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Sonata for Violin and Piano No.2 Op.36a

Ferrucio Busoni (b. 1866 - d. 1924)

Nurit Stark (photo credit: Uwe Neumann)

Nurit Stark (photo credit: Uwe Neumann)

Composer
Ferrucio Busoni (b. 1866 - d. 1924)
Composition Year
1898
Work Movements
1. Langsam
2. Presto
3. Introduction - Andante, piuttosto grave
Theme - Andante con moto
Variation 1 – Poco piú andante
Variation 2 – Alla Marcia – vivace
Variation 3 – Lo stesso movimento
Variation 4 – Andante
Variation 5 – Tranquillo assai
Variation 6 – Allegro deciso, un poco maestoso
Coda – Piú lento
Artists
Nurit Stark [violin], Cédric Pescia [piano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

Like Enescu, Busoni was a composer, whose brilliance as a performer tended to overshadow his genius as a composer. Busoni has been described as a magus-like musician who hovered over the early twentieth century like a spider in his web. A Tuscan of Corsican and German descent, a resident variously of Trieste, Vienna, Leipzig, Helsinki, Moscow, New York, Zurich and Berlin, he was a cosmopolitan in a nationalist age, a pragmatist in an era of aesthetic absolutism. He even reprimanded Schoenberg for rejecting the old while embracing the new.

This majestic and overwhelming sonata was composed at the request of a violinist friend in that hyper-active fin de siècle period that saw the late flowering of Romanticism, although Busoni refers back to Beethoven and Bach rather than to his contemporaries. All commentators point to its structural similarity to Beethoven’s E major Piano Sonata Op.109 with its bipolar Vivace/Adagio  opening movement, a brief Prestissimo Scherzo and a massive concluding set of variations, but there the similarities end. Bach, however, features prominently in the extraordinary Finale with the chorale theme, Wie wohl ist mir, from the second in the Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook.

The sonata opens with solemn introductory piano chords marked Langsam, leading to the violin’s entry and a glorious, long-breathed melody set over subtle ebbs and pauses in the piano part. This lyrical texture eventually gives way to one of constant motion propelled by rising and falling arpeggios in the piano. A third section with a powerful dotted rhythm briefly takes over but settles back into recapitulating the earlier material.

The electrifying Presto borrows a theme from the opening movement, which the violin treats with driving nervous energy, while the piano traverses the keyboard with playful gestures. This leads directly to the Andante piuttosto grave which acts as a bridge to the variations finale while recalling, like a memory, the theme from the Presto. This slow pensive introduction prepares the way for the stately announcement of the Bach chorale by the piano. The first three variations, including a lively march, follow familiar patterns, while the fourth follows convention by shifting to the minor key but surprises at the end with the inclusion of Busoni’s dirge-like Death motif. The fifth variation concludes with a long crescendo leading to the magnificent Allegro deciso, un poco maestoso. The music calms for the coda recollecting earlier themes before returning to the opening chords of the entire sonata, recast as a benediction.

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Sonata for Violin and Piano No.2 Op.36a

Composer: Ferrucio Busoni (b. 1866 - d. 1924)
Performance date: Friday 27th June 2014
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Ferrucio Busoni (b. 1866 - d. 1924)
Work Title Sonata for Violin and Piano No.2 Op.36a
Composition Year 1898
Work Movements 1. Langsam
2. Presto
3. Introduction - Andante, piuttosto grave
Theme - Andante con moto
Variation 1 – Poco piú andante
Variation 2 – Alla Marcia – vivace
Variation 3 – Lo stesso movimento
Variation 4 – Andante
Variation 5 – Tranquillo assai
Variation 6 – Allegro deciso, un poco maestoso
Coda – Piú lento
Artist(s) Nurit Stark [violin], Cédric Pescia [piano]
Performance Date Friday 27th June 2014
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Opening Concert
Duration 00:30:09
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTE
Instrumentation Category Duo
Instrumentation vn, pf
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

Like Enescu, Busoni was a composer, whose brilliance as a performer tended to overshadow his genius as a composer. Busoni has been described as a magus-like musician who hovered over the early twentieth century like a spider in his web. A Tuscan of Corsican and German descent, a resident variously of Trieste, Vienna, Leipzig, Helsinki, Moscow, New York, Zurich and Berlin, he was a cosmopolitan in a nationalist age, a pragmatist in an era of aesthetic absolutism. He even reprimanded Schoenberg for rejecting the old while embracing the new.

This majestic and overwhelming sonata was composed at the request of a violinist friend in that hyper-active fin de siècle period that saw the late flowering of Romanticism, although Busoni refers back to Beethoven and Bach rather than to his contemporaries. All commentators point to its structural similarity to Beethoven’s E major Piano Sonata Op.109 with its bipolar Vivace/Adagio  opening movement, a brief Prestissimo Scherzo and a massive concluding set of variations, but there the similarities end. Bach, however, features prominently in the extraordinary Finale with the chorale theme, Wie wohl ist mir, from the second in the Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook.

The sonata opens with solemn introductory piano chords marked Langsam, leading to the violin’s entry and a glorious, long-breathed melody set over subtle ebbs and pauses in the piano part. This lyrical texture eventually gives way to one of constant motion propelled by rising and falling arpeggios in the piano. A third section with a powerful dotted rhythm briefly takes over but settles back into recapitulating the earlier material.

The electrifying Presto borrows a theme from the opening movement, which the violin treats with driving nervous energy, while the piano traverses the keyboard with playful gestures. This leads directly to the Andante piuttosto grave which acts as a bridge to the variations finale while recalling, like a memory, the theme from the Presto. This slow pensive introduction prepares the way for the stately announcement of the Bach chorale by the piano. The first three variations, including a lively march, follow familiar patterns, while the fourth follows convention by shifting to the minor key but surprises at the end with the inclusion of Busoni’s dirge-like Death motif. The fifth variation concludes with a long crescendo leading to the magnificent Allegro deciso, un poco maestoso. The music calms for the coda recollecting earlier themes before returning to the opening chords of the entire sonata, recast as a benediction.