Tuesday, December 1, 2015

SORABJI 100 Transcendental Studies, Volume 4

Composed between 1940 and 1944, Kaikhosru Sorabji’s 100 Transcendental Studies has a total duration of at least seven hours, making it by far the largest collection of concert études in the repertoire. Most of the pieces, in particular in the beginning of the cycle, are typical studies in the sense that essentially a single technical or structural idea is explored. But later on Sorabji inserts pieces that are on a much larger scale, and three examples of this are to be found on the present disc, the fourth in Fredik Ullén’s traversal of the set. The disc opens with En forme de Valse (No. 63), a 17 minute waltz in which Sorabji envelops his melodies with a jungle of serpentine embellishments, covering the entire keyboard. Release date: 5th May 2015

The closing study, No. 71 has a duration of 13 minutes, and was dubbed Aria by Sorabji, even though the piece in reality is highly polyphonic with a multitude of cantilenas, and with rhythmic structures that are sometimes remarkably complex. The most expansive piece, however, is No. 69, with a playing time of close to 26 minutes. Throughout this study, La punta d’organo, the note A appears as a pedal point. In the opening, it is heard as a softly tolling bell under falling chordal motives, without doubt an allusion to Ravel's Le Gibet from Gaspard de la Nuit.

But the piece grows into a vast, trance-like meditation, with the ever-present A appearing in different registers. All the studies in the cycle have had to wait for decades before their first performance – No. 69 was premièred as late as 2014 – and Fredrik Ullén is a true pioneer of this repertoire, both live and on disc. His endeavours have been duly acclaimed, for instance in BBC Music Magazine (‘Ullén… expounds Sorabji's studies with utter textural clarity and jaw-dropping virtuosity.’) and the German magazine Fono Forum (‘Ullén negotiates the music of Sorabji with stunning mastery.’)

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