When we began digitizing scores from our collections over a decade ago, one area of focus was works from the operatic repertoire existing in multiple versions. If opera is a genre ripe for reinterpretations – as novels, plays, libretti, and scores themselves are recycled and revisioned – both of this week’s scores are products of the resulting palimpsest of musical influences.

First, a vocal score of Busoni’s two-act number opera, Turandot:

Ferruccio Busoni. Original cover, Turandot. Mus 633.5.605

Ferruccio Busoni. Original cover, Turandot. Mus 633.5.605

[Turandot. Vocal score]. Turandot : eine chinesische Fabel nach Gozzi in zwei Akten / Worte und Musik von Ferruccio Busoni; Klavierauszug mit Text von Philipp Jarnach. Leipzig: Brietkopf & Härtel, [c1918]. Mus 633.5.605.

Although it premiered in 1917 as a double-bill with Arlecchino (link to digitized vocal score), Turandot has its origin in incidental music composed over a decade earlier for Carlo Gozzi’s 1762 play of the same title. Writing in a 1911 issue of Blätter des Deutschen theaters devoted to the play, Busoni describes his composition: “I have employed exclusively original oriental motives and forms and believe I have avoided the conventional theatre exoticism.”1 These themes were themselves taken from examples of Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian music published in August Wilhelm Ambros’ Geschichte der Musik, as well as the English song “Greensleeves”.2

Our second work is a full score of Franz Schreker’s Das Spielwerk:

Franz Schreker. Leise's final lullaby, from Das Spielwerk. Mus 800.42.615

Franz Schreker. Leise's final lullaby, from Das Spielwerk. Mus 800.42.615

[Spielwerk]. Das Spielwerk: Mysterium in einem Aufzug / von Franz Schrecker. Wien: Universal-Edition, c1921. Mus 800.42.615

The simultaneous Frankfurt and Vienna premieres of Das Spielwerk und die Prinzessin (link to digitized vocal score) in 1913 had not been a success, thanks in part to a hostile reception by the Viennese critic Julius Korngold. Schreker condensed and extensively reworked the opera in 1915 and 1916; his revisions include replacing the original overture with the prelude to the second act, and changing the ending from the fiery disaster of the first version to a lullaby sung by Leise to her deceased son. The new, one-act Das Spielwerk premiered in Munich in 1920, conducted by Bruno Walter.

-Kerry Masteller

1. Busoni, Ferruccio, “The Turandot Music,” in The Essence of Music and Other Papers, trans. Rosamond Ley (New York: Dover, 1965), 61, http://hollis.harvard.edu/?itemid=|library/m/aleph|007922884 (HOLLIS record).

Original text: “Ich habe ausschließlich originale orientalische Motive und Wendungen verwandt und glaube den konventionellen Theater-Exotismus umgangen zu haben.” Busoni, Ferruccio, “Zur ‘Turandot’-Musik,” Blätter des Deutschen theaters (Berlin), Jahrg.1 Nr. 6 (27 October 1911): 83-84, http://hdl.handle.net/2027/njp.32101018921104?urlappend=%3Bseq=99 (full text).

2. For an analysis of the sources used in the Turandot Suite, see Antony Beaumont, Busoni the Composer (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, c1985), 76-86, http://hollis.harvard.edu/?itemid=|library/m/aleph|000220150 (HOLLIS record).

See also August Wilhelm Ambros, Geschicte der Musik: mit zahlreichen notenbeispielen und musikbeilagen, Vol. 1, Die Musik des griechischen Alterthums und des Orients (Leipzig: F.E.C. Leuckart, 1887-1911), http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.FIG.GITEM:HW2LWX (full text).