The Musical Work: Reality or Invention?

Book by Michael Talbot; University of Liverpool Press, 2000


Any consideration of the history of the musical artwork that attempts to take full account of its weakening in the twentieth century eventually has to confront the apparently marginal case of Ferruccio Busoni.
In his writings, which closely follow his compositional practice, the nineteenth-century cult of the genius and the figure of the composer- performer generate a picture of the musical artwork that follows in a Platonic tradition but with bewildering contradictions that point to the progressive weakening of the concept in the twentieth century.
On one level, Busoni illustrates in his music and aesthetics the first implications of a general phenomenon best encapsulated by Carl Dahlhaus: " [...] since the late eighteenth century all genres have rapidly lost substance. [...] every genre fades to an abstract generalisation, derived from individual structures after they have accumulated; and finally, in the twentieth century, individual structures submit only under duress to being allocated to any genre." [1] Hardly less relevant is Busoni's confusion of the roles of editor, transcriber and composer, whereby a ‘work’ may be a variant, completion or complete rethinking of a pre-existing work. Albrecht Riethmüller illustrates this confounding of categories principally from Busoni's reaction to, and treatment of, the music of J. S. Bach, but transcription and recomposition also overlap with aesthetically indeterminate results in Busoni's attitude to his own music. Both are particular instances of a more fundamental problem perceived by Riethmüller:

In the understanding of the nineteenth century and of the twentieth until now the first and most essential requirement of a composition is that it be new and original, further, that it be attributable to a particular author who fulfils this aesthetic postulate of newness and originality. Even these few fundamental requirements begin to totter when one turns to Busoni. [2]

Whether Busoni would have recognised his importance in this generalisation is open to debate. It is arguable that his aesthetic writings brought together a number of strains that taken separately do not seriously fly in the face of common assumptions held in his lifetime. It is only when he placed them thus in somewhat startling juxtaposition that the ideas acquired tension and even discord. As Bojan Bujic has noted, his most substantial aesthetic work, Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst, "is an example of a fine artistic intuition rather than of systematic thought". [3] Busoni's intuition brings together a number of questions about music and its future in a manner "wellmeant and full of peace" (as he commented to Hans Pfitzner) that fails to disguise the often rather provocative features of his musical praxis. [4] But the Entwurf is not Busoni's sole contribution to the theory and aesthetics of music. It has a number of satellites that expand on, underline or, on occasion, contradict several of its more important ideas. In this, it is not unlike Busoni's stage works, which have their predominantly instrumental satellites as pre-existing 'sketches' or later transcriptions. Many of these satellites to the Entwurf derive from open letters, programme notes and occasional
journalistic forays that defend aspects of the author's composition and performance. As a result, they can be, and sometimes have been, used to give substance to the rather enigmatic sequence of ideas in the Entwurf.

Not the least striking feature of the Entwurf is its turn from praise of a very abstract form of absolute music (and, implicitly, of instrumental music, on which Lydia Goehr assumes most notions of work and Werktreue to be founded) to previewing its possible rebirth in the context of musical drama. [5] This argument is worked out further in the essay Wesen und Einheit der Musik (Essence: 1–16). Lurking behind this shift (it can hardly be called a transition) are other, deeper contradictions. Bujic has noted the tension between two of Busoni's most frequently quoted maxims: " [...] the musical artwork exists, before its tones resound"; and "All arts [...] ever aim at the one end, namely, the imitation of nature and the interpretation of human feelings". [6]
Busoni's view of the relationship of absolute to theatrical music depends at least in part on the working out of the relationship between these two maxims, of which the first offers the more revealing key to his practice as a composer. His famous description of music as a child "hardly four hundred years old", for which "we apply laws made for maturity to a child that knows nothing of responsibility", is in its context a declaration that music is as yet a novice in "the imitation of nature and the interpretation of human feelings". [7] Music's goal and "destiny", "to win freedom" and "become the most complete of all reflexes of Nature by reason of its untrammelled immateriality", is to be realised by creating an improbable synthesis of music's "immateriality" and art's capacity for mimesis and interpretation. It is hardly surprising that, in view of such a programme, the Entwurf has acquired a reputation for a certain blithe naïveté in its utopian stance (a charge levelled by Hans Pfitzner that still carries force). [8]

In considering the Entwurf, it has all too often been the case that comment has focused on the controversy that it engendered. Yet the arguments have a historical interest within the sphere of ideas, given their numerous echoes from Busoni's wide reading. Riethmüller has observed that the picture of music as child is almost plagiarised from Wackenroder, and that other features (notably the composer's idea of the "oneness of music") may have been borrowed from Croce's Estetica come scienza dell'espressione e linguistica generale of 1902. [9]
Bujic has detected elements resembling "Dilthey's and Nietzsche's philosophy of life and Dessoir's notion of the study of art detached from a philosophical system". [10] The echoes of Nietzsche are hardly surprising, in view of the extensive quotation from Jenseits von Gut und Böse with which Busoni launches the peroration to the Entwurf (Entwurf: 42–43/95–96). Yet the example of Nietzsche illustrates the extent to which Busoni avoids acknowledging specific intellectual forebears. In an
open letter to Paul Bekker of 1920, usually reprinted under the title "Young Classicism", Busoni declared that "Neither Beethoven's wry smile nor Zarathustra's "liberating laugh" but the smile of wisdom, of divinity and absolute music’ was to be music's declared goal (Essence: 21–22). Even when quoting Nietzsche's famous evocation of a "super-German music" from Jenseits von Gut und Böse, he takes care to balance it with a quotation from Tolstoy that draws some of the sting of Nietzsche's words. Above all, Busoni's curious style, with its tendency towards the lapidary at one extreme and the rhapsodic at the other, is remarkably effective at hiding his sources.

In this unsystematic and eclectic music aesthetic it is perhaps unrealistic to look for concrete definitions and sustained lines of argument. Yet in the tensions and inconsistencies some of the problems of the concept of the musical artwork for the twentieth century are clearly indicated. What it might stand for or mean is far from clear in Busoni's writings, which tend first to speak of music in the abstract and then to proceed to forms and genres in particular, leaving a hole where the category ‘work’ should be. But it is possible to supply, by inference, a picture of the artwork in Busoni that, if it tends to any fixed standpoint, may be said to be Platonic, in a sense related at least in part to Jerrold Levinson's definition, albeit with certain qualifications. [11] Busoni's Entwurf begins by separating the "ageless" qualities of the artwork (spirit, emotion and humanity) from those that "age rapidly" (form, manner of expression, flavour of epoch; Entwurf: 9–10/75–76). His argument is directed towards artworks in general and distinguishes between the various art-forms and species only by noting that their durability is in direct proportion to the purity of "their essential means and ends" (Entwurf: 10/76). This is a first pass at the (as yet unspoken) notion of absolute music, which is then approached from a slightly different direction: music's ‘one radiant attribute’, its incorporeality (Entwurf: 11/77). This lends music a freedom with which, in Busoni's eyes, mankind finds it hard to cope. Weighed down by the chains of man's imposed rules, music aims "to win freedom as its destiny" and to realise its "untrammelled immateriality" independently of the "idea" (which Busoni himself sets in quotation marks; Entwurf: 12/77). By rejecting illustration and programmes as aspects of the "idea", he prepares the way directly for "absolute music", which is only a stage on the path to the deeper notion of "die Ur-Musik". The standard English translation renders this term as "infinite music", which is not inappropriate, since it is presumably that free essence that music originally possessed and aims to regain (Entwurf: 15/79). "Absolute music" is thus essentially a flawed stage to be associated with the lawgivers and chains of humanity. To illuminate Busoni's estimate of it, we might adapt Riethmüller's definition of Tonkunst in relation to "Ur-Musik": that it was ‘no longer the higher, artistically formed and over-formed music, but, in direct inversion, was to be thought below that highest music as, so to speak, its deficient mode". [12] But the encompassing "Ur-Musik" reminds us that Bujic unapologetically claims Busoni as a Pythagorean, presumably on the strength of that very concept. [13] That composers can recover elements of such an "Ur-Musik" is the message of the examples chosen by Busoni of passages that escape from the genres and ‘architectonic’ forms of human lawgivers. These examples, however, which include the introductions to the finales of Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata and Schumann's Fourth Symphony, are mostly of episodes rather than works. Further, they include introductions in which self-sufficient genres such as fantasy and two-part invention survive as fragments (as in the "Hammerklavier"), adding another strand to Dahlhaus's melancholy depiction of the decay of genres in the twentieth century: the generic fragment as topos. [14] Bach's organ fantasias are singled out by Busoni as examples of a genre that seems to fulfil the two functions of generating self-contained works (albeit allowed a greater measure of fantasy than others) and approaching the condition of "die Ur-Musik".

In this fallen state works are barely to be distinguished from transcriptions. "Every notation is, in itself, the transcription of an abstract idea" (Entwurf: 24/85). This drastic statement is made with full acceptance of the consequences: that in writing down a musical idea (and by intention a musical work), the original form is lost. Intention, form, agency "still more closely define the way and the limits" (Entwurf: 23/85). As a result, the idea "is depressed to the type of a class. That is, an Arrangement [sic] of the original. From this first transcription to a second the step is comparatively short and unimportant" (Entwurf: 24/85). But once this step towards notation is taken, a further dimension of transcription is revealed: "[...] the performance of a work is also a transcription, and still, whatever liberties it may take, it can never annihilate the original" (Entwurf: 24/85). 15 ] It is difficult to grasp here exactly what Busoni means by "das Original", since he had already distinguished between "die Originalgestalt" and "die Originalfassung" – the former clearly the property of the idea before the compulsion to write it down, the latter probably the first full written version or a work (in which case the standard translation probably errs in giving "archetype" for "Originalfassung"). Either version would fit into Busoni's sentence for "das Original" without seriously damaging his meaning, although "die Originalgestalt" is probably the sense intended. It is here that Busoni makes his famous statement: "[...] the musical artwork exists, before its tones resound and after they die away, complete and intact. It exists both within and outside of time, and through its nature we can obtain a definite conception of the otherwise intangible notion of the Ideality of Time" (Entwurf: 24/85). Arguably, this clarifies the status of the various "originals" with which he has been wrestling in the preceding paragraphs, in that it might be imagined that the work "outside time" is the "Originalgestalt", and that the work "within time" takes as its first transcription "die Originalfassung". But, more importantly, Busoni now comes face to face with the concrete artwork that he has largely skirted in the previous pages. Characteristically, he first allows himself a tendentious digression on musicality before introducing the figure of the creator, whose very presence gives a certain context to the artwork. Its continuing existence (even outside time) would seem to be a matter of the unplayed score rather than of that "discovered" artwork from the pages of Wolterstorff. [16] In as much as there is space for a creator in Busoni's view of the musical artwork, he would seem to subscribe to Levinson's principal definition ("Works [...] do not exist prior to the composer's compositional activity"); equally, his picture of music as a work "outside time" is not intended to portray music as a pure sound structure of the kind dismissed by Levinson. [17] Works, at least, are created, not discovered, in Busoni's view as expressed in the Entwurf. But his comments on the creator's role are as enigmatic as other passages of the Entwurf and must be subjected to one of the minor qualifications mentioned earlier.

The creator turns out to be yet another lawgiver, whose duties involve the annulment of his own laws from work to work in a constant search for the exact form appropriate to the original idea.
As with more than a few moments in Busoni's writings, the spirit of Nietzsche seems to hang over this section; but it is written in such general terms as to defy any exact intellectual parentage. By comparison, the later quotation of the words from Jenseits von Gut und Böse is almost vulgarly explicit and perhaps misleading in suggesting what sort of "Ur-Musik" Busoni might have had in mind. But the image of Zarathustra in Part III of Nietzsche's book, sitting surrounded by broken law-tables and half-written new tables, serves rather well, if only as a curious commentary on Busoni's career as a composer. [18] As ever, he treads a precarious path between traditionalist and revolutionary, turning aside from "intentional avoidance of rules" masquerading "as creative power" (Entwurf: 30/88). Towards the end of his life Busoni discovered a text that helped him to become more specific about the musical artwork. In Anatole France's Histoire comique he came across the sentence "For the content of a piece of music existed and exists complete and unalterable before and after it has sounded", which is close enough to his own formulation in the Entwurf (Essence: 194). A Nietzschean parentage for this idea seems to be indirectly revealed in a further quotation from France ("Do you not believe that everything that is to happen has already and for all time happened?"), in which we almost catch an echo (conscious or otherwise) of Zarathustra intuiting the doctrine of the Eternal Recurrence. [19]

The universe appears to us continuously incomplete and we have the illusion that it is continuously completing itself. So, as we become aware of the phenomena successively, we believe that they do in fact come into effect successively. We have the idea that those we no longer see are in the past and those we do not yet see are in the future.

The coming point is obvious. Like a disciple of Einstein, France argues for a perspective of relativity (though still free from any thoroughgoing principle of uncertainty; in Busoni's aesthetic, neither God nor the composer as yet throws dice). Ignorant of true order, we "only know the order of our perception of them". France's conceit, witty or otherwise, is meant to calm an author anxiously awaiting the end of the first performance of his play, who asks the Zarathustrian question quoted above. According to the astronomical metaphors of his respondent, his play may, from the viewpoint of another galaxy, haven indeed been performed before (Essence: 194–96).

