20, 1915]: 5).
(51.) The total of 140 concerts can be broken down as follows: twenty-six concerts in 1904; fifty-four in 1910; thirty-nine in 1911; and twenty-one in 1915. These figures are based on the number of concerts that have been traced so far.
(52.) Busoni’s tours were organized by the German-born American impresario Martin H. Hanson (1864-1931), whose office was located at 437 fifth Avenue in New York. Busoni found him “unnecessary and tiresome” (letter, Busoni to Curt Sobernheim, Berlin, Sept. 16, 1914, in Selected Letters, 184-85 [no. 160]). George Antheil, whom Hanson later managed, recalled that Hanson “was, to the tip of his well-manicured fingernails, the classical urbane disciplined concert manager” (Bad Boy of Music [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1945], 11). See also Pierre Key’s Musical Who’s Who: A Biographical Survey of Contemporary Musicians, s.v. “Hanson, Martin H.”; “Manager Hanson Talks of Busoni and Others,” Musical Canada 4, no.3 (July 1909): 82; “Reflections by the Editor,” Musical Courier 60, no. 15 (Apr. 13, 1910): 21; “M. H. Hanson Ardent Propagandist for the Genius of Busoni et al.,” Musical America 20, no. 24 (Oct. 17, 1914): 14; and “About Busoni’s Plans,” Musical Courier 49, no. 22 (Dec. 2, 1914): 21 (letter from Hanson to the Editor). For a caricature by Busoni of Hanson and himself, see “Manager Hanson Balancing Busoni and Wuellner Bos,” Musical Courier 60, no. 5 (Feb. 2, 1910): 49.
(53.) Letter, Busoni to Gerda Busoni, Des Moines, Mar. 29, 1910 (Letters to His Wife, 166).
(54.) Letter, Busoni to Edward J. Dent, Chicago, Apr. 23, 1910 (Selected Letters, 107 [no 82])
(55.) Letter, Busoni to Gerda Busoni, Kansas City, Mo., Mar. 9, 1911 (Letters to His Wife, 186).
(56.) This chronology is based on Busoni’s letters to his wife and the dates of his concerts.
(57.) For example, Sigismund Thalberg (1812-71) gave 330 concerts in two concert seasons (1871 and 1872); Anton Rubinstein (1829-94) gave 215 concerts in 1872-73; Hans von Bulow (1839-94) gave 139 concerts in 1875-76; and Ignacy Paderewski (1860-1941) gave 107 concerts in 117 days in 1891, in addition to attending eighty-six dinner parties. The information on Thalberg comes from a communication from R. Allen Lott, whereas data on Rubinstein, Bulow, and Paderewski come from Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 8th ed. (1992). Adam Zamoyski notes that Paderewski “gave some 340 speeches and almost as many concerts” between Apr. 1915 and Nov. 1918 (Paderewski [New York: Atheneum, 1982], 152). Also see R. Allen Lott, “The American Concert Tours of Leopold de Meyer, Henri Herz, and Sigismond Thalberg” (Ph.D. dies., City University of New York, 1986).
(58.) See “Busoni’s Triumph with the Chickering,” Musical Courier 62, no. 2 (Jan. 11, 1911): 52-54.
(59.) See “Busoni-As His Wife Sees Him,” Musical America 11, no. 1 gan. 22, 1910): 3; “Ferruccio Busoni’s Two Children,” Musical America 11, no. 20 (Mar. 26, 1910): 15; “Most Married Men Slaves, 9he Says,” Musical America 13, no. 9 (Jan. 7, 1911): 17. For information about a reception given in honor of Mrs. Busoni by the piano teacher Adele Lewing, see “Busoni-Lewing Reception,” Musical Courier 70, no. 19 (May 12, 1915): 19. Busoni was the subject of the art supplement of Musical America 11, no. 12 (Jan. 29, 1910). For various anecdotes about Busoni’s tours, see the article by William Cloudman (Hanson’s assistant) entitled “Busoni’s Humor and Unusual Characteristics Made Him a Truly Fascinating World Figure,” Musical Courier 87, no. 6 (Aug. 7, 1924): 6.
