Author Topic: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole  (Read 3203 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline johncarey

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 18
    • John Carey, Composer
  • Location: West Hartford, CT
SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« on: July 14, 2013, 08:23:48 AM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/xBdyq5lNn8k" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/xBdyq5lNn8k</a>
Sorabji -- Fantaisie Espagnole


Hello everyone,

Here is a video of a performance I gave of Sorabji's Fantaisie Espagnole about a year ago. For those of you who are not familiar with his works, he is rather notorious for having composed some of the most lengthy, complex, and difficult piano music ever conceived. Often, his pieces will exceed three hours and span 3-6 staves. Yet, this is not a gimmick; his works contain some of the most incredibly original and breathtakingly beautiful passages I have ever heard produced from a piano. He combines influences from Scriabin, Ravel, Szymanowski, Busoni, and Cyril Scott, but his style is still remarkably unique and completely inimitable.

This is one of his most charming and accessible works. At only 15-18 minutes in length, it can be easily programmed in a recital, and though it is still quite difficult, it does not even remotely compare to the extraordinarily complex works he would compose later in life (the most famous being Opus Clavicembalisticum, a four hour piano marathon inspired by Busoni's Fantasia Contrappuntistica). However, it still possesses some of the best elements of Sorabji's style that would still be defining characteristics of his music for the rest of his life, such as: an incredibly rich and original harmonic language that defies analysis, a free and improvisatory sense of form and pacing, a tendency toward exoticism, and of course, moments of great complexity and dazzling virtuosity.

I hope you enjoy my performance of this work. If you were not familiar with Sorabji before watching, I hope that this video sparks an interest in his music -- he really is an incredibly brilliant and completely unique figure in 20th century music.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2013, 09:14:07 AM by johncarey »

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 55697
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, D. Scarlattii, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Martinů, Haydn, Henning
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2013, 08:33:46 AM »
Hey, John!  Your link as is is broken.  Here is how you want to code it:

Code: [Select]
[flash=400,325]http://www.youtube.com/v/xBdyq5lNn8k[/flash]
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/xBdyq5lNn8k" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/xBdyq5lNn8k</a>

Cheers!
« Last Edit: July 14, 2013, 08:35:57 AM by karlhenning »
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 55697
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, D. Scarlattii, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Martinů, Haydn, Henning
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2013, 08:41:45 AM »
Very cool piece, and a masterly performance.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline johncarey

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 18
    • John Carey, Composer
  • Location: West Hartford, CT
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2013, 09:15:14 AM »
Very cool piece, and a masterly performance.

Thank you for your feedback and help with the code. Much appreciated!

Offline lescamil

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 674
  • Location: Portland, OR
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2013, 05:49:18 PM »
Been a while since I've heard you play, and I was pleasantly surprised by this. Admittedly when I see new recordings of Sorabji by people other than the likes of Powell, Amato, etc, I am apprehensive. However, this was a great performance that I think even rivals the Amato recording. Yes, the piano might not be the best, but the performance outweighs that. I hope to hear more of you in the future.

A question, though. Did you use the music in performance, or was it memorized? Sorabji is some tough stuff to memorize and play solidly, I would imagine. Also, what else did you play on your program?
Want to chat about classical music on IRC? Go to:

irc.psigenix.net
#concerthall

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,19772.0.html

-------------------------------------

Check out my YouTube page:

http://www.youtube.com/user/jre58591

Sean

  • Guest
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2013, 06:54:19 PM »
Johncarey, you write about as well as you must play- I can't access your video right now but I like the points you make...

Quote
an incredibly rich and original harmonic language that defies analysis, a free and improvisatory sense of form and pacing, a tendency toward exoticism, and of course, moments of great complexity and dazzling virtuosity.

You understand in all this that the overall characteristic here is arbitrary convolution; the endlessly elaborate intricacies of technique are but a cover for Sorabji's failings in real musical insight. Even when Opus is played by Geoffry Douglas Madge with passages smudged over with whatever airheaded improvisation at the time, the results aesthetically are exactly the same.

There are some Youtube videos of computers playing huge long strings of hemi-semi-demi-quaver ten note chords with similar emptiness and vapidity...

