Ferruccio Busoni

Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924) was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, editor, writer, and teacher. He had close relations with many of the leading musicians, artists and literary figures of his time, and was sought after both as a teacher of keyboard and composition.

Busoni was born in Empoli, just south of Florence; he was the son of professional musicians. Initially trained by his father, he later studied at the Vienna Conservatory and then with Wilhelm Mayer and Carl Reinecke. In the ensuing years, after brief periods teaching in Helsinki and Moscow, he devoted himself to composing, teaching, and touring as a pianist in Europe and the United States. His writings on music were influential for their concern of aesthetics and also microtones. 

Busoni was an outstanding pianist from an early age. He began composing in his early years in a late Romantic style, but after 1907, when he published his Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music, he developed a more individual style, with elements of atonality. His visits to America led to interest in North American indigenous tribal melodies which were reflected in some of his works. His compositions include works for piano, including a monumental Piano Concerto, and transcriptions of the works of others, notably Johann Sebastian Bach which appeared in the Bach-Busoni Edition. His other compositions include chamber music, vocal and orchestral works, and also operas, one of which, Doktor Faust, was left unfinished at the time of his death. 

Busoni’s impact on music was perhaps more through those who studied piano and composition with him, and through his writings on music, than through his compositions themselves, of whose style there are no direct successors. 

Busoni died in Berlin at the age of 58. The Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition was initiated in his honor in 1949, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his death.

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