It was in 1910 that I first heard Busoni play. He gave a recital that spring in the Wigmore Hall, then called the Bechstein Hall. I was working at the Royal Academy of Music where my professor assured his pupils that he intended to give no lessons on that particular afternoon as we should all learn much more by going to Busoni play. All I remember of that first performance was my amazement at the range of Buson's tone - when even the pianissimo chords seemed to sound in every corner of the hall - and my surprise at the extraordinary speed of some of the quick passages when the playing seemed too quick for individual notes to be heard and yet each note was clear and alive and vital. At that moment I wanted to find some help about how to play the piano and hearing that Busoni was to take a class for master pianists in Basel that summer. I determined to go. I did not consider myself a master pianist but the class was open to all who paid a certain sum of money; I managed to get a pupil of Busoni's to come and give me a lesson once a week for a month before I left London for I thought I had better know something about Busoni's outlook before joining his class. I had a programme ready to play, even though I could not play it as I wished, but I was ready for a recital in the autumn if all went well.
These lessons from Busoni's pupil were an illumination. My teacher would stop me over a difficult passage and say: But why do you play it with difficulty. If you find a passage difficult you must stop and think how to make it easy until you have done that it is useless to play it. Find out in each detail how to make it easy and then practise what you have found out. Anything else is a waste of time. This seemed to me a useful and original point of view and I began at once to alter my way of playing.
Having decided to go to Basel and having paid the fees, I found that the nicest place to live in was an hotel, Schloss Bottmingen, a few miles out of Basel. There was not much room in the hotel itself but there was a large annexe containing bedrooms. I took a room there, hired a piano in the town and settled down to work.
The hotel was an old castle with a moat. There were a few rooms for guests in the castle and the dining rooms were also there so we all met at meal times.
Soon after I had settled in, Busoni and his family party arrived and were given a suite of rooms in the castle. He had with him his wife, Gerda, his two sons, Benvenuto and Raffaello, and a young woman friend, Alice Arendt, who spent her time with the two boys, accompanying them on long walks and other youthful occupations and so leaving Mrs Busoni free to be with Busoni and his pupils.
The classes were held twice a week in the large hall of the Conservatoire. They began at 2 o'clock and lasted till about six. There were two grand pianos on the platform at one of which Busoni himself sat and he asked the pupils one after the other to sit at the second piano and play to him. The other pupils and many listeners who were allowed to be present each sat in their allotted seat in the hail and during each afternoon there was one break when we walked up and down the Conservatoire garden. Busoni also gave a recital each week.
I do not think Busoni ever taught what is called 'technique'. I think that he felt that the way you moved your hands and arms so as to play with ease and certainty was something that each person must find out for himself. Egon Petri, who was Busoni's best known and probably most gifted pupil, found out for himself through long years of thought and experience how it was possible to use one's hands and arms with complete ease and control. It was by being often with Busoni, talking with him and hearing him play that Petri became so much Busoni's pupil.
Busoni did once say to me that I must not lift my thumb from the piano, and this was useful advice and a point I had never considered. And Petri told me he had once heard Busoni say Man muss tief spielen - meaning no doubt that one must play to the bottom of each note to gain full control but except for these two remarks I never heard of Busoni giving any what we should call technical advice. I think with him the technical side of playing and the music of what was played were inextricably mixed tagether. The object of practising the piano was to gain such complete control that one could reproduce on the piano as nearly as possible all that one imagined in the music and, as one's imagination developed and one thought of new beauties and new interest in each piece of music, so one demanded new powers in one's playing. Technique in this sense develops with one's knowledge and powers of imagination. The fundamental freedom and certainty underlying all playing must be developed by each person for himself; this must be done far more completely for this technique, which really becomes part of the music, than it does for what most people mean when they talk of technique-by which they mean facility in playing scales, runs, trills, octaves, etc.
