Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

Sir Antonio Pappano, conductor
Schönberg | Busoni

Ferruccio Busoni’s Piano Concerto op. 39 is a work of architectonic dimensions: demanding extreme virtuosity and lasting over an hour, complete with a rousing choral finale. The scale of the piece means that it is rarely programmed. But now it can be heard in Berlin thanks to Igor Levit and the orchestra and choir of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Antonio Pappano. The evening opens with Arnold Schönberg’s “Verklärte Nacht”.

Ferruccio Busoni sits model for Numa Patlagean, 1914

Ferruccio Busoni sits model for Numa Patlagean, 1914

© Public Domain, via Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, MuS. Estate F. Busoni, PI, 22

Work introduction 19:10

The son of a German pianist and an Italian clarinettist, who married a Swede and taught in Finland, Austria, Russia, Germany and Italy: Ferruccio Busoni, one of the greatest piano virtuosos of all time, was a committed European. For most of the time he lived in Berlin, where he directed an exemplary new music series from 1902 to 1909, in which he also presented his own piano concerto – a monumental, pantheistic drama of redemption whose choral finale sets verses by Goethe’s Danish contemporary Adam Oehlenschläger: “Raise your hearts to the eternal power, feel Allah near you, behold his work!” Of course, Busoni himself was at the concert grand for the premiere on 10 November 1904: the complexities of the piano score put any Rachmaninov concerto in the shade. Nevertheless, in Busoni’s “Skyscraper Concerto” (as he called it), the orchestral and solo parts are inextricably interwoven, which makes the work less of a virtuoso concerto than a choral symphony with an obligatory piano. Igor Levit, one of the most brilliant pianists of his generation and, like Busoni, a committed European, will tackle the particular challenges of this rarely performed work. He will be accompanied – under the conductor Sir Antonio Pappano – by the orchestra and choir of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, who are making their first appearance as guests at Musikfest Berlin. Before the interval they will perform Arnold Schönberg’s tone poem “Verklärte Nacht” (Transfigured Night) based on the poem of that title by Richard Dehmel: highly expressive music, in whose ecstatic outbursts of colour one can hear the mental exaltations of the fin de siècle.

Concert Programme

Arnold Schönberg (1874 – 1951)
Verklärte Nacht op. 4 (1899)
Version for string orchestera

Ferruccio Busoni (1866 – 1924)
Concerto for piano and orchestra with male choir in C major op. 39 (1904)

A Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin event