Opening of the exhibition “BUSONI: Free Musical Art!”

Duration of the exhibition
4 September 2016 to 8 January 2017

Past Dates

The composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor and music theorist Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924) is considered one of the most outstanding artistic personalities of his era. Alongside composers such as Arnold Schönberg, Igor Stravinsky, Béla Bartók and Paul Hindemith, he was a pioneer of New Music. Just as his contemporary Wassily Kandinsky comprehended the history of art to be a development towards pure abstraction, Busoni dreamed of a music of “abstract sounds". In many of his compositions he touched on the atonality of the contemporary avant-garde, his aesthetics focus on a vision of free music. His lasting influence on the art and music of the 20th century makes him one of the central figures of the modern era.

This year we'll be celebrating Ferruccio Busoni's 150th birthday. The Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung, the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and the Kunstbibliothek want to raise public awareness of his life, his work, his multi-talent and his networks in an extensive exhibition for this anniversary.

The focus is on the Busoni estate of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, one of the city's most valuable treasures of music history. It not only encompasses music manuscripts, including calligraphic masterpieces, programmes and arrangements of works by other composers, but also a photographic collection of portraits as well as more than 9,000 letters. Ferruccio Busoni corresponded with numerous protagonists and promoters of the European modern era up to the avant-garde, including Arnold Schönberg, Stefan Zweig, George Bernard Shaw, Harry Graf Kessler, Umberto Boccioni, Jakob Wassermann, Max Oppenheimer, Bruno Cassirer, James Simon and Ludwig Rubiner.

A significant role is also played by the Art Library's collections on the communication and media history of the modern era, as well as its rich collections of historic photographs and first editions of literary greats. Ferruccio Busoni owned an extensive private library and an exquisite art collection, including several works of futurism. A selection of fine specimens of book art and graphics, as well as works by artists particularly important to Busoni, such as Umberto Boccioni and Pablo Picasso, will be displayed. Busoni's international and interdisciplinary network can be reconstructed by means of these exhibits against the background of his era, in an abundance which is only possible in Berlin, where the artist had his main area of activity.