KIRILL GERSTEIN presents
BUSONI AND HIS WORLD
Wigmore Hall – Wednesday 23 November, 7.30pm
Busoni Sonatina seconda, BV259
Elegien, BV249 Nach der Wendung
Sonatina No. 6 BV284, Kammerfantasie super Carmen
Liszt Transcendental Études, S139
On Wednesday 23 November, Kirill Gerstein begins a three concert residency at Wigmore Hall focused on the pianist, composer, philosopher, writer and pedagogue Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924). Busoni and his World is the first series at the Hall to take an in-depth look at Busoni’s musical world exploring the life and legacy of the Italian musician who performed at the Hall’s inaugural concert in 1901. Gerstein’s residency opens with five of Busoni’s own works for solo piano followed by a performance of Liszt’s complete Transcendental Études. The performance will also be live streamed via Wigmore Hall’s website and YouTube channel.
Kirill Gerstein’s interest in Busoni was piqued when, as a 10-year-old in the Soviet Union, he was given a then rare copy of Grigory Kogan’s Busoni as Pianist. As The New York Times noted when commenting on Busoni’s treatise Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music: “[Busoni] predicted the course of 20th century music with almost psychic insight’ including microtonal music and the possibilities of electronic music. Gerstein’s attraction to the ‘James Joyce of the piano’ and one of the visionary figures of 20th century musical history was immediate and his study of Busoni’s recordings, letters, and writings, only reaffirmed the initial fascination.
In three concerts, Gerstein’s homage to Busoni aims to be as multi-faceted as the musician he is celebrating. Busoni’s own compositions sit along those of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Liszt who were central to his world, as well as those that were influenced by him including Weill, Vogel and Schonberg. During his time, Busoni was a renowned Liszt scholar and was one of the few musicians to perform the complete Transcendental Études publiclyincluding at the Wigmore Hall in 1904. While accused by some as being too eclectic to be easily classifiable, Gerstein clearly relishes the challenge that the enormous diversity of Busoni’s output brings.
Recent Busoni highlights for Gerstein include joining Sir András Schiff to perform the Fantasia Contrappuntistica at the Jerusalem Chamber Music Festival, and recording the gargantuan Piano Concerto with the Boston Symphony and Sakari Oramo for myrios classics. At the time of the recording release, Gerstein was invited to take part in Great Lives on BBC Radio 4 to argue the composer’s case with presenter Matthew Parris.
Gerstein will be joined by violinist Leonidas Kavakos and bass-baritone Gordon Bintner for the second concert in Busoni and his World which will take place on Sunday 5 March 2023.
Kirill Gerstein’s new season started in Munich at the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (BRSO) where he has also been named 2022-23 Artist-in-Residence. Showing a very different side of his musical interests, Gerstein chose to launch his Munich residency with the original jazz-band version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue conducted by Erian Yashima. Collaborating with Alan Gilbert for the second concert of his BRSO Residency on 21 October Gerstein will perform Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini paired with Strauss’s Burleske.
At last someone is taking Busoni seriously. This magnetic and justifiably important composer/piano virtuoso can be explored properly and in the context of his times.
Bravo. Sign me up Scottie.