To most travellers, Empoli is simply the first place on the way from Florence to Pisa or Livorno. This town, of some 45,000 people, was the birthplace of Ferruccio Busoni, on 1 April 1866; and it does due honour to its son, the composer, pianist and musical thinker who occupies so personal and so critical a role in early 20th-century music.

Busoni in fact spent only his first months in Empoli; his family moved to Trieste, and he led a fairly peripatetic life, primarily in Germany and Austria and from 1894 mainly centred on Berlin, where he died in 1924. The house of his birth, in the central square of Empoli, is now the headquarters of the Centro Studi Musicali Ferruccio Busoni. The ground floor is a shop; the Centro Studi, a lively institute that fosters not only documentation and research but also performances and editions of his music, has its offices on the first floor.


The second floor of the Casa Busoni, a small museum, opened in 1976. In the front room, where he is believed to have been born, stands a piano, of Viennese origin, that was his. On display are photographs of his parents and his Swedish-born wife, a Busoni autograph manuscript (his Finnlandische Volksweisen, for piano duet) and facsimiles of others (including the Fantasia contrappuntistica), an original libretto of Doktor Faust, photographs of his studio and library, various letters and a bust. In the rear rooms is a library, including the collection, acquired in 1992, assembled by the musician and Busoni scholar Felice Boghen, with 20 unpublished letters between Busoni and his contemporaries and more than 200 from leading figures in early 20th-century musical life. There are more photographs here too, including one of Busoni at the harpsichord.

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