In response, Busoni imagines a musical cosmos imbued "with all forms, motives and combinations of past and future music" (Essence: 197–200). In this fantasy music threatens to become that closed system that Renée Cox refutes in her essay against Wolterstorff (even if we cannot speak even here of the set rules of a true closed system as in Cox's recurring comparator, chess). [20] Each composer is a cultivator of one small area of this musical atmosphere: a person who collects, forms, surveys, manipulates and, implicitly, discovers. Com posers do not invent "new resources" but build on the discoveries of others. They reveal models of the whole infinity of music; they bring an element of the eternal through the human consciousness into the piece of music, which "is frozen as soon as it is drawn through the darkness of our mentality". The act of creation is in reality a process of discovery that becomes concrete in the mere intention of transcribing and notating it. It is hardly surprising that Busoni in his last year should have turned to this subtly different picture of the composer, since it chimes well with the problem of the final scene of Doktor Faust: how to demonstrate to a new generation the continuity of the hero's "unconquerable will".

Busoni's picture of the musical work thus allows for creation, but in a sense that also drifts towards discovery of some pre-existing type that renders all notations transcriptions. This is the major point on which he fails to live up to Levinson's picture of the musical artwork.
For Levinson, the act of transcription implies that a new work has been created, so closely is he tied to the notion of an inseparable notation for each musical work. [21] Busoni, in contrast, subordinates the musical work to the abstract idea. Whereas Levinson sees all transcriptions as works, Busoni comes close to seeing all works as transcriptions, which suggests that they have arrived at essentially the same practical position from opposite directions. The status of transcription in relation to Levinson's position is also a point raised by Lydia Goehr. [22] Examples mentioned by her include "Busoni's and Kreisler's arrangements of music originally composed by Bach". Her extension of this, the statement that Kreisler "composed" almost exclusively by arrangement’, takes us to the heart of those many compositions of Busoni that are "completions" of, or "studies for", other works by Bach or by himself. It is therefore doubtful whether Busoni would have subscribed to Stephen Davies's distinction between versions that arise in the course of the composition process (which he illustrates with the various forms of Stravinsky's The Wedding) and true transcriptions exhibiting an intention to transcribe. Busoni's conception of notation takes much of the sting out of Davies's apparently unanswerable contention that "the final version" of an arduous composition process "could not be a transcription because there was at the time it was written no independently existing work to which it could stand as a transcription". [23]

Goehr's suggestion that "perhaps a transcription, an arrangement, or an orchestration of a work is itself a work in its own right" seems close to Busoni's own practice. Drawing back from this extreme conclusion, Goehr wonders whether transcriptions might after all "not yield new works, even though orchestrations and arrangements do". In this context she cites a distinction between paraphrase and transcription offered by Alan Walker in his biography of Liszt: "The paraphrase, as its name implies, is a free variation of the original. The transcription, on the other hand, is strict, literal, objective". [24]

This is a difficult area, since Walker's definitions, alarmingly strewn with implicit value judgements, actually ride roughshod over a bewildering diversity of titles, genres and compositions. His two categories overlap in Liszt's practice to a considerable extent. There are paraphrases – for instance, those on Ernani and Rigoletto, or on Isolde's "Liebestod" – that ingeniously combine fidelity to a composer's sequence of events (albeit with startling alterations to detail, such as the famous augmented fourth smuggled into "Bella figlia dell'amore") with additional "virtuoso" figuration in such a way as to satisfy Davies's definition of a transcription without being ‘strict, literal, objective". [25] Indeed, part of the point of the transcription in Liszt's hands was to paraphrase orchestral and vocal colours in pianistic terms, as well as the reverse. But Busoni himself also had some thoughts on the question of variation that can be applied to Walker's use of the term. In the Entwurf he noted that even "Worshippers of the Letter" admired variation form, even though it produced arrangements "least respectful when most ingenious [...] So the arrangement is not good, because it varies the original; and the variation is good, although it 'arranges' the original’ (Entwurf: 24/86). Given the vagueness of the problem, it is legitimate to wish to have a clear distinction such as Walker proposes, but, in practice, his definitions are well-nigh unworkable in the face of an attitude such as Busoni's, which comes close to the "gloriously romantic conception of composers" that Goehr ascribes to Levinson. [26]

