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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Applause for all involved!
The first "bravo" goes to Busoni (posthumously). A gigantic piano concerto with orchestra and male chorus is not the norm, and Busoni wrote it with style and flair.
The second "bravo" goes to Garrick Ohlsson. To simply sit on the piano bench for 70 minutes is a feat in itself. However, Ohlsson gives a brilliant performance of the piece. The...
Published on October 11, 2002 by ldfr79

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ohlsson doesn't understand this music.
I shall refrain from writing a long, detailed analysis of the music itself, the instrument "chosen," and so on. John Barrientos has kindly done that for us, and his review is a must-read. Instead, I'll point out simply that Ferruccio Busoni was a well known piano virtuoso, possibly the best pianist of his time. When he wrote the Concerto, he had no need to prove...
Published 9 months ago by Richard Binder


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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Applause for all involved!, October 11, 2002
By 
"ldfr79" (Toledo, OH United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Busoni: Piano Concerto (Audio CD)
The first "bravo" goes to Busoni (posthumously). A gigantic piano concerto with orchestra and male chorus is not the norm, and Busoni wrote it with style and flair.
The second "bravo" goes to Garrick Ohlsson. To simply sit on the piano bench for 70 minutes is a feat in itself. However, Ohlsson gives a brilliant performance of the piece. The lights and darks he pulls out of the Bosendorfer are amazing. His technique is flawless.
The third "bravo" is for Dohnanyi. He conducts the orchestra with fire, sensitivity, and discipline.
A first rate recording.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A piano concerto like no other... and I really enjoy it., February 20, 2005
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This review is from: Busoni: Piano Concerto (Audio CD)
Ferrucio Busoni is certainly not one of those high-profile composers. Nor is his piano concerto as compared to other composers of the time including Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. The biggest reason would have to be none other than its grandiosity and universal theme, and that's what it makes this piano concerto like no other... not to mention being highly underappreciated.

As Busoni did to his concerto, his better known friend and idol Gustav Mahler did to his symphonies, yet we know Mahler's symphonies far more than Busoni's massive piece probably because we tend to expect and tolerate more out of it on symphonies (which have evolved throughout time) than the more tradition-laden concerto music.

The piano concerto is in five movements instead of the usual three, about 70 minutes in length (twice as long as most others), and features a male choir in the last movement, fairly reminiscent of Beethoven's 9th and Mahler's 2nd.

Even so, I am more than pleased to be exposed to this peculiar and special piano concerto. I'm definitely no expert on Busoni or his music, but it's really worth while to give it a listen and, hopefully, appreciate how he transformed concerto music into a whole new level.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great listening, February 5, 2006
This review is from: Busoni: Piano Concerto (Audio CD)
The Busoni concerto should be known, in my opinion, as being up there with the best of the genre rather than infamous for being long and huge. There are plenty of delightful and memorable moments and tunes throughout; the work is never cold or austere in its scale, as a few 19th-century symphonies can tend to be. If you break the 72-minute work down into movements and subjects it is actually a very digestible piece, long, yes, but also warm and spirited and memorable. Ohlsson's playing of the piece is great and his kind of big-boned approach is suitable for such a large-scale work. I've heard a small sample of Hamelin's and it sounded very good, but a bit too virtuosic where Ohlsson's was more monumental and exalted. Although he wrote some nice chamber music, in my mind Busoni would be similar to Godowsky, mostly a "transcription guy," were it not for this brilliant and wonderful piano concerto that rivals just about any I've heard.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the Busoni Concerto to get, May 17, 2010
By 
Hank Drake (Cleveland, OH United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Busoni: Piano Concerto (Audio CD)
Before making this recording of Busoni's mammoth Piano Concerto in 1989, Garrick Ohlsson and the Cleveland Orchestra under Dohnanyi took the piece on tour. I saw them perform this at Symphony Hall in Boston. Boston Globe critic Richard Dyer called this the most stunning example of sustained virtuosity he'd ever witnessed. I don't often agree with Dyer, but he was spot-on here.

There are three noteworthy recordings of this Concerto: Ogdon's, Hamelin's, and this one. Hamelin's is a disappointment to me: an almost insolently fluent technique doesn't mask an emotional disconnect. There is also Ogdon's 1960s recording, for many years the only game in town. Ogdon's technique is excellent in this recording (it wasn't always reliable, especially during his medicated period, which came later), and his sound is huge. But there are moments when his rhythm goes inexplicably slack - Ogdon didn't have the best sense of structure and this is a concerto that needs it. It also needs a rock solid accompaniment, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Revenaugh are out of their depth. The woodwind playing in the Tarantella is particularly raggedy. I've noted a number of Amazon reviews which tout Ogdon's version over this, and reading them I can't help but sense that some are letting nostalgia override their musical judgment.

