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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ferruccio Busoni - Violin Concerto; Violin Sonata No. 2 (Frank Peter Zimmermann)


Composer: Ferruccio Busoni
  1. Violin Concerto D major, Op. 35a, KiV 243: I. Allegro moderato
  2. Violin Concerto D major, Op. 35a, KiV 243: II. Quasi andante
  3. Violin Concerto D major, Op. 35a, KiV 243: III. Allegro impetuoso
  4. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: I. Langsam
  5. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIa. Presto, attacca
  6. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIb. Andante, piuttosto grave
  7. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIIa. Andante con moto
  8. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIIb. Poco più andante
  9. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIIc. Alla marcia, vivace
  10. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIId. Lo stesso movimento
  11. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIIe. Andante
  12. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIIf. Tranquillo assai
  13. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIIg. Allegro deciso, un poco maestoso - Più lento

Frank Peter Zimmermann, violin
Enrico Pace, piano (4-13)
Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI
John Storgårds, conductor (1-3)

Date: 2003 (1-3), 2004
Label: Sony Classical



Frank Peter Zimmermann performs an inestimable service by coupling two of the most approachable works by a master too often sidelined as excessively prolix. Prior to hearing this assured and musically persuasive account of the Violin Concerto, only Joseph Szigeti (CBS, long unavailable) and Adolf Busch recorded live at the Concertgebouw in the late 1930s (Q-Disc) have really made it work.

It’s an early piece, premiered in Berlin in 1897, a three-movement structure that plays without a break. Busoni himself called the Concerto ‘good…if unpretentious’, quietly original, too, though beam up 1’39” and you’ll hear a short passage that replicates almost to the note the transition from first to second subjects in the first movement of Brahms’s Violin Concerto. Busoni’s Concerto is at its darkest in the Quasi andante where solo and orchestral voices are beautifully integrated, at 4’25” for example, where the violin plays a two-note phrase that speeds by phases into a trill, and the woodwinds take up the phrase beneath him. The bustling finale is filled with typically Busonian playfulness, felicitously scored music that’s stylishly played by Zimmermann – his tonal polish and technical mastery reminding me at times of both Milstein and David Oistrakh.

The half-hour Violin Sonata, a seminal piece from 1900, opens more like the Busoni we know and love (or not, as the case may be) and owes an obvious debt to both Beethoven and Schubert. My previous favourite digital version, by Gidon Kremer and Valery Afanassiev (DG, 12/88 – nla), slows the journey by some eight minutes but Zimmermann’s faster speeds in no way compromise the work’s profound impact.

The first movement is mostly sombre and austere, the Scherzo a manic tarantella, then after a brief slow movement there’s a set of variations based on a chorale-like theme, a world on its own that incorporates elements of dance, fugue and virtuoso display. The transition to the closing Allegro unmistakably echoes Schubert’s great C major Fantasy. Again Zimmermann comes up trumps with a modern benchmark, matched in spirit and expertise by his pianist Enrico Pace. A marvellous disc, this, not to be missed on any count.

-- Rob Cowan, 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.


Frank Peter Zimmermann (born 27 February 1965 in Duisburg) is a German violinist. He studied with Valery Gradov, Saschko Gawriloff, and Herman Krebbers. For EMI Classics Frank Peter Zimmermann recorded all major violin concertos, as well as many major works for solo violin and for violin and piano. From 2001 to 2015, Frank Peter Zimmermann plays a Stradivarius known as the Lady Inchiquin, from 1711, which once belonged to Fritz Kreisler. In January 2016 Zimmermann was loaned the 1727 "Général Dupont" Stradivarius, which had been owned by Arthur Grumiaux.


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