KAKHOSRU SHAPURJI SORABJI (1892-1988): Concerto per suonare da me solo, e senza orchestra, per divertirsi.
Catalogue Number: 02I062
Description: "If I wanted to give anyone an idea of my music, I'd play the Concerto per suonare . . ." and if we wanted to suggest one CD that really proves what all the fuss is about, and why it's justified, this would be it. In this three-movement work, obviously in the mold of the Alkan Concerto for solo piano, Sorabji simply pulls out all the stops, bombarding the listener - and the pianist! - with non-stop tumultuous and extravagant virtuosity that appears to have flowed even more effortlessly from his pen here than usual. Avoiding the large-scale variation and fugal forms common in many of his multi-movement works, this piece instead places the textures and interchange of argument of a virtuoso piano concerto under the fingers of one player, in possibly the most ferociously bravura work of his entire output. This is Sorabji as Mephistopheles, gleefully conjuring a pan-demonium of pianistic phantasmagoria, and very obviously revelling in his compositorial craft. Composers dear to Sorabji may be glimpsed in fleeting cameos - Chopin studies, Liszt Années de pelèrinage, Rachmaninov, Alkan, Busoni - hinting both at a sophisticated yet broad sense of humor (incessantly present in Sorabji's writings, less frequently obvious in his music) and a serious intention to place himself in the company of these masters. In case this sounds like a pyrotechnical high-wire act of questionable substance, it should be noted that even amidst the most terrifying exhibition of transcendental piano writing in the outer movements, the level of musical inventiveness and effortless ingenuity with which Sorabji metamorphoses and constantly re-invents his material runs at a consistently high level throughout, and the rigorous control of structure binds the work into a miracle of concise expression which seems compressed, even at over an hour's duration. The central slow movement is a gorgeous combination of the composer's characteristic elaborate tropical-nocturne style (chronologically adjacent to Gulistan, the movement has much in common with Sorabji's finest essay in the genre) and the adamantine architecture of his quasi-orchestral (written 'orchestrally for the piano in terms of the piano') symphonic slow movements, as encountered in the symphonies for solo piano, and to which the Adagio from Opus Clavicembalisticum is a close relative. An exhilarating experience; on the evidence of this piece alone, Sorabji clearly stands among the most original and exciting composers of the 20th century. Jonathan Powell (piano).