Ohlsson has all the technique of Ogden, with more color, an equally startling dynamic range, better rhythm, and surer sense of structure. He's helped by a gutsy sounding Bosendorfer Imperial grand. The Cleveland Orchestra more than rise to the occasion. Dohnanyi never lets majesty devolve into portentousness, or boisterousness into chaos, and keeps the various sections of the orchestra are uncannily balanced. (Dohnanyi is not my favorite conductor, but at the time of this recording he hadn't yet descended into the Kappelmeister phase which marred his last decade in Cleveland.)

Telarc's sonics are superb, with the two-microphone technique yielding excellent balance between piano and orchestra. In short, if you only have space in your collection for one Busoni Concerto (and for many one may be more than enough), this is the one to get.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Huge Piano Concerto, November 12, 2005
This review is from: Busoni: Piano Concerto (Audio CD)
Ferruccio Busoni's Piano Concerto in C Major is a work of monumental proportions. Five movements long, timing at about 72 minutes total; this is the epitome of grandiose romanticism.

The work has 5 movements: Prologue and Introit, Joyous piece, Serious Piece, Italiana, and Cantico. The music is completely tonal, just with large proportions. The opening movement is expansive; the huge chords in the piano which occur after an orchestral introduction show right off the bat, Busoni's love of low and thick textures, and the diametrically opposed chords versus scales and arpeggios. The second and fourth movements are the scherzo's of the work. Both pieces (but the fourth movement especially so), show the virtuosity needed by the pianist. The fourth movement features a brisk Italian folk dance, featuring not only the virtuosity of the pianist, but of the orchestra as well. The 23 minute 3rd movement is epic. While it starts on the lyrical side, the movement as a whole is aggressive, and like the 1st movement, rather expansive. The final movement features a part for men's chorus as well as piano and orchestral forces. The movement is ethereal in nature, however, the work ends rather forcefully. The epic work gets an epic conclusion.

The music is exciting, often recalling Mahler. The Italian influence is only really noticeable in the fourth movement, but giving the piece a unique flavor. He favors the low and middle ranges of the piano, giving much of the music a powerful texture. His writing displays a lot of chorale-like settings and virtuosic scales and arpeggio passages. While it is easy to grasp Busoni's preferred formula, it creates nice uniformity and consistency throughout. Garrick Ohlsson is marvelous here. A virile, yet clean, performance throughout, the piano is almost always in the forefront. The orchestra plays well and handles the virtuosic fourth movement in stride. The chorus is OK. This digital recording from 1989 remains the preferred performance to this day, and if you want to experience something different in the piano concerto arena, this is a neat diversion.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprise yourself with this unique recording!, February 22, 2007
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This review is from: Busoni: Piano Concerto (Audio CD)
I have perceived Busoni's piano concerto as a magnificent work for the orchestra, with piano as one of its instruments. Piano does get many solos, but it spends much time either accompanying the orchestra as a whole, or other instruments from the orchestra, or playing just one out of many orchestral voices.

There are five movements of great beauty in which both the orchestra and piano shine. In the fifth movement a men's chorus is added, with a splendid effect.

The idea of an orchestra with a piano as one of its voices is great. It works well. The best-remembered piano solos are the thunderous ones, but there are others, which are poetic and impressionistic.

The orchestral part, with piano in it, is what I liked the best. The piano solos were never long enough to get me out of the orchestral mood. As for Mr. Ohlsson's performance, I give him the highest mark for being a perfect member of the orchestra. He stood out only when called for. This piano concerto is one of the most difficult ones, I understand, probably reflecting the fact that Busoni was an extraordinary piano virtuoso.

It is historic that Mr. Ohlsson, who in his youth was a winner of the Busoni competition, should play it. I would love to hear the live performance of this piece, as I suspect that its grand sound cannot be adequately experienced in my living room.

As for the length of the concerto, which is ca. 70 minutes, I did not feel that it was that long. I felt that Busoni was building up each movement, without the resolution. Thus, one is naturally listening for the next movement. The most beautiful is the last movement with a men's chorus. After much drama of the last movement, the concerto comes to an abrupt end.

I am dying to know the words of the text that the chorus is singing to. I was able to find out only that the text comes from the Danish poet and playwright Adam Gottlob Oehlenschlager, from his "Aladdin".

