An anecdote circulating among pupils of Egon Petri (1881––1962), a protégé of Ferruccio Busoni (1866––1924), was the story Petri told of how on more than one occasion Busoni's wife was mistakenly introduced as "Mrs. Bach-Busoni." Whether fact or fiction, this social faux pas illustrates how closely Busoni's name has been associated with the names of composers whose works he arranged. Despite his prolific compositional career, he is remembered more as a transcriber and arranger than as a composer of original works. His practice of arranging others' works also affected his own compositions, which frequently contained borrowed material. Busoni's creative art thus blurred conventional boundaries between what is traditionally considered to be primary "original" works and subsidiary transcriptions or arrangements.
While Busoni's tendency to blur boundaries between new pieces and arrangements has been already noted, his compositional aesthetics has only been cursorily studied. Relying on the essay "How I Compose," the section on notation from The Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music (1907), and unpublished sketches from the Staatsbibliothek Berlin, I examine Busoni's idiosyncratic compositional ideology, explain the meaning of his terms Idee, Einfall, Transkription and Bearbeitung in his compositional process, and show that Busoni valued the creativity involved in transforming already existing musical material no less than invention of the new. I illustrate Busoni's compositional aesthetics through analyses of his arrangements of Liszt's sixth Paganini Etude, Mozart's Piano Concerto, K. 453, and his Fantasia nach J. S. Bach.
- ©© 2010 by the Virginia Allan Detloff Library, C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco