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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ferruccio Busoni's use of the sostenuto pedal : expansion of the pedalling technique González Alvarado, Edmundo Alejandro


This dissertation is a comprehensive examination of the use of the sostenuto pedal by Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) in the first Appendix of his edition of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (1894) and Mit Anwendung des III. Pedals (Steinway & Sons Sustaining-Pedal) (1923). Although Busoni notated the use of the sostenuto pedal in these two works, scholars have largely overlooked the significance of his groundbreaking pedalling techniques. To contextualize the historical significance of Busoni’s use of the sostenuto pedal in the history of the piano repertoire, I analyze the use of the sostenuto pedal in Consolation No. 3 and Danse des Sylphes by Franz Liszt (1811-1886), for Liszt was the only major composer who notated his use of the sostenuto pedal before Busoni. I then use these findings to discuss Busoni’s first Appendix and Mit Anwendung des III. Pedals (Steinway & Sons Sustaining-Pedal), which represent Busoni’s extensive use of the sostenuto pedal but has not been discussed fully in scholarly literature. To illustrate Busoni’s impact, I demonstrate that his use of the sostenuto pedal pre-dated similar pedalling techniques employed by twentieth-century composers, including Percy Grainger (1882-1961), Luciano Berio (1925-2003), and George Crumb (1929-). My research findings provide a contextualized explanation of Busoni’s pedalling techniques and identify his contributions to the development of piano playing. Grounded in the most up-to-date and authoritative research, I show that Busoni found new ways to prolong and release tones by using the sostenuto pedal. He developed the use of the sostenuto pedal from merely prolonging a pedal point, as Liszt did, to devising four new pedalling techniques: 1) he altered the customary sequence of sound production of the piano: attack, sustain, and release; 2) he enabled the performance of contrasting articulations and dynamics in multi-layered textures; 3) he prolonged pedal points and increased the clarity of individual layers within multi-layered textures; 4) he formed polychords. Busoni’s use of the sostenuto pedal, I argue, expanded the pedalling technique of the piano.

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