What Busoni did, however, show his pupils was the line of musical interest running through each composition. He felt that each piece as it was played must be musically interesting from beginning to end. It had as it were a golden thread running through it which must never slacken or be broken, and the player must show that he could keep this line of interest unimpaired from beginning to end of the piece. I think this was one of the traits in Busoni's own playing which made it so vivid and alive, but it led superficial critics to malign his playing and call it unfeeling, because feeling in long stretches of music is more far-reaching and needs much more concentration for its appreciation than the short crescendos and rallentandos that make up what most people appreciate. The moving quality of individual bars and passages as all there in Busoni's playing but it was combined with the wider interest of the unending vitality of the whole piece. To listen to the whole as well as to the parts needs more responsive effort front the listener, and critics who could not or would not give such listening accused Busoni of being intellectual and unfeeling, wherein they were quite wrong. What he gave was feeling of a more far-reaching quality, and I am sure that it was feeling that mattered to Busoni: his intellect was but the servant to his feeling for what was beautiful and worthwhile. Our lessons with him in Basel were not like ordinary piano lessons; gradually he made friends with us and some of the pupils were asked to supper parties in a restaurant in the town where Busoni went after the class. To these parties came all sorts of friends of his who visited Basel to see him. It was often difficult to follow the conversation that went on; at least it was for me, for my knowledge of German and Italian was not very great, and Busoni talked with all his friends in four languages with equal ease.
While we were in Basel we heard a little of Busoni's own compositions, for the town gave a special concert, at which Egon Petri played the piano concerto. We also heard a few of the short pieces for piano solo, 'sonatines' as Busoni called them. At first I think most of his pupils found this music rather strange in sound.
I know I did. It was a kind of sound I had never heard before and it was only later on as I got to know this piano music well that I realised how lovely the sounds were. For Busoni did use all sorts of combinations of new sounds and I realised gradually how right Saint-Saëns had been when, in writing about music in some works that he edited, he had said that in modern music so much depended on the quality of the sound with which it was played. This is an undoubted truth, for many of the chords and passages used in 20th-century music could sound harsh and discordant if played loudly or roughly, whereas played softly and gently the sounds make a moving atmosphere of unimagined beauty.
I remember one or two special occasions in Basel. Those of us who had not known Busoni before heard and saw very little of him in the hotel, but I did once hear him begin to practise the piano. It was quite unlike any practising I had ever heard. He played one note and repeated it gently with an increasingly beautiful quality of sound until having apparently made the sound that he wanted he begin to play some passages of notes.
I also remember one occasion a few days before the end of the course when a fire broke out in the annexe where so many of us were living. Our rooms were suddenly invaded by soldiers carrying the furniture and our belongings on to the grass outside. There was a great deal of noise and shouts of Hab Acht, Hab Acht ('Take care, take care') and we all stood and watched the flames and saw the huge beams from the roof fall red hot into the moat where they made a tremendous splash and soon became blackened in the water. This happened one evening and there was a class next day. Some of the pupils seemed to think that the fire was an excuse for anything, but not so Busoni. A fire was no reason why a pupil should not play his best, and he conveyed this to us most clearly.
Another occasion I remember was a supper party given at the end of the course to Busoni and all his pupils. This was a great occasion and Busoni sat at the head table surrounded by the notabilities of Basel and we, as members of the class, sat at other tables ranged round the room. To me it seemed as if that supper party went on for hours, which in actual fact it did, and I quite enjoyed chattering to the other pupils round me during the hour long intervals between each course. What I remember very distinctly about that evening was that at one moment in the proceedings Busoni rose from the table and left the room. After a considerable interval and much speculation as to what had happened he returned quite quietly and sat down again. I heard afterwards that while sitting there at supper he had remembered that a former pupil of his, a man whom he had known for years, was leaving next day for America and it had suddenly occurred to Busoni that this pupil might not have all the money he needed; so Busoni left the ha!l and went to make sure that all was well before he returned to continue the festivities.
During those weeks in Schloss Bottmingen I think we all realised how kind Busoni was. We did not often see him, but he and his family had to pass through the dining-room to the special balcony overlooking the moat where they had their meals, and as he went through the room he would talk and laugh with the pupils already there: on the occasion of one of the English pupils' birthday she found written on the tablecloth beside her plate in large pencilled letters 'Happy returns of the day. F.B.'
