Ferrucio Dante Michelangelo Benvenuto Busoni was born in Tuscany in 1866. He was a child prodigy at the piano, and began to compose before he was a teenager. Though his name could hardly be more Italian, his career took him far away, and mainly to the North. He studied in Graz and Leipzig; he taught in Helsinki, Moscow, and Boston; ultimately he settled in Berlin. Busoni’s career was both brilliant and spotty. He fought hard for new music and compositional experimentation, and imagined a future music far different from the core European system in which he had trained. This gave him no commercial advantage. But Busoni was influential as a teacher, as well. His students included Kurt Weill, Edgar Varese, and Frederick Loewe (My Fair Lady, etc.).
Busoni is most known for his immensely virtuosic piano transcriptions. His original music, while finely crafted, can be extraordinarily dense and heavy (his piano concerto, for example, is more than an hour long and features an offstage men’s choir). But the Albumblatt is light, with a sort of Art Nouveau curve to it – an autumnal melodic moment, written in the peace of Zurich, Switzerland, in 1916. Busoni died in 1924, and is buried in Friedenau, a neighborhood in southern Berlin, a stone’s throw from Marlene Dietrich.