It is a striking facet of Busoni's continuation of the Lisztian tradition of transcription and paraphrase that he seldom subscribed to literal rendition of one composition in another medium. A transcription by Busoni was almost unthinkable without some degree of variation or "arrangement". The relationship of the chorus for Turandot's attendants in Act II of Busoni's opera and the Elegy for piano entitled Turandots Frauengemach shows how far transcription implied extensive reworking. The additional counterpoints supplied to the more literal Bachian sections in the Fantasia contrappuntistica are illustrations at the lower end of the scale. For Riethmüller, analysis of the act of transformation in the musical work is almost enough in itself; that transformation might actually be the essence and justification of the musical artwork in Busoni, however, goes beyond analysis. [27] By extension, a performance conceived as an act of transcription must presumably also have a sense of "arrangement" or variation. But in reality Busoni's aesthetic was far from being simply performance-based. One should not minimise the enormous reserves of technique and virtuosity required to perform such acts of transcription in performance; these raise the act of performance into the realms of a "transcendental" virtuosity (in Liszt's sense) that makes every individual performance a kind of "artwork". Busoni's aesthetic presupposed the intelligence and technique to deal with a species of super-artwork that touched on the eternal. It is difficult to know, in such a context, whether the concept of the musical artwork was weakened by its increasing divorce from form and genre through the endless possibility of transformation, or whether performance was correspondingly strengthened by placing the possibility in the performer's hands.

When considering the status of transcription in an essay that is slightly later than the first edition of the Entwurf, Busoni restated a number of his main points, in places virtually reproducing the original text. In addition, he noted that transcriptions were an essential stage in the education of both composer and executant. Busoni's own transcription for orchestra and piano of Liszt's Spanish Rhapsody was, on one level, part of his education as a player, part of the encounter which reshaped his technique. Essentially, Busoni subscribed to Davies's view that ‘transcription may have a pedagogical use’, though he could have stated this more strongly; one suspects that, for Busoni, life bore a strong resemblance to a Bildungsroman. [28] On another level, this transcription solved a problem of Liszt's original, which refused the pianist the possibility "of moving to the climaxes in a sufficiently brilliant light". Transcription was here an aid both to the composer's conception and to the individuality of the performer. The relationship between the two personalities is part of the key to Busoni's notion that any performance is, in a sense, also a transcription. It is a matching of minds suited to an era in which the nineteenth-century identity between composer and executant was no
longer guaranteed (Essence: 86). Such a meeting of minds appeared to Busoni to transcend the sometimes tawdry origins of the transcription. Thus he was aware that Liszt's Réminiscences de Don Juan (which is essentially a paraphrase with elements of transcription, in Walker's terms) sprang "from the ground of salon music and of opera pot-pourris", and was likely to give offence to "the strict purists", with whom he had a degree of sympathy. But the "symbolic significance" of the work as a kind of technical touchstone for pianists required, in turn, aesthetic study: a defining choice of adjective for the Busonian transcription (and also for Liszt; Essence: 92–93). Busoni's own commentary is too short for the full implications to be worked out, but it stresses that Liszt's decorative figuration is used essentially for characterisation, which is a general feature of the more elaborate and structurally ambitious of Liszt's transcriptions. In general terms, Busoni might have agreed with Davies's theory of transcription in accepting that there was some underlying authenticity at work in the act of transcribing, a form of being faithful to the spirit of the musical content rather than its letter. But, in practice, Busoni's delight in the multiple possibilities of transcription tended to blur the line between transcribing and editing, since the footnotes to his edition of Réminiscences de Don Juan present alternatives deriving from Liszt's version for two pianos that impress him as coming closer to the spirit of Mozart's original. The performer with finely developed aesthetic sensibilities is presumably at liberty to work these into his "transcription".

