Born to a family of musicians (mother, pianist; father, clarinetist) he studied piano and music from his childhood, debuted as a pianist at seven and, at 12, wrote a concerto for piano. He studied composition in Graz and settled in Berlin definitively in 1894 where he lived, with a few brief absences, until his death in 1924.
He died in his house number 11, Viktoria-Luise-Platz. There is a commemorative plaque that reads, Musiker, Denker, Lehrer (musician, thinker, teacher). And effectively it is in these three directions that his teaching and Busonian art effectively developed. As a theorist he championed and sought out ‘a new classicism', one that was open to the future but did not relinquish tonality. His continual study of the instrument of Bach and of Lisztian technique made Busoni one of the greatest pianists of all times. His transcriptions of Bach
for the piano (from the originals for harpsichord, organ, violin) are famous; his activity as performer and teacher (people with names like Guido Agosti figured among his students) is too, and his studies of the mechanics of the instrument lead to the introduction of a third petal on the Steinway, the sostenuto pedal.
Among his works of note are: the Sonata per violino e pianoforte of 1896, the one that Busoni himself considered his first real success (composed when he was 20 years old); the Concerto per pianoforte, orchestra e coro maschile of 1904, which was a considerable break with tradition; many pieces for piano (in addition to the transcriptions of Bach
, the paraphrasing, the Sei sonatine (1910-1920) and Stücke, op. 33b (1896).
Busoni also wrote four operas and their librettos: Die Brautwahl (The Bridal Choice), Turandot (which served as inspiration for Puccini), Arlecchino ovvero le finestre and Doktor Faust (incomplete).