Who Was Sorabji?

By Michael Grossi (2008)

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji was a composer whose works were absolute masterpieces yet are unknown to the vast majority. How could such masterpieces go unrecognized? Perhaps their lack of recognition is because of the great length and complexity of much of his work. Some of his works go on for hours. To the untrained listener it would seem that there is no end in sight. For example, his Opus Clavicembalisticum can last four to five hours, depending on tempo, with unrelenting difficulty throughout, and is meant to be heard in one sitting.

"Monstrosities!" one would exclaim upon hearing of such dimensions. Who has the dedication to sit through an entire performance of such great length? People often scoff upon hearing of such duration. But for the Wagnerite this is no Herculean task.

Every artist has their own vision. Some grander than others. Consider Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, Mahler's 3rd Symphony, or Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung. These are all works of exceeding grandeur and widely accepted as great feats of the creative spirit. This said, length should not be a matter.

What of complexity and difficulty?

Great complexity almost always means great challenges for the performer. Why write such complex music then? Perhaps complexity symbolizes a struggle between opposing forces. A war between good and evil. The taxing difficulties surely call for one to have a transcendental technique. But Sorabji's music is definitly accessable to humans.

But complexity does not always symbolize strife. Therein can lie great beauty. This complexity at times conjures up sublime harmonies of great majesty and beauty.

Sorabji, though, was not just a composer of music that was of great length, complexity, and difficulty. He wrote many pieces that were of traditional length and simplicity. Even a work such as Opus Clavicembalisticum has its simple moments.

Herein lies the great misconception about Sorabji. He was not just a composer who wrote music of grand dimensions and difficulty. He wrote music of great beauty and simplicity as well.

Indeed the best pianist is required to play much of his music and perhaps this is why it has been neglected for so long. But thanks to a few heroes, we now have a chance to hear and appreciate it.

It has only been within the past 30 years that Sorabji's music has gained increasing attention. Since then, many public performances and recordings have emerged. This has helped public appreciation considerably. Even so, this wonderful music still remains unknown to the vast majority. This is why I decided to make this website. It is my goal to bring to further light these great works previously obscured by the darkness of neglect.

May this website be a blessing to all who enter and may it open your minds to new vistas.