Part I was written in the years 1905- 1908. Part II in February and March 1902, in Milan and Rome. Both were published for the first time in "Die Musik", Year XXII, Vol. I.

The Essence of Music: And Other Papers - Book by Ferruccio Busoni, translation: Rosamond Ley; Philosophical Library, 1957

My parents were both musicians and I was born on 1st April 1866 in Empoli, a little town close to Florence. My mother was a much esteemed and - as far as I can judge - gifted pianist called Anna Weiss. On her father's side she was of German descent but on her mother's side Italian. My father is of pure Italian descent, the root of his genealogical tree, however, being in Corsica. Before my birth my mother played much in public, and with success, her last performance--eight days before my appearance - being in Rome, where she also played to Liszt in his house. My father was a clarinettist, he used his instrument in special ways as a soloist, sometimes emanating from the violin, sometimes from Italian song. His whole life long he scorned a post in an orchestra, half from pride and half because he was a natural artist, who worked things out more by instinct than by knowledge, and to whom reading from music and the division of bars presented some difficulties. My mother, on the other hand, was correctly trained and her playing belonged to the line of pianists coming from the Thalberg school; very fluent, somewhat in the salon style, and pianistic in the purest sense.

Already from my seventh year onwards my parents began to focus their entire interest on me and as artists they gradually worked less themselves. I played in public when I was seven and a half, and already when I was eight years old I played the C minor Concerto by Mozart very precisely and with fine details and a year later I gave concerts in Vienna, where I created some sensation.

AT the age of nearly forty-three and having arrived at a certain degree of maturity in the art, I see how others begin to interest themselves in my person with more sympathy than historical exactitude. To me, therefore, it seems fitting and not wasted effort that I myself should relate a little about my life. Should this report possess no other value, it will at least have the merit of being authentic.

I was baptised with the names Ferruccio Dante Michelangelo Benvenuto, and my father (without knowing it) followed the theory of old Shandy who assigned to the name an influence on the abilities of the bearer--a heavy responsibility which I lightened for myself by striking out the three great Tuscan artists and only keeping the name Ferruccio.

As a child, however, I signed myself Ferruccio Benvenuto and my father, always seeking easily-won fame, added to Busoni the family name of my mother who had acquired a good standing as a pianist.

At a certain period my father also enjoyed a little fame as clarinet player in several places; he thought his son was well cared for with those four resounding names and the magic exercised by the combination of Weiss-Busoni.

These Weiss-Busonis were engaged in full concert activity just before my birth - and only eight days before this event my mother made a public appearance in Rome where the public and the artists were honoured by the distinguished presence of Franz Liszt. The near prospect of the genealogical event made my father return to his birthplace Empoli where, surrounded by a host of relations and after really desperate difficulties, I saw the light of day. It was on Easter Sunday, the 1st April 1866.

Empoli, which lies between Florence and Pisa, is avoided by strangers and has therefore remained immaculate in its Tuscan culture. It first makes itself obtrusively perceptible by the smell from the vapours of its tanneries and match factories; to the eye, on the other hand (at least at the time of my birth), in a negative way through the lack of gas lighting.

Having remained chiefly commercial and industrial Empoli only offers a little evidence of Tuscan art. The Piazza shows the façade of a church "in the purest style" and without any upward swing. In front of it there is a fountain adorned with four marble lions, two of them, one is assured, are the work of a well-known artist; however it is generally left to the art student or the art lover to decide to which pair this precedence belongs. Somewhat outside the centre of the town lies the Campaccio, a very extensive unpaved square used as a horse market. And in one of the little houses that surround it I came into this world. Worthy of note in Empoli was the Festival of the Donkey's Flight which, until a few years ago, was celebrated on every Corpus Christi Day. This mocking ceremony was directed against the dwellers in Volterra, who had incautiously maintained that it would be just as easy for the people of Empoli to conquer them as for a donkey to fly. But the valiant ones of Empoli carried the day and also proved that a donkey could fly. The thought of this flying animal was quite easily conceived and carried out. A donkey was taken to the top of the bell-tower and from there it was let down on a rope. In order to increase the illusion still more, they fastened a pair of golden wings to it. So far as I know this appearance was the only example of a Pegasus of which Empoli could boast; for one knows of no poet from this town and the only name, up to the present, which is a little famous, remains that of a certain painter Jocopo. I know that when I was eight months old I was brought away from my native place and two years later I found myself in Paris with my parents. The rumour of war (which broke out in 1870) made my father, partly from caution, move from uncertain and dangerous ground; a decision which my father's nomadic nature favoured. So he began to play the clarinet again while wandering through Italy.

The uncertainty of this life (an uncertainty which for him continued unchanged from then on) and at that time the still good impulse to spare my mother the discomforts which belong to a life of adventure moved him to separate from his wife--I think for a period of two years. Meanwhile my mother and I were in Trieste where we made our abode in my grandfather's house, "Sor Giuseppe Weiss".

