BV 284 - Kammerfantasie über Carmen

[Sonatina no. 6], 1920

Brightest among the many glittering facets of Busoni’s immortal genius shines his bold technique of musical transcription. His ability to use the music of others for his own purposes may derive from his early career as a virtuoso performer. His desire to bring the music of various instrumentations to a pianistic audience required him to sonically and formally rethink the original pieces in often iconoclastic ways. His sixth piano Sonatina is formally entitled Kammerfantasie über Carmen. The secondary manner in which the title credits Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera firmly places the creative task of composition in Busoni’s hands. The simplicity and humility of the label "Sonatina" and the qualifier "Chamber" (as opposed to "Concert") before "Fantasy" attempt to distance this work from its real parentage: the Lisztian opera paraphrase.

Busoni constructs the Sonatina in five sections using materials deliberately out of succession from their appearance in Bizet’s opera. In order of Busoni’s deployment, the original sources are as follows: Chorus act IV, “Flower Song” act II, “Habanera” act I, Overture to act I, “Fate” motif (heard at strategic points throughout the opera). Busoni pares down the sprawling drama of the opera to a concise framed dialogue between the characters Don José and Carmen- the former’s offer of love is grimly rejected by the latter in this “version” of the story. Composer and critic Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji marvelled at Busoni’s appropriation of meaning through this seemingly harmless potpourri of tunes- hardly an hommage to Bizet, he called the work "a psychical invasion in musical terms."

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Ferruccio Busoni • Pianist and Composer
Last update: Aug-22-2008