Busoni: Sonatina No. 1; Sonatina No. 2; Sonatina No. 3; Sonatina No. 4; Sonatina No. 5; Sonatina No. 6; Indianisches Tagebuch; Toccata

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COMPOSERS: Busoni
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Sonatina No. 1; Sonatina No. 2; Sonatina No. 3; Sonatina No. 4; Sonatina No. 5; Sonatina No. 6; Indianisches Tagebuch; Toccata
PERFORMER: Roland Pöntinen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 999 702-2
For Busoni, the title of ‘sonatina’ covered a multitude of musical forms and styles. The first of his six works of the kind is largely based on pieces from his collection called An die Jugend (To Youth); while the second – one of the composer’s most boldly individual pieces – is a spin-off from his preparatory work on the opera Doktor Faust. The last two sonatinas are both free transcriptions – the first of them adapted from a Fantasy and Fugue attributed to Bach, and the second a concert paraphrase on Carmen. As for the Indian Diary, it purportedly makes use of Native American melodies, though Busoni was understandably a good deal less taken with pentatonic tunes than Dvorák had been before him. More compelling, and one of Busoni’s best-known pieces, is the glittering Toccata of 1920.

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Pöntinen handles all this music with both virtuosity and seriousness of intent, and his disc is recommended to anyone wanting to explore this fascinating repertoire. It’s difficult, though, not to feel that Pöntinen’s playing remains a touch studio-bound. Certainly, his Carmen paraphrase doesn’t dispel lingering memories of John Ogdon in the same piece, and the Toccata has more vitality and exuberance in the live recording by Alfred Brendel (Philips). Misha Donat