I think we all realised also something of Busoni's constancy and sincerity. His certainty made it easier for us to play our best, and his interest in all we did made us more confident and helped us forget our nervous fears. He gave us a sense of security and there is no doubt that he surrounded himself with an atmosphere of certainty about what mattered and what did not matter.
At last the class in Basel came to an end. Busoni and his family and some of the pupils moved to Berlin and after a short interval in London I too spent three months there.
Gerda Busoni found me rooms where I could live and have a piano for practising and I often saw Busoni in his flat in Victoria Luisa Platz.
The flat was at the top of a tall apartment house and the Busonis had the two top floors. The highest floor of all I never saw but the one below had lovely big rooms. I remember the large windows with their hangings of dull purple coloured net and the furniture, most of which was golden coloured and made of what we call satinwood. The walls and the carpet if I remember right were grey, and I had an impression of gold and grey everywhere.
While I was in Berlin Busoni gave eight recitals of works by Liszt to commemorate the centenary of Liszt's birth. Soon after the last of these recitals I went one afternoon to the Busoni flat. I found him sitting in a round carved wooden armchair in his library, a quiet room lined with bookshelves. There were only a few friends in the room and he sat silent for some time and then said quietly 'I was afraid'. When one of us asked to know more about this he explained 'I was afraid for there were so few notes' and then we gradually understood that he was speaking of the last Liszt recital when he had played the third Année de Pèlerinage. The pieces in this third Année are seldom played, indeed I have never heard anyone but Busoni play them. Some of them are extremely simple and indeed bare. They have none of the cascades of ornaments which give an atmosphere of entrancing sound to so many of Liszt's piano works. They have no such technical difficulties and so great is the simplicity of the few notes they contain that only a pianist of marvellous feeling and skill can play those notes with effect.
That was one thing I remember most clearly about Busoni's playing, the way in which he could make a few simple notes sound most moving. I shall always think of the way he played Beethoven's Emperor concerto, with the wonderful pause before the last movement: noone in the hall could feel that the music had stopped but only that we were all breathlessly expectant for what was coming. That was indeed something peculiar to Busoni that he could make the interest of the music sound, as it were, even through silence.
I went to many concerts in Berlin at which Busoni played and I remember several other occasions in his flat in Berlin, some when there were parties - at which I met many of his friends - and some when he and his family were alone. One evening when many friends were gathered there the lift broke down and Busoni himself went down to the ground floor to help an elderly lady up the long flights of stairs. After he and his companion had come into the flat I was standing near him and asked him: 'Did you not find that very tiring?' 'No', he said. 'I have learned how to put my strength where I want it'.
I have read in books and articles about Busoni that he was always surrounded by a crowd of young women, but this is very far from the truth as I remember it. I remember clearly people of all kinds whom I met frequently at his house and there certainly seemed to be as many men as women. One regular visitor was a German banker and his wife, and many pupils and friends flocked round him. There was no doubt that after hours of strenuous mental work Busoni enjoyed as a relaxation the company and conversation of people of all kinds and of all ages who laughed and talked around and with whom he could exchange amusing stories and light hearted conversation. It was his one great form of repose after the concentrated work that absorbed his mind and so much of his time.
When I returned to London I saw him often at Monico's restaurant in Piccadilly. He very seldom went to a private house but could usually be found having supper at Monico's. Knowing this, each evening his friends would go there to see him. Walking up the long room you would find Busoni seated at a table having a meal. More tables would be brought up to his as more friends arrived, until there might be an immense long table surrounded by his friends each ordering his own meal and many of them sitting near enough to him to hear his conversation.
In London I remember many lovely concerts. One special memory I have of his playing the Hammerklavier sonata in Queen's Hall. The slow movement was so moving that several people round me were in tears.
Those of us who knew him used to go to the artists' room, sometimes at the Albert Hall when he was playing solos in a mixed programme. He did not enjoy concerts of that sort and seemed like a caged lion walking up and down and waiting until it was time for him to appear again. Or we would 20 to the Queen's Hall, either for a recital or for an orchestral concert. After one such concert when some of his own compositions had been performed I went there and he spoke to me in a corner of the room. He was evidently much moved though he looked outwardly calm. I felt as if I was naked in front of all those people he said. Indeed what he wrote was so much a part of himself that it was as if he had laid his heart bare before his audience.
