Jonathan Powell

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji: Un nido di scatole; Djâmî; St Bertrand de Comminges

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The piano works of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji are among the most dense, complicated, and virtuosic in the modern keyboard literature, and such flamboyant works as Un nido di scatole (A Nest of Boxes), the nocturne Djâmî, and St. Bertrand de Comminges ("He was Laughing in the Tower") demonstrate his elaborate methods quite well. The 17 miniatures that make up Un nido di scatole have a superficial resemblance to the album leaves of Schumann, largely because of their whimsical titles, sharp characterizations, and abbreviated forms, though Sorabji's intensely chromatic, quasi-atonal harmonies seem a world away from the great Romantic composer, and his brooding music seems much closer in style and expression to the late works of Alexander Scriabin. Djâmî, which Sorabji called "An essay in the hothouse-languorous genre," is the longest track of the album and quite lush and atmospheric in its perfumed evocation of Persian culture. The last piece, St. Bertrand de Comminges, was one of two works Sorabji composed on ideas drawn from ghost stories by Montague Rhodes James, and listeners may note some strong similarities between this sinister fantasia and the diabolical showpieces of Franz Liszt. Pianist Jonathan Powell presents Sorabji's music with abundant energy and emotional volatility, though his instrument seems sharp, cold, and brittle in the highly resonant venue, and the microphone placement seems a little distant.

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