(60.) One might become cautious about the Musical Courier’s constant interest in Busoni if one noticed that the offices of both the magazine and Busoni’s manager, Hanson, were located at 437 Fifth Avenue (the southeast corner of 39th Street) and that the European intermediary between Hanson and Busoni was Arthur M. Abell, the magazine’s representative in Germany. The magazine was noted at this time for praising individuals who advertised in its pages and condemning those who failed to do so. Edward N. Waters observed that it “had lost the respect of all decent musical forces in the city. It was an evil which had to be tolerated; but it was held in obloquy, and it influenced no one of importance or stature” (Victor Herbert: A Life in Music [New York: Macmillan, 1955], 287-88).
(61.) “An Unprecedented Unanimity: Busoni’s Remarkable Press Notices,” Musical Courier 60, no. 5 (Feb. 2, 1910): 30-31. See also “Unanimous Verdict on Busoni Debut, January 6, 7 and 8,” Musical Courier 60, no. 2 gan. 12, 1910): 27-31.
(62.) “Busoni as Teacher Would Make Thousands a Year,” Musical Courier 62, no. 6 (Feb. 8, 1911): 30. A year earlier it had been announced that Busoni had accepted Robert Johnson, a “talented young pianist,” as a pupil (see “Busoni Discovers New Talent in Minneapolis,” Musical America 11, no. 12 (Jan. 29, 1910]: 3). Robert Johnson’s name is otherwise unknown in the literature on Busoni.
(63.) “Ferruccio Busoni’s New York Recital [Carnegie Hall, Jan.9, 1911],” Musical Courier 62, no. 2 (Jan. 11, 1911): 30. For another extended review, see “Ferruccio Busoni’s Chicago Triumph,” Musical Courier 62, no. 3 (Jan. 18, 1911): 41 (reprinted from the Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan. 14, 1911).
(64.) “Busoni, a Keyboard King,” Musical Courier 70, no. 9 (Mar. 3, 1915): 30.
(65.) Letter, Busoni to Gerda Busoni, St. Louis, Apr. 16, 1910 (Letters to His Wife, 173).
(66.) “Reflections by the Editor,” Musical Courier 60, no. 15 (Apr. 13, 1910): 21. The article rapidly veers into a praise of Busoni’s manager, Hanson, which seems to confirm the magazine’s lack of objectivity.
(67.) Max Graf, Composer and Critic: Two Hundred Years of Musical Criticism (New York: Norton, 1946), 307, 312.
(68.) The BSO played only three of the four movements of Busoni’s Symphonic Suite on its concert of Feb. 19, 1892. The first recording of the work was made in 1993 by the Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin conducted by Arturo Tamayo (Capriccio 10 480); the first recording of Busoni’s Symphonic Tone Poem was made in 1991 by the Minsk Philharmonic Orchestra under Silvano Frontalini (Bongiovanni GB 5509/10-2).
(69.) The New Grove Dictionary of American Music (1986), s.v. “Criticism,” by Edward O. D. Downes (and John Rockwell).
(70.) Louis C. Elson, “Musical Matters: The Symphony Concert,” Boston Daily Advertiser, Feb. 22, 1892, 4.
(71.) Elson, “Musical Matters: The Symphony Concert,” Boston Daily Advertiser, Apr. 17, 1893, 5.
(72.) Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 8th ed. (1992), s.v. “Hale, Philip.”
(73.) Philip Hale, “Music in Boston,” Musical Courier 26, no. 16 (Apr. 19, 1893): 22.
(74.) Hale, “Music in Boston,” Musical Courier 27, no. 17 (Apr. 26, 1893): 19.
(75.) Hale’s fascination with France is discussed by Graf, Composer and Critic, 310.
(76.) Hale, “Music in Boston,” Musical Courier 26, no. 6 (Feb. 2, 1893): 21.
(77.) A letter by Busoni to Harriet Lanier (dated New York, Aug. 6, 1915) about that afternoon recital is partially reproduced in Lanier’s Musical Verities (N.p., 1926), 11-12 (the letter is printed in full in Lanier’s appendix, pp. 113-16, and it is reprinted in Selected Letters, 206-8 [no. 181]).
