American Record Guide
Kaikosru Shapurji Sorabji: Piano Music Michael Habermann - NAXOS 571363 [3 CD] 198 minutes
By Alan Becker
This is a reissue of a British Music Society set first reviewed on these pages in September / October 2004. Jack Sullivan gave it a glowing review concluding with "Don't miss it."
My own responses to the English-Parsee composer range from wonderful to a possibly grueling slog. These highly perfurmed, dense and seemingly abstract essays are very difficult to play, often very difficult to listen to, and wildly brain challenging. I agree with Sullivan's drawing a parallel with "late Liszt and Scriabin", though that would only be a point of departure.
This set divides the selection of music into three parts: Early Works; Nocturnes; and Assertive Works. Sullivan likes the Noctures best of all, while I find rewarding discoveries in each category. Remember that these are not your father's nocturnes. CD 2 contains three of them reaching stentorian timings from around 20 minutes to a full half hour. None of this music is easily absorbed, but swimming in molasses was never an easy task.
Habermann deserves full accolades for his sympathetic performances and his technical skills. The sound varies from date and place of recording. While some are digital and others not, what reaches the ear is cause for little complaint. Habermann's notes are quite complete, but in very small print.
This is an excellent survey to get your feet wet in Sorabji's world. Just don't expect to fall in love with the first bite.
Copyright ©2015 by Alan Becker, all rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission