Monday, March 27, 2017

Ferruccio Busoni - Fantasia contrappuntistica; etc. (Hamish Milne)


Composer: Ferruccio Busoni
  • (01-03) Liszt-Busoni - Fantasy and Fugue on the Chorale 'Ad nos, ad salutarem undam'
  • (04) Mozart-Busoni - Andantino from Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat major, K 271
  • (05-16) Busoni - Fantasia contrappuntistica

Hamish Milne, piano
Date: 2008
Label: Hyperion



Dazzling Milne conquers the twin peaks of Busoni’s powerful output

This daunting and inspired coupling is played by Hamish Milne with an uplifting musical authority. Indeed, aided by Hyperion’s superb sound (rich and resonant throughout the entire register), Milne even surpasses his earlier L’Oiseau-Lyre recording of the Liszt/Busoni Fantasy, achieving an entirely apt unforced grandeur and sobriety. Here you are made to realise that the Ad nos Fantasy – a massive tribute to Busoni as transcriber – is not only among his finest achievements but (as Milne suggests in his accompanying notes) transcends Liszt’s original organ work and seemingly takes on a life of its own. The central Adagio in particular has all of Liszt’s obsessive and ecstatic wheeling round an idea yet is unmistakably stamped with Busoni’s own intimidating power. And it is here in particular that Milne offers playing of the rarest refinement and sensitivity before launching the final fugue in a blaze of virtuosity.

Busoni’s Fantasia contrappuntistica takes such music to a further extreme. Among the composer’s most formidable works, its colossal range and scope tell you that Busoni’s music can seem like a mighty mountain range glimpsed behind clouds. Again, Milne’s performance is of an unfaltering beauty and lucidity. As an extra he sandwiches Busoni’s transcription of the Andantino from Mozart’s Jeunehomme Concerto between these two peaks, a rarity where Mozart’s sublimity is coloured by Busoni’s altogether more forbidding personality. Milne may playfully claim in his notes that he would “like to play like Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal and sing like Flagstad”, but we should surely be mightily grateful for his own unmistakable personality.

-- Bryce Morrison, Gramophone

More reviews:


Ferruccio Busoni (1 April 1866 – 27 July 1924) was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, editor, writer, and piano teacher. Busoni was an outstanding (if sometimes controversial) pianist from an early age. He began composing in his early years in a late romantic style, and later developed a more individual style, often with elements of atonality. 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.


Hamish Milne (born 27 April 1939, Salisbury) is a British pianist known for his advocacy of Nikolai Medtner. One of Britain’s leading pianists over several decades, Hamish Milne has appeared as soloist with most of the leading British orchestras and has given over two hundred broadcasts for the BBC. In the 1970s, Milne was the first pianist to offer a comprehensive survey of the music of Medtner since the composer made his own records in the 78s era. He has recorded for Chandos, CRD, Danacord, Decca and Hyperion labels.


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