(78.) The LustspielouvertUre was played on Mar. 10, 1910, and the Berceuse elegiaque on Feb. 21, 1911. Mahler was supposed to conduct the Berceuse elegiaque again on Feb. 25, 1911, but was absent because of illness. Busoni stepped in and conducted his own work, and the rest of the concert was conducted by the concertmaster, Theodore Spiering (1871-1925).
(79.) Slonimsky noted that Elson “attacked the modernists with vicious eloquence, reserving the choicest invectives for Debussy” (Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 8th ed. , s.v. “Elson, Louis [Charles]”).
(80.) Elson, “Musical Matters: The Symphony Concert,” Boston Daily Advertiser, Apr. 2, 1906, 5.
(81.) Arthur Farwell, “Reveals Busoni as a Composer,” Musical America 11, no.19 (Mar. 19, 1910): 18.
(82.) Hugo Leichtentritt wrote of “its polytonality, its collisions of major and minor triads, its strange enervated harmony, its symphony of sighs” (“Ferruccio Busoni,” Music Review 6, no. 4 [Nov. 1945]: 215).
(83.) “Philharmonic’s Italian Program,” Musical America 13, no. 7 (Mar. 4, 1911): 27.
(85.) Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 8th ed. (1992), s.v. “Aldrich, Richard.”
(86.) “Mahler Gives Italian Music,” New York Times, Feb. 22, 1911, 10.
(87.) Graf, Composer and Critic, 316.
(88.) New York Tribune, Feb. 22, 1911, 7; quoted in Zoltan Roman, Gustav Mahler’s American Years, 1907-1911: A Documentary History (Stuyvesant, N.Y.: Pendragon, 1989), 458 (no. 537). Edgard Varese had planned a performance of the Berceuse elegiaque on May 9/10, 1919, with the New York Symphony (Louise Varese, Varese: A Looking-Glass Diary [New York: Norton, 1972], 1:140). The New York Symphony’s concert took place on May 2; according to the New York Times, it did not feature Busoni’s music.
(89.) “Philadelphia Has Premiere of Busoni’s Indian Fantasy,” Musical America 21, no. 17 (Feb. 27, 1915): 40.
(90.) “Busoni on American Music,” Musical Courier 60, no. 20 (Apr. 18, 1910): 25; translated into German by Willi Reich as “Musikland Amerika,” Musica 10, no. 4 (Apr. 1956): 296-97. The document does not appear in any of the editions of Busoni’s writings, but it is referred to in his correspondence: “To-day I wrote a kind of letter of appreciation about America to Hanson for publication” (Busoni to Gerda Busoni, Boston, Apr. 12, 1910 [Letters to His Wife, 172]).
(91.) “Busoni’s Tribute to America,” Musical Courier 62, no. 3 (Jan. 13, 1911): 47. Busoni’s “tribute” was published in German translation in Signale fur die musikalische Welt (May 1919).
(92.) Letter, Busoni to Harriet Lanier, New York, July 18, 1915 (Selected Letters, 205 [no 179]).
(93.) Letter, Busoni to Gerda Busoni, Terre Haute, Ind., Apr. 14, 1910 (Letters to His Wife, 173). Gerda Busoni quoted her husband in a letter to Edward J. Dent dated June 18, 1953, stating that Busoni was still concertizing as a pianist only to have peace and then be able to work for himself (this letter is located in RML).
(94.) Letter, Busoni to Martin Wegelius (dated Oct. 1893 by Dent, who noted that it was unfinished, unsigned, and probably never mailed [RML]). Dent, who does not mention the addressee’s name, quotes the following passage, which seems to be a deliberate amplification of the previously mentioned letter: “In America . . . the average is better than elsewhere, but along with that there is much more average than elsewhere, and as far as I can see it will soon be all average!” (Ferruccio Busoni, 98).
(95.) “Die Amerikaner sind noch im zweiten Stadium der Entwicklung, wenn man drei solche Stadien voraussetzt” (Busoni, “Aphorismen uber Amerika [Aphorisms about America]” [letter to Gerda Busoni, New York, Feb. 26, 1911 (SBPK)]). Busoni does not describe the three stages. See appendix 1, entry for Feb. 26, 1911.
