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11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A legendary performance of a legendary piece.
It may not come as a surprise to find that a British composer born Leon Dudley, who later adopted the title of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, was to write some rather extreme music.
By no means the longest of Sorabji's works, the Opus Clavicembalisticum certainly is his most notorious. First performed in Glasgow in 1930 by the composer, himself a formidable pianist, it...
Published on 22 Feb. 2001

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Profound or pretentious?
Mr Madge's performance of this very long and very complex work for piano is impressive. But the deeper question for the listener to consider is whether or not 'Opus Claviscembalistum' (1929-30) is worth persevering with, worth devoting all those hours to in the hope that it will give something special back. I bought Madge's version when it was issued in 1999 and have...
Published on 10 July 2012 by mancheeros


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Profound or pretentious?, 10 July 2012
Mr Madge's performance of this very long and very complex work for piano is impressive. But the deeper question for the listener to consider is whether or not 'Opus Claviscembalistum' (1929-30) is worth persevering with, worth devoting all those hours to in the hope that it will give something special back. I bought Madge's version when it was issued in 1999 and have devoted many hours of patient listening to it before finally making up my mind what I think about this idiosyncratic work.

'Opus Clav' is a kind of throwback to (or perhaps a more complicated extension of) the romantic pianistic worlds of Alkan, Scriabin and Ravel, but unlike those composers (Scriabin and Ravel, in particular, whose work I adore) Sorabji's long composition fails to engage me at an emotional level, or persuade me that it's possessed by any special poetic qualities that justify its length (the 5-CD live performance clocks in at 234 minutes). 'Opus Clav' rambles on and rumbles on hour after hour, and like the other long works of Sorabji's that I have in my CD collection (yes, I really have persevered with Sorabji), it resounds with hugely dramatic gestures which, in the very long run, don't seem to gather much emotional weight. The work seems to be trying too hard to impress us with its grand scale and notational complexity. There's something lacking here, something overwrought and overblown about this music that tells us more about the composer's labyrinthine mathematical brain than his humanity, of which he seemed not to have much (in some of his writings and interviews Sorabji sadly comes across as bitter, spiteful, condescending, a nasty little fellow with lots of money and an oversized ego; his ultra-extravagant praise for Bernard van Dieren's almost forgotten music probably torpedoed it). A long, complex work perhaps equals profundity in Sorabji's mind, but to my ears 'Opus Clav' ends up sounding more pretentious than profound, more pompous than poetic.

In my opinion, Sorabji's music is interesting rather than captivating. To my ears he is not an underrated genius or one of the great composers of the 20th century as his devotees claim. He's certainly not up there in terms of importance with Ives, Stravinsky, Bartok, Schoenberg, Webern, Messiaen. At best Sorabji is an occasionally interesting maverick - a place or two below Nancarrow in the League of Interesting Mavericks. Moreover, if many of Sorabji's compositions weren't so inordinately long and so very difficult to perform, I suspect he would be even less well known than he currently is. 'Opus Clav' is not the place for newcomers to begin. Try Sorabji's shorter works like 'Gulistan' and 'Nocturne: Djami' which are really rather enchanting.
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11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A legendary performance of a legendary piece., 22 Feb. 2001
By A Customer
It may not come as a surprise to find that a British composer born Leon Dudley, who later adopted the title of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, was to write some rather extreme music.
By no means the longest of Sorabji's works, the Opus Clavicembalisticum certainly is his most notorious. First performed in Glasgow in 1930 by the composer, himself a formidable pianist, it was not the dissonance in harmonies or terrifying virtuosity required from the performer that was to shock the music scene, but the sheer length of the piece.
Sorabji conceived Opus Clavicembalisticum to be about four- and three-quarter hours in length, so maybe he would turn in his grave to find that the performance Geoffrey Douglas Madge gives is a fraction under four hours. After all, Sorabji did declare a self imposed ban on the public performance of his works after a lesser pianist played a movement from the eponymous work too slowly.
So what about the performance? Well, Madge certainly considers the musical content more so than his recorded predecessor John Ogdon, who undoubtedly sight-read most of the thing. The sound is also good, albeit a bit warm and "fuzzy" giving the impression of over pedalling on the pianist's part.
Besides the less than top quality recorded sound, the pianism is of the highest calibre and this account should remain the bench mark for many years and many brave pianists to come.
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Opus Clavicembalisticum
Opus Clavicembalisticum by Sorabji (Audio CD - 1999)
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