Busoni also had some thoughts, written in 1905, on the subject of Goehr's other problematic category, orchestration, where he proposes a distinction as troublesome as Walker's view of transcriptions and paraphrases. Expressing the hope that Richard Strauss's forthcoming revision of Berlioz's Grand Traité d'instrumentation et d'orchestration modernes "will avoid the fundamental defects of all instruction books on instrumentation up to the present", he locates the most important rule in a distinction between "absolute orchestration" and the orchestration "of what was originally only an abstract musical composition, or one conceived for another instrument. The first is the only genuine one, the second belongs to 'arrangements' [...]" (Essence: 34–36). This is clearly a minefield, and one rendered no less problematic by the quotation marks round "arrangements"; one might agree that these are necessary in view of the doubt that Busoni's whole aesthetic throws on the status of the work. Furthermore, the subsequent comments make it quite clear that claims to "absolute orchestration" are not to be taken at face value but conceal many examples of mere "arrangement" or even "transcription" of abstract compositions. Thus Busoni's ear detects "arrangement" rather than "absolute orchestration" in parts of the prelude to Die Meistersinger and in most of Beethoven, for whom "the musical idea and the poetic human value" transcend other matters. To confuse the picture further, he notes in the Entwurf that "most of Beethoven's piano compositions sound like transcriptions of orchestral works" (Entwurf: 24/86). Thus Beethoven's music tends, as a whole, to the abstract; but his orchestral works are "arrangements", and his keyboard works sound (at least to Busoni's imagination) as if they should perhaps have been orchestrated. In Busoni's picture of the musical work instrumentation's status veers alarmingly between an ideal of the orchestra as a "connected organism" (which seems to him to be but spasmodically, even childishly, present in works within the nineteenth-century repertoire) and an implicitly lifeless but not unskilful procedure that supports a certain type of musical abstraction. There is reason here to suppose that this abstraction is not the "Ur-Musik" glimpsed in patches of Beethoven and Schumann, but the "architectonic music" associated (in the Entwurf) with traditional formal schemata. But "absolute orchestration" would seem in Busoni's own compositional praxis to be something of an ideal that tolerates a certain flexibility. The interesting case of the Sonatina secunda comes to mind: presented as "absolute music", and then "arranged" to form much of the music for the First Prologue of Doktor Faust. But which is the work, and which the arrangement? Busoni effectively muddies the waters by describing the Sonatina as a sketch for the opera, as if it took on its proper form only in the latter (Essence: 72–73). Whether we are to imagine the orchestrated version of what is after all only part of the Sonatina as having some precedence depends ultimately on how we relate Busoni's concept of the musical artwork to the stage.

In general, Busoni's picture of the work of music depends more on the idea of an "Ur-Musik" than on the nineteenth century's idea of
"absolute music". It is the concept of an "Ur-Musik" that enables him to waive notions of Werktreue and to insist on transcription and composition as essentially the same activity. When Jim Samson refers to Busoni's "fetish" of performance, he expresses another facet of "Ur-Musik": that the dividing line between composition and performance is also blurred. [29]

There is a further anomaly here: that Busoni verged on a performance-led musical culture, while seeming to subscribe implicitly to the nineteenth-century cult of the musical genius, with its concomitant emphasis on the sanctity of the work. Alongside the downgrading of forms and genres went a belief in high art that, in Busoni's picture, is as emphatic as anything in the writings of his nineteenth-century predecessors, though it seems most deeply wedded to opera:

Arlecchino is less than a challenge and more than a jest. To feel it as a challenge is putting it at a disadvantage, and to represent it as something not to be taken seriously is to belittle it. In the end it stands almost "jenseits von Gut und Böse" [...] (with an inclination towards the good). And finally, it is an independent work of art.

Its incidental content of confession and instruction is not important enough to cross the path of what is artistic or to turn it away from that path. As a work of art it is sufficiently aristocratic to be able to claim a line of ancestors which makes it legitimate. As a handicraft it belongs to the scores that are made carefully and fastidiously. Is it pleasing? Has it significance? It endeavours to unite both excellences in the way proposed by the director of the theatre in the prologue to [Goethe's] Faust (Essence: 68).

In this essay on his comic opera some of Busoni's objectives for a stage work at least become clear. Although the reference to the opera's "content of confession and instruction" is presented half-apologetically, there is often a strong hint of the didactic when Busoni talks about music and the stage: partly as if opera were an initiation into an arcanum; partly as if it were a species of moralising, or at least a means of avoiding the sensual. Pedigree is important, both in the musical and the literary sense (where E. T. A. Hoffmann is the most obvious ancestor in this case, besides the commedia dell'arte). Pedigree implies tradition, although this is a pedigree of the spirit, a subscription to the aristocracy of art. And fastidiousness of workmanship is a virtue, possibly incidental but not to be despised.

After this, it is hardly surprising that the performer is also bound by certain requirements that limit the experience of performance in a comparably severe way. In addition to technique, "the great artist must necessarily have an unusual intelligence and culture". Education must be a matter of more than just musicianship, and to this must be added a list of requirements that include Schumann's "poetry" and a good taste that may be interpreted as the performer's equivalent to the composer's fastidiousness of craftsmanship (Essence: 80–81).

Even if individual works did not, or could not, approach the "Ur-Musik", they were conditioned by its essential "oneness", on which Busoni repeatedly laid stress. In this idea he reclaimed absolute music for himself, purged of the "architectonic"; for its essential quality was that "Music remains, wherever and in whatever form it appears, exclusively music and nothing else" (Essence: 1). It was characterised only by content, i.e. invention and atmosphere, and quality, i.e. form and shape. This served to downgrade such transient factors as form, purpose and sound medium. It may be objected that in this classification form leads a charmed life, being expelled from one list only to reappear in another, but this is another example of Busoni's distinction between "architectonic forms" and the "form" that is appropriate and unique to each composition. It is clear that Busoni is here thinking historically and expressing a hope for a future in which it would no longer be necessary to insist on the distinctness of church music, programme music and theatre music. As in Bach's works, there would only be small fluctuations in style dependent on the instrument chosen for the realisation.