(96.) Ibid.: “Wenn die europaischen Kunstler Amerika `boykottierten’? Dann ware Amerika ein grosser Saal in dem das elektrische Licht ausgegangen; es musste sich mit Zundholzchen zurechtfinden u[nd] wurde sich die Finger verbrennen.”
(97.) Letter,. Busoni to Gerda Busoni, Toledo, Mar. 6, 1910 (Letters to His Wife, 160).
(98.) Letter, Busoni to Gerda Busoni Colorado Springs, Mar. 31, 1910 (Letters to His Wife, 168).
(99.) Letter, Busoni to Egon Petri, New York, Dec. 30, 1910 (Selected Letters, 116 [no. 91]).
(100.) Letter, Busoni to Egon Petri, New York, June 16, 1915 (Selected Letters, 202 [no. 176]).
(101.) Letter, Busoni to Edith Andreae, New York, June 23, 1915 (Selected Letters, 203 [no 177])
(102.) Letter, Busoni to Harriet Lanier, New York, Aug. 18, 1915 (Selected Letters, 212 [no. 184]).
(103.) Busoni, “Offener Brief Uber Amerika [Open letter about America],” Vossische Zeitung, May 27, 1928 (Post-Ausgabe), Unterhaltungsblatt. The letter is dated New York, July 21, 1915. An editorial note at the end states that the letter could not be published during the war year 1915.
(104.) For data about Mary R. Seney, consult the biographical entry for her husband in Who Was Who in America (1943), s.v. “Sheldon, George Rumsey.” Mrs. Sheldon was not “the President of the Philharmonic Society,” as Busoni described her, but rather the chair of the Guarantors’ Committee of the Philharmonic, a group that took over the administration of the Philharmonic’s business affairs at the beginning of 1909. It appears that Mahler found it difficult to take suggestions from the “strong-willed ladies who were so important on the Committee” (Howard Shanet, Philharmonic: A History of New York’s Orchestra [New York: Doubleday, 1975], 207-17).
(105.) This incident is reported in Otto Luening, The Odyssey of an American Composer: The Autobiography of Otto Luening (New York: Scribner’s, 1980), 177-78, and in Henry-Louis de La Grange, Gustav Mahler: chronique d’une uie [Mahler: a life’s chronicle], 3 vols. (Paris: Fayard, 1979-84), 3:623. De La Grange gives his source as Ludwig Karpath, “Gustav Mahlers Todeskrankheit [Mahler’s mortal illness],” Vossische Zeitung, Aug. 25, 1928, Unterhaltungsblatt. The first mention of the incident in the Busoni literature is a highly satirical description found in Bernard van Dieren, Down among the Dead Men and Other Essays (London: Oxford University Press, 1935; reprints, Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries, 1985; Salem, N.H.: Ayer, 1989), 45-46.
(106.) “Es is bekannt, class diese Frau (die jetzt selber tot ist) Gustav Mahler das Leben so verbitterte, class er infolge erlittener Aufregungen seiner letzten Krankeit nicht widerstehn konnte. Sie hat ihn also ermordet” (Busoni, “Offener Brief Uber Amerika”).
(107.) Letter, Busoni to Harriet Lanier, New York, Aug. 6, 1915 (Selected Letters, 207 [no. 1811). This letter is also reproduced in Lanier, Musical Verities, 113-15. Lanier eventually translated Jean Chantavoine’s article “Ferruccio Busoni” in The Musical Quarterly 8, no. 3 (July 1921): 331-43 (the original had been published under the same title in La Revue hebdomadaire 29, no. 14 [Apr. 17, 1920]: 369-87).
(108.) Dieren, Down among the Dead Men, 44-45.
(109.) “Gottfried Galstons Kalendarnotizen in Bezug auf sein Zusammensein mit Fernuccio Busoni von 14th Okt 1921 = XII-1920 zu 14 Mai 1925 [Gottfried Galston’s diary entries with regard to his contacts with Ferruccio Busoni from Oct. 14, 1921 = XXI-1920 to May 14, 1925]” (unpublished manuscript, 258 pp., Galston-Busoni Archive, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, 41).
