In 1886 Busoni studied with Carl Reinecke in Leipzig. There he
met a host of important musicians, including Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Mahler, and Delius. The following year he
visited Helsinki, where he met Sibelius. Shortly afterwards he
toured the United States, consolidating his reputation as a
In 1894 Busoni settled in Berlin, which except for the war
years was his home for the rest of his life. Busoni absorbed and
contributed to the progressive spirit of this city, renowned as a
centre of artistic excellence. In 1902 he organized a series of
orchestral concerts designed to promote the work of modern
composers; he premiered pieces by Bartok, Debussy, Delius, and Sibelius, as well as his own works.
The following year he started work on a Piano concerto,
which clearly shows the influence of Liszt. The piano part,
although fiercely difficult, does not rely on displays of
virtuosity and often takes a subordinate role to the orchestra.
The music's intensity becomes almost frenzied and culminates in
the introduction of a male voice choir in the final movement.
In 1907 Busoni published a forward-looking treatise entitled
Outline of a Sew Aesthetic of Music, in which he propounded
his idea of a modern but understandable style of composition. His
own work, unfortunately, was often badly received and denounced by
Berlin critics for its use of Italian rather than German
In the closing days of 1909 he set sail for the United States
once more, where he undertook a hectic schedule of concerts.
Despite this he found time to write another large-scale piano
work, Fantasia contrappuntistica. This takes the form of a
gigantic fugue (a highly structured musical form requiring great
compositional skill) modelled on Bach's Art of fugue.
In his last years Busoni became increasingly interested in the
stage and began work on a setting of Goethe's Faust. The
resulting intensely expressive and concentrated work, Doktor
Faust, attained a degree of spirituality and mysticism unique
in opera. The work was unfinished when Busoni died; but in 1925,
at a posthumous performance of a completed version, it was
revealed as embodying the struggle between tradition and
innovation that epitomized Busoni's life's work.