It is impossible, in this context, to submit a full study of the path that leads from the individual musical work to the super-work of the musical stage envisaged by Busoni, in which forms and genres would be reborn in the context of a curiously austere and chaste form of drama from which Beethovenian rhetoric and Wagnerian "lasciviousness" had been purged. But a question that ought to be addressed is: why were the various studies for such works as Arlecchino and Doktor Faust necessary to Busoni? They seem to have been, essentially, rehearsals of "themes and styles" appropriate to ‘stimulation, compass and atmosphere". Busoni also acknowledged the need to "mould musically independent forms"; but a significant point is that most of the pieces that provided thematic material cannot truly be said to have pointed the way to complete formal structures in the opera (Essence: 72–73). In Walker's terms, the relationship between study and stage-work is more akin to paraphrase than to transcription. Even the Sarabande that provides the summation of the mystical-magical side of the work was shorn of a substantial episode, as if Busoni were making a sharp distinction between what was appropriate for the concert-hall, where the thematic and tonal implications of various kinds of thirds-chains could be worked out in greater detail, and the "Symphonic Intermezzo" of an opera. The accompanying Cortège, too, was radically transformed from a continuous piece into framing and continuity music for a scene. Busoni's studies, however much their designation and purpose may seem subservient to the grand constellation of Doktor Faust, sustain the rôle of independent, self-contained and creatively original concert pieces rather well.

At the very least, Busoni worshipped (his own word) form, if not architectonics and genres, and his aesthetic of stage music was dominated by the need to restore forms and individual numbers, albeit of a newly created or recreated kind. Yet critical appreciation of form in Busoni's stage work has usually hinged on a kind of degenerate form, in which the true essential was style. Dent makes the point succinctly when paraphrasing Busoni to the effect that opera could accommodate all styles as necessary. [30] Accordingly, such compositional studies as the Second Sonatina, the Sarabande und Cortège, and the Nocturne symphonique are attempts to find musical styles appropriate to certain types of dramatic situation. Thus, for Busoni, form was an aspect of quality, but forms became aspects of atmosphere and, by extension, content, following his schema in Wesen und Einheit der Musik. In this essay Busoni subscribes in tentative fashion to what was later to be Dahlhaus's view: that history becomes the substance of works. Even where compositional studies do not exist to help us define scenes and episodes, it is usually possible to discern in Busoni's structuring of Doktor Faust a stylistic or generic fingerprint that operates as a musical-dramatic signifier. In a sense, Busoni's view that music was essentially one, so that such categories as "court music" and "church music" were meaningless, was a preparation for the subservient role that forms were to play in the super-form of Doktor Faust.

In Busoni's aesthetic some of the properties of the musical artwork would seem to become its material, a conclusion that some analysts have confirmed. Céléstin Deliège has made this point in a suitably concise way by suggesting that, while Busoni's music as a whole tends towards the rhapsodic, in Doktor Faust we are presented not with a thematic rhapsody but a "rhapsody of styles". [31] In this analysis the ambiguous Phrygian modality of the opening Symphonia may suggest "the metaphysical colour" of the whole work; and this is the first of a series of stylistic parallels offered by Deliège that contain examples plucked from Busoni's contemporaries (including composers of the Second Viennese School) and assorted predecessors, such as (unnamed) sacred polyphonists of the sixteenth century. Analysis of Busoni has, in general, subscribed to the investigation of signs and topoi, while avoiding the immense problems of generalising about style and structure in a composer with a pronounced scorn for lawgivers and a unique attitude to tonality; Riethmüller's concern with the chorale is symptomatic of this. [32] But analysis is inevitably still conditioned by the concept of the musical artwork, which Busoni weakened but did not abandon. In Dahlhaus's picture of the decline of genres and structures a notable element is the category of the work-in-progress, in which "the goal [...] is of virtually no importance compared with the manner in which it is pursued." [33] Just as Busoni, at the end of his life, tended to move towards the notion of creation as discovery, so his goals grew larger. In the Entwurf he came to the conclusion that, in order to realise an aesthetic of liberty, it might be necessary to leave Earth; but in defiance of this seeming impossibility he noted that such a pilgrim alone might perhaps succeed (Entwurf: 44/97). This is also one sense of the ending of Doktor Faust. But Doktor Faust was still intended to be finished as a witness to the pilgrimage. If the work-in-progress emerges from its composition history, this was not through Busoni's desire or intention. The various studies that it generated remained "works as transcriptions", even though, contrary to Davies's prescription, the work that they transcribe was not yet complete – and achieved completion only through the work of editors.

