Thought of as early as 1917 and first played publicly by the composer in Wigmore Hall on 22 June 1920, the last of Busoni’s six Sonatinas—dedicated to Leonhard Tauber, old family friend and wealthy Parisian hotelier—was completed in March 1920. Busoni loved Paris, if not all its residents: ‘It is like a homecoming for me … to find life on the grand scale again … Here one is not asssessed according to one’s age or how much one spends, whether one is seen in the company of a lady or climbing into an automobile’ … ‘The golden light of these spring days has had an irresistible magic. The South vibrates in the air. And yet the indifferent faces of everybody one meets contrast unpleasantly with these palmy days. Truly: one could scarcely find less agreeable people anywhere’ (from letters to his pupil Philipp Jarnach, 10 & 22 March 1920).
Opening brightly in A major but closing darkly (and quietly) in the minor, the sixth Sonatina pays homage to Liszt—Busoni’s omega of the piano (to Bach’s alpha). Thematically, it is derived from (a) the opening chorus of Act III, Part ii, Allegro deciso; (b) Don José’s ‘Flower Song’, Act II, Andante con amore; (c) the Act I Habanera in its minor and major forms (here reversed), Allegretto tranquillo; and (d) the bustling ‘Arena’ Prelude to Act I Allegro ritenuto quasi Tromba (preceded by a related transition, Tempestoso). The last page, Andante visionario, plummeting a tonal world from F sharp (major/minor) to A minor, elegiacally combines the augmented-second exoticism of the gipsy Carmen’s ‘Fate’ motive with the chromatic descent of the Habanera.
from notes by Ates Orga © 1994