The composer Ferruccio Busoni (1866– 1924) was of mixed Italian-German parentage, but his life and career was spent largely in Berlin. In his lifetime, he was famous throughout Europe and the United States as a formidable technician of the piano and one of the great virtuosos in piano history. Like many other virtuosos of his time (and especially his idol Franz Liszt), Busoni created portmanteau piano pieces, many of which, especially under the rubric “Bach-Busoni,” exist in recitals to this day. Busoni was renowned as a pianist, but he wished to be known as a composer. His compositional oeuvre, however, is spotty. Aside from the portmanteau works, it includes several operas and an outsized piano concerto, which in its romantic pretensions is risible but enormous fun, combining Lisztian rodomontade and a final choral uplift. His one-act parody opera, Arlecchino, however, with its debt to the commedia dell’arte (the...

 
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