[1] Carl Dahlhaus, Esthetics of Music, trans. William Austin, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982, p. 15.

[2] Albrecht Riethmüller, Ferruccio Busonis Poetik, Mainz, Schott, 1988, p. 13. All translations from the original German are by the present author unless otherwise stated.

[3] Bojan Bujic, Music in European Thought 1851–1912, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988, p. 368.

[4] Ferruccio Busoni, The Essence of Music and other Papers, trans. Rosamund Ley, New York, Dover, 1957, p. 19 (abbreviated hereafter as Essence). This collection contains most of Busoni's important essays, as well as some passages that belong to editions of the Entwurf later than that of the standard English translation (see below, note 7).

[5] Lydia Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 2.

[6] Bujic (1988), p. 368.

[7] Ferruccio Busoni, Entwurf einer neuen Ästhetik der Tonkunst, Hamburg, Karl Dieter Wagner, 1973, p. 11; I have used this edition of the 1916 text throughout but followed the English translation of Dr. Th[eodore] Baker in Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music, "Three Classics in the Aesthetic of Music", New York, Dover, 1962; here pp. 76–77. This standard translation, however, follows the edition of 1911 and does not correspond exactly with the text and layout of 1916. Further references in the present essay will be given in the form Entwurf, followed by the relevant page numbers in the German edition and the English translation.

[8] Hans Pfitzner, "Futuristengefahr", in Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 1, Augsburg, Filser, 1926, pp. 185–223; see also Peter Franklin, The Idea of Music, London, Macmillan, 1985, pp. 124–30, and Fedele D’Amico, "L’utopia di Ferruccio Busoni e il Doktor Faust", in Il flusso del tempo. Scritti su Ferruccio Busoni, ed. Sergio Sablich and Rossana Dalmonte, Milan, Unicopli, 1985, pp. 267–71.

[9] Riethmüller (1988), pp. 159 and 185.

[10] Bujic (1988), p. 368.

[11] Jerrold Levinson, "What a Musical Work is“, Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 77 (1980), pp. 5–28, at pp. 9, 14, 19 and 26.

[12] Riethmüller (1988), p. 157.

[13] Bujic (1988), p. 368.

[14] A somewhat different perspective on this theme in Busoni is found elsewhere in Dahlhaus: Foundations of Music History, trans. J. B. Robinson, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982, pp. 7–8.

[15] That "an impromptu performance" might also be a transcription is conceded by Stephen Davies in a disclaimer whose implications he leaves aside: "Transcription, Authenticity and Performance", British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol. 28 (1988), 216–27, at p. 216.

[16] Nicholas Wolterstorff, Works and Worlds of Art, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1980.

[17] Goehr (1992), p. 45, paraphrasing Levinson (1980), p. 9; see also Levinson, ibid., p. 7.

[18] Friedrich Nietzsche, Also sprach Zarathustra, Munich, Goldmann, 1979, pp. 160–76.

[19] Nietzsche (1979), p. 128.
Busoni took the trouble, in "Vom Wesen der Musik" (an essay of 1924), to write out the whole passage with which this sentence begins, and appended a commentary. France's text plays with the problem of succession by using metaphors taken from cosmology.

[20] Renée Cox, "Are Musical Works Discovered?", Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 43 (1984–85), pp. 369–73.

[21] Levinson (1980), pp. 27–28.

[22] Goehr (1992), pp. 60–63.

[23] Davies (1988), p. 217.

[24] Alan Walker, Franz Liszt, vol. 1: The Virtuoso Years 1811–1847, London, Faber, 1983, p. 167.

[25] Davies (1988), p. 217.

[26] Goehr (1992), p. 62.

[27] Riethmüller (1988), p. 165.

[28] Davies (1988), p. 220.

[29] In this volume, p. 126.

[30] Edward J. Dent, Ferruccio Busoni, reprint, London, Eulenburg, 1974, p. 305.

[31] Céléstin Deliège, "Limiti razionali di un’estetica della libertà", in Il flusso del tempo. Scritti su Ferruccio Busoni, p. 273.

[32] Riethmüller (1988), pp. 127–65.

[33] Carl Dahlhaus, "Plea for a Romantic Category: The Concept of the Work of Art in the Newest Music", in id., Schoenberg and the New Music, trans. Derrick Puffett and Alfred Clayton, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1987, p. 211.