(110.) Ibid., 222-23: “Horst Du, Gerda[,] was Galston da erazhlt[.] Naturlich in Amerika. Wo sonst? Machen das Kaka zur Religion…. Horst Du Gerda…. Ziegen Kakka [sic]…. Das ist Amerika.”
(111.) For example, Gottfried Galston, Egon Petri, Joseph Szigeti, Edward Weiss, Michael von Zadora, Gunnar Johansen, and Daniell Revenaugh.
(112.) Text by an unknown author. Kindermann reports three dates suggested for this work (Thematisches-chronologisches Verzeichnis, 181): the 1880s (Friedrich Schnapp) and 1885 or 1892 (Ernst Hilmar). There seems to be no reason why Busoni would have set such a text before coming to the United States, and so the year 1892 is preferred for dating this composition. I could not determine whether there was a link between Busoni’s setting of this text and his participation in a concert given by the Deutscher Liederkranz under the baton of Heinrich Zollner (1854-1941) in New York on Feb. 12, 1892.
(113.) Adolf Brodsky (1851-1929) came to the United States in 1891; he was concertmaster of the New York Symphony Orchestra until 1894.
(114.) The cellist Alwin Schroder (1855-1928), to whom Busoni had already dedicated his Short Suite for Cello and Piano (1885), played in the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1891 to 1925; he was also a member of the Kneisel Quartet, with whom Busoni gave several concerts
(115.) Amelie Nikisch and Arthur Nikisch also performed the original version of the work at the Academy of Music in Brooklyn on Jan. 13, 1893, and later at the Sanders Theater in Cambridge, Mass., on Feb. 2, 1893.
(116.) Busoni played the work six more times between Feb. 28 and Mar. 31, 1894, during a tour of nearby states with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
(117.) See Elise K. Kirk, Music at the White House. A History of the American Spirit, Music in American Life (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 174-76.
(118.) Ray Stannard Baker, “New Music for an Old World: Dr. Thaddeus Cahill’s Dynamophone,” McClure’s Magazine 27, no. 3 (July 1906): 291-301.
(119.) Gothiker refers to Bernhard Ziehn and Wilhelm Middelschulte.
(120.) This essay, which was known as “Uber die Anforderungen an den Pianisten [About the demands made upon the pianist],” was published in Signale fur die musikalische Welt 68, no. 14 (Apr. 6, 1910): 524-25. (The essay in Signale was a German translation of an interview published in the Minneapolis Journal [n.d.]).
(121.) “Neglected Details in Piano Playing: From an Interview Secured Especially for The Etude from the Eminent Virtuoso,” Etude 28 (Apr. 1910): 225-26; (May 1910): 310 (reprinted as “Important Details in Piano Playing” in James Francis Cooke, Great Pianists on Piano Playing: Study Talks with Foremost Virtuosos, 97-107 [Philadelphia: Theo. Presser, 1913; reprint, New York: AMS Press, 1976]).
(122.) These works are the Indian Fantasy for piano and orchestra (1914); the Indian Diary for piano (1915); and the Gesang vom Reigen der Geister: Study for Small Orchestra (Indian Diary, Second Book) (1915). There is also a short unpublished piece entitled “Indianisches Erntelied” (see appendix 1, entry for Apr. 12, 1911).
(123.) See Gilbert Raynolds Combs, “Publications and Reviews,” Musical Courier 60, no. 9 (Mar. 2, 1910): 25-26. Busoni’s letter (dated Columbus, Ohio, Mar. 22, 1910) appeared as “Bombshells from Busoni,’ Musical Courier 60, no. 13 (Mar. 30, 1910): 27; it is referred to in a letter to Gerda, New York, Apr. 6, 1910 (Letters to His Wife, 171). See also “Combs Replies to Busoni,” Musical Courier 60, no. 15 (Apr. 13, 1910): 10.
(124.) Dolmetsch worked for Chickering in Boston at the time, and Busoni purchased a harpsichord (no. 60 from the Chickering production line) from him. The instrument was repurchased by Chickering after Busoni’s death and sold to Lotta Van Buren. It finally was acquired in 1934 by a group of friends for Ralph Kirkpatrick, who used it in concerts and recordings (Larry Palmer, Harpsichord in America: A Twentieth-Century Revival [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989], 25-26, 175 n.43; see also “Harpsichord Likely to Figure in Busoni’s Tour.,” Musical America 12, no. 22 [Oct. 8, 1910]: 4).
