Haupz Blog

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Eight Hours of Music

2020-09-13 — Michael Haupt

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji was a composer. He is not very widely known, and he polarises. Sorabji had a certain tendency to write music that, well, is a bit long. His masterpiece for solo piano, Opus Clavicembalisticum, takes a cosy five hours. His second organ symphony, six. (He's quite the antipode of Webern in that.)

Sorabji's music is very individualistic, and very interesting. Admittedly, it's also an acquired taste. The complexity is stunning, and many of the beauties are, let's say, well hidden. The Fantaisie Espagnole is very accessible, though, and a good entry point at just below 20 minutes.

A recent release got me started. Sorabji wrote, for solo piano, variations on the Dies Irae theme (you've heard it, it's often quoted, also in the movies when things go apocalyptic). Being true to himself, he could not contain this in Goldberg Variations dimensions. So, all in all, the work takes a whopping eight hours. Of course that interests me. Jonathan Powell is the pianist who deserves all the credit for making this recording happen. Thankfully, he has made the entire piece available on the 'tubes (sorry if you can't access it from where you are).

How do you listen to this, you ask? In pieces. During my morning walks, for instance. And it is truly interesting.

Tags: music