Michael Habermann

Sorabji: Piano Music

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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson

The mature piano music of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji is often noted for its great contrapuntal complexity and extraordinary difficulty, and such important works as the Opus Clavicembalisticum and the 100 Transcendental Studies have achieved a special kind of fame for their extreme length. Yet as imposing as this three-CD set from Naxos may appear at first glance, it contains a variety of short compositions that are divided into three groups, Early Works, Nocturnes, and Assertive Works. At its best, Sorabji's music is evocative and atmospheric, due to the strong influence of Debussy, Scriabin, and Szymanowski, and though he mixed tonal and atonal elements in his highly personal language, his pieces are quite accessible through their lush sonorities and virtuosic flair. Michael Habermann was among the first to play this music, following Sorabji's three-decade ban on public performances, and these recordings from 1979 to 1995 demonstrate the skill and dedication that were required to win over the composer. Certainly, Habermann's long familiarity with these works counts toward a rare kind of authority, and his musicality and expressive playing go far in making Sorabji more approachable for listeners.

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