KAIKHOSRU SHAPURJI SORABJI: Fantasia ispanica – Jonathan Powell, piano – Altarus

by | Jul 13, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

KAIKHOSRU SHAPURJI SORABJI: Fantasia ispanica – Jonathan Powell, piano – Altarus AIR-CD-9084 ****:

Another reviewer has not been convinced by the flamboyant, virtuoso
explosion of notes characteristic of Sorabji’s style of composition for
the piano.  This review might be seen as another view because I
was frankly captivated by this latest in a series of Sorabji works from
Altarus. I believe the key is the strong Iberian cast of this one,
which seems to be a sort of musical glue holding together the wild and
wooly excesses of the composer’s piano writing – which is clearly as
over-the-top as his full name.

Sorabji was born in London of a father who had been born in
Bombay.  His mother incorrectly misled him into believing his
background was part Spanish and part Sicilian, so he became interested
in both musical cultures and eventually wrote a massive piano work for
each one.  This work is the Spanish entry.  Pianist Powell –
who must be congratulated for the herculean efforts he must have to
make to perform and record these amazingly dense and lengthy works –
describes the Fantasia ispanica as a meta-Rapsodie espagnole combining
the contrapuntal virtuosity of Albéniz’ later works with the overall
multi-movement structure of much of Ravel’s orchestral music. Good, as
far as that goes, but I would also add a  dash of late Cecil
Taylor avant jazz.

Several other earlier Sorabji works displayed a similar Iberian
fascination.  He often gave them French titles, recognized the
many French composers who have created musical works with a Spanish
flavor.  He himself played Albéniz’ Iberia and Granados’ Goyescas
suites and they meant a great deal to him. His Fantasia has five
movements, beginning with a Prelude-Introduction.  The third
movement completely lacks any title and the fourth takes us away from
the Iberian peninsula to Cuba, being titled Quasi habanera. The
vibrant, spilling-over color and contrapuntal complexities of this
music might be too much for some ears, but those open to it may find an
unexpectedly worthwhile experience.

– John Sunier

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