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(1894 - 1988)

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892–1988), the English-Parsee composer, will probably always be remembered for his pursuit of extremes: dazzling difficulties of execution in works of mammoth dimensions. Most of his piano works are written on three or more staves employing textures and rhythmic combinations that have to be seen to be believed.

His Opus Clavicembalisticum (1930) was listed for years in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s longest non-repetitive piano work. Many of his compositions are intended to be the sole work on a programme. Such a work is the Djami Symphony (1942–51), which spans nearly a thousand pages and employs performing forces of hundreds.

His longtime, and unique ban imposed upon public performance of his works, too, will not be forgotten. Despite enthusiastic praise from well-known musicians such as Ferruccio Busoni, Alfred Cortot, Frederick Delius, Karol Szymanowski, and Sir Donald Francis Tovey, his creative work remained largely unknown until the late 1970s, also due to the fact that only his earliest compositions were published. But these are only external characteristics, secondary to the music. Most important is the fact that his compositions stand out in the world of music for their unique and satisfying beauty.

Biographical information has been scarce and often inaccurate, hence the publication of his biography by scholar Marc-Andre Roberge is eagerly awaited. Sorabji’s mother was an English singer and his father a Parsi from Bombay. He was born in Chingford, England, on August 14, 1892 and spent most of his life in England. His musical education was private and, after appearing in the 1920s as a pianist in his own works, he subsequently attracted much more attention as a music critic for several English publications. He also wrote two books, Around Music (London: Unicorn Press, 1932) and Mi Contra Fa: The Immoralizings Of A Machiavellian Musician (London: Porcupine Press, 1947) which also reveal his incisive personality and intellect.

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