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Kaikhosru SORABJI (1892-1988)
100 Transcendental Studies for piano: Nos. 26-43 (1940-44) (26. Dolcissimo [9:56]; 27. Staccato e leggiero a capriccio [2:57]; 28. Leggiero e volante [2:15]; 29. A capriccio [2:09]; 30. Con fantasia [4:36]; 31. Vivace assai [2:14]; 32. Legato possibile: quasi dolce [3:12]; 33. Vivace e brioso [4:42]; 34. Soave e dolce [4:11]; 35. (untitled) [2:17]; 36. Mano sinistra sempre sola [7:16]; 37. Riflessioni [3:54]; 38. Con fantasia [4:53]; 39. (untitled) [3:34]; 40. Moderato [3:09]; 41. (untitled) [3:40]; 42. Impetuoso e con fuoco ed energia [4:15]; 43. (untitled) [4:39])
Fredrik Ullén (piano)
rec. December 2005, July 2006, Nybrokajen 11, Stockholm.
BIS BIS-CD-1533 [76:18]

 

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Sorabji’s eighteen imaginatively masterly Transcendental Studies represented here are remarkable for their range and depth of character. Take the laboured and hardbitten triumph of No. 42 Impetuoso e con fuoco ed energia. It sounds like a “Hymn to Toil” - a title used to grand effect by Medtner whose music Sorabji greatly admired. The Mano sinistra is memorable for its slowly unfurling sunrise. Nos. 26, 35 and 43 are all trembling Debussian bells in a slow starry swirl or sometimes with a sinister accent as in 30. The sleepy nocturnal tinkling dreams of 13 (Riflessioni) and the untitled 41 contrast with the quirky-gawky Prokofievian Nos 27, 29, 37 and 39 and No. 38’s sauntering transformation into angularity. Delicacy is to the fore in No. 31 (Vivace assai) with its headlong martellato. No. 32’s Legato Possibile related to the dolcissimo achieved by John Ireland at his finest as is the very beautiful 34 Soave e Dolce. Sorabji also had a great deal of time for Ireland. No. 33 is a Vivace brioso whose stony triumphalism is touched with Rachmaninovian ecstasy in flight. There’s a dazzle of bells to be heard in Moderato (40) but its mood is anything but moderate.
 
This disc is the very acceptable sequel to the 100 Transcendental Etudes nos 1-25 by Fredrik Ullén on BIS 1373. Volume 1 was reviewed by me in 2006. Presumably two more CDs to come after this. Can we hope that Bis will have moved on to his six reputedly elaborate piano concertos and truly epic symphonic and choral pieces by then? They will be an expensive proposition.
 
Ullen’s commentary on the Studies can be found at the Sorabji Archive.
 
Other notable Sorabji recordings have been reviewed here: Opus Clavicembalisticum (Geoffrey Douglas Madge), Transcriptions (Michael Habermann) and an extremely desirable three CD collection of Michael Habermann’s performances on the BMS label.
 

Rob Barnett
 

 


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