At this time my seventy-year-old grandfather lived in his spacious apartment (which stood nearly empty in consequence of the departure of his whole family) with his servant Mathilde as his mistress. This bad woman tyrannised over the whole house and understood how to put herself between my mother and my grandfather in such a way that the former suffered from it incessantly. And yet she was compelled to live with an infatuated father who, because he did not wish to allow the marriage, had shown her husband the door before their wedding. My mother, now returning to her father's house, was in no way able to prove the rightness of her choice; on the contrary, the whole lay-out of the thing was against her. She suffered from her husband's absence, the almost malicious indifference of her father, and from the excessive power of a low and vulgar woman, who took advantage of the circumstances to heap every kind of insult on my mother, showing no respect in her behaviour. She always behaved as complete mistress and increased more and more the misunderstanding between father and daughter. Until I began to form my own judgment I had a wrong conception of my grandfather. The impression at that time and my father's incessant slanders had completely distorted the true idea of the man for me.

My grandfather had an extremely strong character--it went as far as stubbornness--very upright and conscientious and gifted with many talents. When he was only thirteen his father had left him to his own devices and the boy had found a post as cabin boy on a ship going to the East. My grandfather therefore had only himself and his energetic and straightforward nature to thank for everything. In Trieste where he went ashore at a mature age, he succeeded with great efforts in obtaining a highly esteemed position for himself, he married a girl from one of the best families and kept himself without reproach in the esteem he had acquired until the age of ninetythree, when cheerfully, without illness or suffering, he came to the end of his life.

One evening, it must have been in the autumn of 1872, remains unforgettable. We still lived alone in Trieste, my mother and I, when she took me on that memorable evening to a Teatro Meccanico which, because of the topographical positions at that time, was to be found somewhat outside the town; at the crossing of the Via del Torrente and the Corsía del Stadion. In this theatre--it was much more like a barracks--scenes were performed, acted by puppets who moved by means of an inner mechanism without help from visible wires. One scene made a lively impression on me, namely when one of the figures drank a bottle of wine in such a way that one saw the contents get less and the liquid gradually pass into the puppet's mouth until the bottle was finally empty. After the performance we went quietly home, without fear and without hope, in that state of melancholic indifference which is frequently to be found in small Italian families; especially if something rather out of the common has been enjoyed and now one's thoughts turn again to everyday monotony.

We had gone about fifty steps when a Signor stood in our way. He was very imposing in appearance and wore a great beard divided into two points, something like a pair of top boots which reached to the knees. He led a very well-behaved, agreeable poodle on a steel chain, as if it were a wild animal; and the man's whole bearing was something like that of a master of the horse, or an animal tamer. My mother greeted him, a little moved and a little embarrassed. The gentleman embraced me and called me "Ferruccio" many times in a voice full of emotion and excitement. From these signs and from the recollection they awoke in me--kept alive through pictures and letters--I recognised my father. He had come back unexpectedly. It was to me as if this surprise should promise I know not what festivity. That smile between emotion and uncertainty froze on my mother's lips and I experienced a little storm in my heart that was an invisible but perhaps much stronger reflection of this smile.

My life changed completely after that evening.

My father at once took energetic measures whereby my mother left the house of this "murderer of a father" as my father loved to express himself with regard to his father-inlaw. Two rooms were taken in the Via Geppa, opposite the Turkish Consulate. The Consul's daughter--a child about eight or ten years--sometimes showed herself at the window which faced us, and it was there that I exchanged my first gallant glances. My father set to work as quickly as possible to instil the knowledge of piano-playing into me, for I had shown talent for this instrument when I was four, and I played by ear and performed with my mother certain little pieces by Diabelli for four hands. My father, who understood little about pianoplaying and who was also uncertain about rhythm, made up for these deficiencies by a quite indescribable energy, strength and pedantry, so that he was able to remain seated beside me for four hours a day and to control every note and finger. There was no escape, no rest, and no imaginable lack of care on his side. The only pauses were brought about by the outbursts from his prodigiously fiery temperament, which resulted in some boxes on the ear, copious tears, threats, dark prophecies and reproaches. All this ended finally in reconciliation, fatherly emotion and the assurance that he wished for nothing but my good--only to begin afresh in a few days' time. My father accomplished so much that barely a year later he was able to present me to the public; I think in the autumn of 1873, when I was seven and a half or almost eight years old. And after two more years he declared that I was developed and marvellous enough for him to take me to Vienna in the capacity of pianist, composer and extemporiser, protected by the shield of those names Ferruccio Benvenuto Weiss-Busoni. Neither did he forget to arm himself with his concert clarinet; he had scarcely sufficient means to come through and understood no word of German. We put up at the hotel for princes and famous people ( Erzherzog Carl) and we were fortunate enough to meet Rubinstein, to whom my father found the opportunity of introducing me and insisted on my "playing for him". This "playing for him" still sounds dreadful in my ears. My father

met no one in the street or in a coffee house without telling him about "his son"--the end of it was that he took the stranger home, rushed into the room, pulling the new acquaintance behind him and throwing the dreadful "play for him" in my face. This stranger was always a "distinguished personality" for my father until he got to know him better. The result of this nearer approach was that in my father's words he was "an imbecile", a "good-for-nothing", or something similar. Sometimes he succeeded in becoming an "excellent person" again (una persona distintissima) after he had conceded a modest loan of money. For the financial position was and always remained scanty under my father's administration however considerable the sums that went through his hands: because he invariably robbed Peter to pay Paul and never succeeded in finding a final remedy. I had to suffer from this condition during the whole of my childhood and youth, and for my father it has never ceased to be otherwise to this day.