Wednesday, October 28, 2015

SORABJI 100 Transcendental Studies, Volume 2

When Fredrik Ullén released the first instalment of Sorabji’s 100 Transcendental Etudes the excitement among reviewers was almost palpable. To take on this huge, near-mythic collection of super-virtuoso pieces in its entirety was described as ‘entering a snake pit’ as well as ‘a labour of love’. And the high expectations were met: in the words of the reviewer for American Record Guide, the disc gave ‘a taste of the incredible variety of music Sorabji can conjure up from the piano. It is to Ullén's credit that he can present each study on its own terms; whether in muted impressionist tones, sharp pointillistic flurries, or sheer demonic virtuosity.’

Sorabji composed the set of 100 Transcendental Studies, his second longest work with a total duration of at least seven hours, between 1940 and 1944. As Ullén remarks, with Study No. 26 Dolcissimo ‘we enter a different world. The first longer piece in the cycle is more of a fantasia or nocturne than an étude: a delicate piece of night music, with allusions to Debussy’.

The programme then takes in such varied pieces as the playful No. 29 A capriccio, the mysterious and eerie study in major sevenths, No. 30 Con fantasia and No. 36 Mano sinistra sempre sola – a grand étude for the left hand alone, which includes a fugue that, in Ullén’s own words, “in places borders on the physically impossible”.

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