Sorabji: A Critical Celebration Edited by Paul Rapoport
Top 500 Reviewer: An Amazon.com Customer from Chicago
The scholarship on Sorabji is still in a state of infancy, yet this collection here is the first attempt at eradicating years of neglect. Sorabji had placed a ban on the public performance of his music, so this was a contributing factor to this neglect. But the music world has market designs, which doesn't help creators as recluse as Sorabji. There are focused and detailed essays here fascinating to read, almost like a time warp erased Sorabji's name from existence, only to be found now. If you are totally unfamiliar with his music, or have only heard isolated recordings, this collection will admirable fill in the blank and opaque spaces. Here you have writers who actually knew Sorabji during his lifetime, who corresponded with him, and were given reserved permission to play his work after an audition performance. If you are a pianist certainly the highlight here is Geoffrey Douglas Madge's interview with Paul Rapoport on the performing difficulties and experiences of the live performance of Opus clavicembalisticum. Wonderful how Madge discusses the timbre of different pianos he had to contend with on the threshold of a performance, as well as the sheer physical difficulty. But our minds are fixed where if something is done enough, this work in particular renders itself smaller in dimension the more one spends their time on its colossus length. Michael Habermann, who is a fine Sorabji pianist also gives a nice overview of the generative sources of the piano music, bringing his performing experiences. He discusses what represents the Sorabji sound, the source of his creations like Liszt, Alkan, Busoni, Godowsky, Medtner, Rachmaninoff, Szymanowski, Reger, Delius, Mahler and Ravel. Sorabji we learn detested the classical frame as an end in and of itself, where music is almost rendered preconceived beforehand, like a cook with a recipe. Instead he wanted his music to challenge him, to allow an emotive synergism to occur almost similar to a spontaneous combustion,where the various timbres and textures of the piano would find their own emotive life. Habermann traces the influence of these composers into the Sorabji piano language. Kenneth Derus is a fine scholar who knew Sorabji and offers a thought piece entitled Perigraph, which is an excursion into the comprehensibility, the perception of repetition, shape combinations, and what constitutes change in Sorabji's music. This was a lecture which I suspect has been transformed in structure. Derus has experience in the philosophic realm which informs his piece here. More Sorabji I hope, should be thought from this perspective, giving word combination associations as point of thought. Alistair Hinton, the current Archivalist of Sorabji (and a composer) also adds wonderful reminicences of his association with Sorabji which dated back to 1969. And the editor here, Paul Rapoport, also includes an interview which touches the important areas, Sorabji's ethnicity, also the seldom discussed symphonic poems. What also emits itself here is Sorabji's demeanor. Most thought he was irreproacable, a stubborn opinionated man, and he was, until he heard pianists play his work at his home giving them the seal of approval for performance. There are exhaustive lists of all Sorabji's works, with performance diaries of the piano works by the growing cadre of pianists. Also letters are reproduced to the writers here to and from Sorabji as well as music examples. Sorabji worked as a music critic, and he was a fascinating writer much like his music with a high dense vocabulary of words and images.
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