In the second volume devoted to orchestral works of Busoni, Järvi presents four compositions from this towering figure in music during the first two decades of the 20th century. His name is less connected with his compositions than it is with his pianistic achievements, his philosophies about music, his writings, and his importance as teacher of many other composers. These include Sibelius, Kurt Weill, and even Edgar Varese.
The music of Bach was a strong focus of Busoni both in performance and composition, but the master’s influence is not heard strongly in these particular works. Lustspiel is Busoni Light, full of good themes and wit. The Indian Fantasy concerto draws its melodic material from songs of several different native American tribes, including the Hopi and Cheyenne. The intent is similar to the use of Indian themes by Dvorak in The New World Symphony. The Song of the Spirit Dance is a more somber use of Native American themes – it subtitled Book II of the composer’s “Indian Diary” and uses a Pawnee song in its orchestral elegy. The Spirit Dance title is connected with the Wounded Knee massacre – the victims belonged to a new Indian religion whose leader taught his followers a holy dance to unit all Indians by bringing back the dead from the spirit world. A kettledrum and six wind instruments are added to the string section and some ghostly effects result.
The orchestral suite which closes the disc comes from Busoni’s first opera, The Bridal Choice. In the story involving love and magic, suitors for the beautiful daughter of a rich man run into a struggle between rival magicians. The rather pedestrian titles for the five movements of the suite might give a feeling for the score: Ghostly Piece; Lyric Pieces; Mystical Piece; Hebrew Pieces; Merry Piece. Though not one of Chandos fine SACD efforts, the sonics on the disc are first-rate. The Indian Fantasy was a pleasure to hear in good sound since my only copy of the rarely-heard work is a venerable Decca LP.
– John Sunier