Kaikhosru SORABJI (1892-1988)
100 Transcendental Studies for piano (1940-44):
44. Bin cantato. Dolce sciaro [15:25]
45. (untitled) [1:26]
46. (untitled) [2:44]
47. Leggiero e a capriccio [2:35]
48. Volante [3:14]
49. Vivace ma non troppo [2:23]
50. Per il pedale 3 [4:50]
51. (untitled) [3:15]
52. (untitled) [3:14]
53. A capriccio [1:59]
54. (untitled) [4:17]
55. (untitled) [2:43]
56. Moderato [3:10]
57. (untitled) [2:02]
58. (untitled) [3:31]
59. Quasi fantasia [10:46]
60. (untitled) [3:07]
61. (untitled) [4:12]
62. (untitled) [2:37]
Fredrik Ullén (piano)
rec. July-August 2006, Nybrokajen 11, Stockholm.
BIS BIS-CD-1713 [80:25]
Ullén and Bis stick to their last with the seriousness of purpose that goes with eminence and invincible confidence in Sorabji’s music. That confidence is securely placed. Sorabji drank deep of that confidence in calling these pieces Transcendental in the first place.
Ullén, with a loftiness and fantasy that recalls Busoni and Godowsky, shoots the kaleidoscopic rapids of Sorabji’s Transcendental Etudes. The shifting veils of lapidary complexity in No. 44 are played with intoxicating fluency – not mere technical proficiency. After such refulgent hyper-Szymanowskian writing we come to the angrily dissonant No. 45 which in its volleys of notes recalls Nancarrow. The galloping articulated ruthlessness of Nos. 46, 48, 51, 53, 62 55, 60 and 62 is blended with humour (55) and in 60 there’s Mussorgskian macabre alongside romantic afflatus. The sprinting Volante continues into the Vivace (49). After breathtaking display comes a more Apollonian mood in No. 50. A Medtnerian spirit is alive in No. 52. The jewelled veils shift delightfully in an Aeolian wind whispering through the pages of No 54. Romance plays high cards in the Moderato. No. 58 in its episodic flurries contrasts with the knowing Cyril Scott meditations of the Quasi fantasia (59).
This disc is the very acceptable sequel to the 100 Transcendental Etudes nos 1-25 by Fredrik Ullén on BIS 1373. Studies 26-43 are on BIS-CD-1533. Volume 1 was reviewed by me in 2006; Volume 2 in January 2010.
Presumably there are two more CDs to come after this. Can we hope that Bis will then have moved on to his six reputedly elaborate piano concertos and the 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.
Elegance and power personified in these Transcendental Studies.

Rob Barnett
Refulgent hyper-Szymanowskian writing, angry dissonance, delightfully stirring jewelled veils.