When Franz Liszt died, the world lost an innovative composer, mentor, and pianist. Although his influence did not die with him, few of his successors can claim to have walked in his footsteps – to have lived and taught in the same rooms – and to have shared many of his ideals. Ferruccio Busoni did just that when the Grand Duke Carl Alexander invited him to hold piano master classes in Weimar in 1900 and 1901, just as he had invited Liszt to do nearly two decades earlier (1881–1885).
This article shows how Liszt's activities in Weimar as Pedagogue and as Kapellmeister (1848–1861) became models for Busoni as he sought to position himself as a prominent ‘musical polymath’ at the turn of the century. Yet Busoni not only emulated Liszt, he also promoted him in an age when the older composer was considered of only tangential importance.
By producing authoritative editions of Liszt's music, and perhaps more significantly, by emulating Liszt's activities as a transcriber and composer, Busoni enhanced piano sonority while extending Liszt's ideas about the future of music. In that way, he shared attitudes associated with the Zukunftsmusik movement, and his outlook was rooted in Liszt's compositions, as opposed to Richard Wagner's. At the same time, he helped foster a lineage of young musicians who patterned their careers and music after Liszt.
Drawing on surviving memoirs, letters, scores, essays and concert programmes, this article thus explores Liszt's impact on Busoni and his mentees. It reveals a musician not only emulating Liszt, but also expanding upon his ideas and promoting them to others.