Other concerts I remember one rather unusual one when he conducted an orchestra in the Palladium and they played, if I remember rightly, a symphony by Mozart. So great was the effect he made that we seemed to have been caught into another world, and so great was our excitement after it that we tore down Regent Street at a furious speed trying to work off our uplifted spirits by quick movement.
Once I remember going to a rehearsal in a small hall high up in a building next door to the Queen's Hall, where Henry Wood had suggested to Busoni that there should be a rehearsal of his Berceuse. an orchestral work written after the death of his mother. Busoni and some of his pupils were there and presently when Henry Wood's part of the rehearsal was over the orchestra played the Berceuse with Henry Wood conducting. It did not go well and the orchestra did not like it. Henry Wood and Busoni talked together for a moment and then it was agreed that the orchestra should play it once again with Busoni himself conducting. This time, the sounds, though strange and new, were magic. It seemed as if overtones wove themselves together in the air and made new notes and new expression. It was soft, it was lovely, and at the end the orchestra were all tapping their desks and applauding the composer.
It seems to me that much of the music Busoni wrote is like sounds from fairyland, and it is only when played with a particular quality of sound that the real beauty and meaning of the music becomes clear. If his music is played harshly it loses its effect and its power.
I heard Busoni play in other towns: in Cambridge and in Paris. In Paris he gave a wonderful performance of the Liszt sonata: it was like the history of a life unrolling in front of us. In Manchester and other northern towns he also played and sometimes gave lessons to old pupils, and I remember one pupil telling me that she had a lesson one day and played very badly. Busoni considered the matter for a moment and then asked her what was the matter. Finding she was perturbed about something which he felt he could put right for her, he went out with her and saw the person about whom she was concerned then they returned to their music with her mind at peace.
On one visit to London he stayed with Maud Allen in Regent's Park and it was a pleasure to see him there. He liked the park and one could often find him there with time to talk. Usually when in London he stayed in an hotel and I remember seeing him at the Waldorf in Aldwych sitting with a small suitcase on a chair in front of him. Such a suitcase he called his working table and at it he wrote when away from Berlin and his own quiet room. For as far as I could see he was never idle. There was so much that he wanted to do and no day could be thrown away.
I have heard and read so much about what Busoni is supposed to have said about other musicians and I am sure that from what I knew of him what is said is inaccurate. I have been told that Busoni disliked Wagner, that he had no use for Schumann and thought rather poorly of Schubert also that he did not admire Puccini or Toscanini.
For Wagner's gifts Busoni had the greatest admiration and so much did he admire the score of Parsifal that he used to carry a copy about with him. Busoni did however feel that the way in which people in Germany regarded Waver as the inspiration of the music of the future was wrong. Wagner was complete, and new ideas would not come from him but from other composers such as Liszt. As regards Schumann, though Busoni did not play his music in public in later life, he had a great affection for it. He wrote with appreciation of his symphony in D minor, and I heard from an old friend that she once went to St James' Hall with Busoni to hear a recital of Schumann songs. Busoni went because he remembered their beauty, and when he heard them again he was quite overcome.
Busoni admired Toscanini and was so attached to him that whenever he could spend an evening with him he did. He also admired Puccini's great gifts, though he did sometimes feel that they might have been put to more worthy use than in Madam Butterfly; no doubt many people agree with him in that.
Busoni had a real respect for the personality of anyone he met - a respect that never failed. I remember a well-known musician coming into Monico's one day when only two of Busoni's pupils were with him there, friends whom he knew and trusted. This musician also came in and joined Busoni and spent his time boasting of all that he had done; nobody else was able to speak. When at last the man left Busoni was heard to say with exasperation The man is a fool, which in that instance he had been. However, having expressed his opinion of what had occurred Busoni turned to other topics and in the course of conversation told us what work this recent guest had done and wherein his work had been good and valuable; so we who had heard Busoni's outburst knew that it was not his judgement of the man as a whole, for he respected much that he had done. I do not think he would have expressed his feelings at all except to two old friends, who could be trusted not to misunderstand him.