(125.) “New Honor for Busoni: Italian Pianist Elected to New York Philharmonic Academy,” Musical America 13, no. 13 (Feb. 4, 1911): 34.
(126.) The Entwurf had already been translated by Leonard Liebling (1874-1945), a music critic who would become the editor of the Musical Courier in 1911. In a letter to G. Schirmer, dated New York, Mar. 30, 1910, Busoni wrote that this translation was flawed, and he insisted that the booklet be retranslated completely (this letter is located in SBPK).
(127.) These aphorisms are short literary statements, not musical fragments.
(128.) “Variations,” Musical Courier 60, no. 13 (Mar. 30, 1910): 26. Spiering’s work was published by Lauterbach & Kuhn in 1908. Busoni appears never to have transcribed it. The Musical Courier erroneously listed the title as Five Artist Studies.
(129.) The dedication refers to the fact that Zweig, Busoni, and Mahler traveled together aboard the America on their return to Europe. This unpublished 48-measure piece is part of the Stefan Zweig Collection of the British Library (MS 25).
(130.) The work was first performed in Dortmund on Aug. 21, 1911; Stock conducted it in Chicago on Mar. 29, 1912.
(131.) The text was published by Friedrich Schnapp, along with other short essays, as “Schnitzel und Spane [Bits and pieces],” Zeitschrift fur Musik 99, no. 12 (Dec. 1932): 1060.
(132.) These exercises can be found in Alberto Jonas, Master School of Modern Piano Playing & Virtuosity, 7 vols. (New York: Carl Fischer, 1922-29), 1:17, 122-23; 2:337, 345, 358-59; 4:17-18, 49-51, 69-70, 72, 74, 85, 108, 123, 134, 165, 168, 205, 240, 253; 5:30, 90, 110-11, 129,141,159-62; 7:17-19 (italicized page numbers indicate the exercises that Busoni contributed especially for this compilation).
(133.) Busoni, “Dritteltonmusik,” Melos 3, nos. 4/5 (Aug. 1922): 198-99.
(134.) See A. W. K., “Bohemians Gather to Honor Busoni: New York Society of Musicians Holds Dinner for Noted Italian Pianist,” Musical America 21, no. 16 (Feb. 20, 1915): 18; see also H. E. Krehbiel, “The Bohemians” (New York Musicians’ Club): A Historical Narrative and Record (New York: privately published, 1921), 35.
(135.) “Ein amerikanische[r] Komponist [An American composer]” (one-page typescript, carbon copy in RML). An unknown hand has entered at the end of the document the date New York, June 30, 1915; it was to have been published in Die Musik, although no documentation of the essay can be found in that journal.
(136.) Originally published in German in the Vossische Zeitung (Berlin), Aug. 20, 1915, and reprinted in the “Tageschronik [Daily chronicle]” of Die Musik 14, no. 24 (Sept. 1915): i (trans. in Selected Letters, 206 [no. 180]).
(137.) See Ellen Knight, Charles Martin Loeffler: A Life in American Music, Music in American Life (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993), for a few references about the relationship between Busoni and Loeffler. Knight mistakenly writes (194) that the Gesang vom Reigen der Geister remained incomplete. She was led astray by the difference between the work’s final scoring and the score mentioned by Busoni in a letter to Loeffler, dated New York, July 22, 1915 (Library of Congress).
(138.) Birch, whose husband was named Hugh, seems to have been residing in Chicago. In a letter to Busoni, dated Chicago, May 16, 1911, she writes, “when I ordered for myself a wreath for his [Bernhard Ziehn’s] grave, I took the friendly liberty of ordering another having your name on it” (this letter is located in SBPK).
Marc-Andre Roberge is an associate professor at the School of Music at Laval University (Quebec). The author of Ferruccio Busoni: A Bio-Bibliography, Bio-Bibliographies in Music no. 34 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1991), he is currently working on the first biography of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988), one of Busoni’s most impassioned champions.
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