I have read numerous music critics, who made an effort to criticize and find things wrong with Busoni as a composer. I even found one music scholar who is apparently getting tenured and promoted by criticizing Busoni and analyzing to death what is wrong with Busoni's musical structures and forms. I liked Busoni's music just as it is, and I think that you will too.

Surprise yourself with this unique recording!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Garrick Ohlsson is wonderful, December 12, 2010
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This review is from: Busoni: Piano Concerto (Audio CD)
Ohlsson is wonderful, as is the ochestra. This is a challenging piece to listen to. It is long, sometimes dissonant, sometimes chaotic, in other words Mahlerian. It may not be for everyone. But this is the recording to get. One of the best features of this recording is Ohlsson's choice of piano, a Bosendorfer. It is so refreshing to hear a great pianist depart from the ubiquitous Steinway sound. Many thanks to Ohlsson for his courage in selecting a different piano, and for his great pianism.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thinking Big, April 11, 2006
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This review is from: Busoni: Piano Concerto (Audio CD)
For those who have not had the pleasure of hearing a rare live performance of Ferruccio Busoni's Piano Concerto Opus 39, this magnificent recording of pianist Garrick Ohlsson with Christoph von Dohnanyi conducting the Cleveland Orchestra and Men's Chorus will come as a satisfying experience! Busoni's epic work is rarely performed, as it is lengthy at 72 minutes, demands large supporting forces, and calls for a pianist with not only stamina but also commitment to the grand scale of the work.

Ferruccio Busoni is not widely heard in the concert hall, so should the reader not have a clue as to what this piano concerto is like, think Bruckner, Wagner, Mahler, and early Schoenberg in piano concerto format and the image comes into focus. This is Romanticism of the highest degree with indulgences that border on excessive. But at the same time there is some exquisite orchestral writing as well as some fiendishly difficult piano writing, all balanced by the surging power most felt in the slower movements and the final movement which, like Mahler, calls for choral punctuation.

Garrick Ohlsson seems just the right pianist for the work. While he is best known for his survey of all the piano music of Chopin, he is a brilliant technician capable of making a big sound and yet equally at home with the gentler poetic moments. von Dohnanyi collaborates with Ohlsson with tremendous sensitivity to line and scale and the Cleveland forces shine like Rhinegold! This is one of those odd pieces that may take a few exposures to appreciate, but if you ever wondered just how far Romanticism would have gone if unchecked, this work is up there with Schoenberg's 'Gurrelieder', and from this listener that is high praise. Grady Harp, April 06
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent recording of an excellent work of music!, December 11, 2012
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This review is from: Busoni: Piano Concerto (MP3 Music)
Garrick Ohlssohn is a fantastic pianist, and you can never go wrong with the Cleveland Orchestra and Dohnanyi. This piece of music is much larger and more expansive than the conventional piano concerto, but is wonderful music nonetheless, and is quite the epic musical adventure. In the end, I feel that John Ogdon's recording is the reference of this work, but this is still a stellar performance on all counts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't have more fun with a piano and ten fingers (assuming they are all on the keyboard), June 17, 2012
This review is from: Busoni: Piano Concerto (Audio CD)
The Busoni Piano Cto. wins friends wherever it goes, thanks to its comfy post-Lisztian style, and the endless three-ring circus dominated by the grueling piano part, which basically serves as a compendium of every trick that Busoni, a famous keyboard virtuosos, had picked up. Audiences revel in the big tunes, and as the end nears, 71 min. later, there's literally nothing left to say in terms of finger dexterity. One cruel demand presses hard on the one before, topped only by a jaw-dropping cadenza. In the meantime we get landscape, mysticism, a male chorus at the end, a tarantella, and a madcap Scherzo. How much fun do you want to have?

Completed in 1904, this rumbustious work "has no idea of the future at all," according to the composer, as he looked back in 1912. busoni became a modernist, although he stubbornly clung to romantic toanlism. Here he is content to stay inside Liszt's tent, which gives the whole enterprise a certain fond hokeyness. But after hearing a live performance from the astonishing Marc-Andre Hamelin, who has adopted the work, I fell under its spell. A recording only hints at the outrageous goings-on in this music, but Telarc assembled a gold-plated crew of singers and musicians, headed by the lion-hearted Garrick Ohlsoon. He's put under the spotlight, as you'd expect, but in concert Busoni idea of submerging the piano within a gigantic orchestral texture comes across much better. That's the only quibble I have. Everything else is hijinks for long hairs.

P.S. - My headline about having fun with ten fingers is a chaste one. Rubinstein used to eat bonbons with one hand while practicing with the other.
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Busoni: Piano Concerto
Busoni: Piano Concerto by Ferruccio Busoni (Audio CD - 2002)
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