Music Favorites VII - Kaikhosru Sorabji's Pastiche on the Hindu Merchant's Song
Kaikhosru Sorabji was a composer who was known for writing long and technically demanding pieces, mostly for solo piano. His early music blended styles from well-established virtuosos. His later works use dissonant polyrhythms and vague tonalities and is generally inaccessible. Most people who have heard of him know him solely for one piece - the four-hour, twelve-movement Opus Clavicembalisticum. (Opus Clavicembalisticum is not even Sorabji's longest; his Symphonic Variations for Piano clocks in at a whopping nine hours!) The difficulty in accurately performing such monster works means that not only have many of them have not yet been premiered, but that Sorabji himself put a "ban" on unauthorized performances of his works. This has led to many of his more accessible (but still brilliant) works to fall by the wayside.
This piece might well be my favorite. It was one of his earlier works and uses bar lines and consistent rhythms (something that his later music generally lacked), but filled with luscious harmonies and dreamy textures. His Piano Sonata #1 and his Nocturne Gulistān are also worth looking into if you like this. This piece was one of three pastiches published in 1922. The other two are based on Bizet's Habanera [from Carmen] and Chopin's "Minute" Waltz. One of the more interesting things about Sorabji's piano music is that it's generally written on three staves as opposed to two; generally, the topmost one is an octave treble clef to facilitate passages in the higher registers without the use of an 8va marking. The more complex the piece, the more staves Sorabji added, to the point where his piano works sometimes look like full orchestral scores.