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Busoni’s “Bach Advanced School”

In October 1909, Breitkopf & Härtel succeeded in winning Ferruccio Busoni for the edition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s piano works. Busoni had studied the music of Bach more intensively than almost any other artist of his time had. As a pianist, arranger, theorist and pedagogue, Busoni was instrumental in bringing Bach out of the 19th century and into the 20th century. That same year, Busoni and two collaborators, Bruno Mugellini and Egon Petri, began work on the “instructive” edition, which was to comprise 25 volumes. The first volumes were published in the spring of 1916, and in May 1923, the “Bach Advanced School” project was finally completed. This also marked the end of Busoni’s thirty-year-long creative involvement with Bach’s works, the impact of which still reaches far beyond the “Bach-Busoni formula”.

“All alterations and additions pursue the educational intent of affording the student insight into the mechanism of the composition. Moreover, they illustrate and supplement the views presented only in a sketchy manner in the introductions. In several cases, it takes the sum of the comments on the various pieces to constitute the all-encompassing opinion on one and the same question.” (Ferruccio Busoni)

On the occasion of the centenary of Busoni’s death in 2024, the volumes were provided with a note by Reinhard Ermen on the genesis of the edition and, where previously missing, with an English translation.

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