If I were asked to mention one trait in Busoni which will always remain with me as characteristic of him it was his terrifying simplicity for he was absolutely simple and direct, and it is terrifying to be with someone who finally holds everything up to the light of what is true and worth while. Complaints of petty annoyances in your life seem unworthy when you are reminded of the extraordinary everyday happiness you possess and pay no attention to.
But as long as you were prepared to say only what you really meant, and were ready to see all round a subject, he was the most simple and kind of friends and his whole mind was ready to consider any question and show you the right way to regard it.
He was of all people one of the most constant and consistent. His earliest musical efforts were as a composer and to the end of his life composition was what mattered most to him. On that point he never wavered. He attained complete mastery of the piano (and called piano playing 'a minor art') and he used his playing to make money for his family and to give himself time to compose.
If he gave his interest to anyone he gave it for always. Young and old alike were treated as real friends for whom he would do all he could. spending time and effort if it could help them. while he welcomed their interest, their affection and their gaiety.
There is no doubt that as a musician he was a pioneer. Not only did he bring new ideas into piano playing but new sounds into composition. But he was interested not only in what he himself did. He gave a series of concerts in Berlin introducing new music that had not much chance of being heard. Looking at the list of composers he chose we see name after name that later became world-famous; Busoni recognised the value of their work while they were still unknown, and produced their compositions though the critics wrote angrily against his programmes. But Busoni's touchstone of what was real and valuable was sure.
I think there is no doubt that lie had a great effect on modern piano playing, though not all pianists try to expand their sense of beauty and interest and their power to express their increased appreciation. It was from Busoni that pianists have learned that piano playing can largely be arranged in passages that lie under the hand not in awkward stretches.
As regards the new sounds in his compositions. I am told by people who understand such matters far better than I do that the new sounds Busoni uses were used by him years before they were employed by later composers renowned for their originality al these new effects used by Debussy. Bartok and others were used many years earlier by Busoni.
Busoni felt there was much new music still awaiting expression and many new sounds to be produced, and he showed new ways in which this could be achieved. To him beauty was unending. Each work he wrote was but opening a door to new sounds and new emotions, so that each new composer if he followed Busoni's example could make his own new emotional effects with simplicity and certainty. Busoni did not found a school nor did he feel he had completed anything. He only showed others how to open doors to new sounds, new expression and new beauty.
I think few people have appreciated how for Busoni there was an almost unexplored world of music beyond the confines of ordinary consciousness, music heard as it were in the world that lies between sleeping and waking, a magic world. I was interested to find an appreciation of this same world of feeling in the art of the theatre, in Jean Barrault's account of his own life and work. It is a world wherein E. T. A. Hoffmann too had certainly walked.
Busoni occupied so unique a position that it might seem that he could have spared no time over his friends' and pupils' affairs: but no friend or pupil could ask his help without his giving time and thought with complete generosity. And though meeting his simplicity was like coming up against reality when all you had expected was the ordinary exchanges of everyday life, yet it was only frightening in that it was unaccustomed. It contained warmth and sincerity, and once you accepted it it lost some of its frightening quality. You had only to be simple and sincere yourself. If you had any unsolved problem your thoughts turned to Busoni, for he saw people and things as they really were, with the clear understanding of a great mind and with warmth of heart. And the advice he gave was always in accord with his clear sight and his warm good feeling.
The few records played by Busoni himself were made before the days of electrical recording and therefore have not the power of later recordings of the four that exist the Hungarian Rhapsody is certainly the nearest to his playing.
There are as yet  few satisfactory records of his compositions. Egon Petri has made a few and Gunnar Johansen (a pupil of Petri) played for a recorded version of the piano concerto - a record, however, which is not available in England. It is very much to be hoped that some company will get Petri to make more records - for he knows what the music demands - and also that Rosbaud - whom Mrs Busoni admires as an interpreter of her husband's orchestral works-will record some of them.