Take my advice, if your technique is that good and you're interested in real aesthetics stick to Messiaen and the likes Vingt regards.

I've got to know...

Opus clavicembalisticum
Passeggiata arlecchinesca
Piano sonata No.1
Quaere reliqua hujus materiei inter secretiora
Toccatinetta sopra CGF
Transcendental studies Nos.4-7 & 39-43
« Last Edit: July 15, 2013, 04:22:19 AM by Sean »

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 55697
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, D. Scarlattii, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Martinů, Haydn, Henning
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2013, 12:58:11 AM »
Been a while since I've heard you play, and I was pleasantly surprised by this. Admittedly when I see new recordings of Sorabji by people other than the likes of Powell, Amato, etc, I am apprehensive. However, this was a great performance that I think even rivals the Amato recording. Yes, the piano might not be the best, but the performance outweighs that. I hope to hear more of you in the future.

Hear, hear.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline lescamil

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 674
  • Location: Portland, OR
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2013, 08:22:13 PM »
Just watching this again, and I feel exhausted just listening to this and following along with the score, all the while wondering how the hell I personally would be able to play this. I just might try this piece to see if I can handle it. I have a feeling that Sorabji is like Medtner, in that it looks a hell of lot harder and more complex than it really is for your fingers. Here's to hoping!
Want to chat about classical music on IRC? Go to:

irc.psigenix.net
#concerthall

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,19772.0.html

-------------------------------------

Check out my YouTube page:

http://www.youtube.com/user/jre58591

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 55697
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, D. Scarlattii, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Martinů, Haydn, Henning
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2013, 02:42:05 AM »
I have no better than functional keyboard skills, so this is far beyond me, bien sûr. But as a clarinetist who likes to write music for himself to push his technical abilities, I do appreciate this mode of pianism.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline johncarey

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 18
    • John Carey, Composer
  • Location: West Hartford, CT
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2013, 06:01:50 PM »
Thank you everyone for your feedback -- it is quite a relief to know that the time I invested in learning this piece was time well spent!

Been a while since I've heard you play, and I was pleasantly surprised by this. Admittedly when I see new recordings of Sorabji by people other than the likes of Powell, Amato, etc, I am apprehensive. However, this was a great performance that I think even rivals the Amato recording. Yes, the piano might not be the best, but the performance outweighs that. I hope to hear more of you in the future.

Indeed, it's been quite some time since we've had any form of contact. I posted this video on Piano Forum as well, and Thalbergmad remarked that my "hiatus" from posting lasted 6 1/2 years! Anyway, I'm very glad you enjoyed my performance. Out of curiosity, do you happen to remember what other pieces you had heard me play in the past? I only ask because I used to be quite self-conscious about my abilities as a pianist back then, and therefore I tended to post recordings of myself very infrequently.

Quote
A question, though. Did you use the music in performance, or was it memorized? Sorabji is some tough stuff to memorize and play solidly, I would imagine. Also, what else did you play on your program?

I had the music there, but I think I only glanced at it two or three times throughout the course of the piece. I find that I simply can't play Sorabji accurately unless I've memorized it, primarily for two reasons: first of all, I find it to be virtually impossible to play many of the sections without being able to watch my hands, and secondly, unless I've practiced the more difficult passages enough that they have become ingrained into my memory (which tends to happen naturally with Sorabji, considering the fact that, in harder sections, each individual measure often requires careful attention), then I probably haven't learned them well enough to feel comfortable playing them in a live setting. Honestly, whether I had chosen to use a score or not, I think the performance would have been a catastrophe if I didn't actually have the piece memorized. The same applies to Sorabji's Toccata from "Two Pieces," which I played a couple years earlier... I can't imagine having been able to perform the work without having it memorized. So basically, I played the piece from memory -- the score was there merely as a safety net.

This was the entire program:

Berg -- Sonata Op. 1
Beethoven -- Sonata Op. 90
Scarlatti -- Sonata K. 198
Cage -- Ophelia
Sorabji -- Fantaisie Espagnole

Offline lescamil

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 674
  • Location: Portland, OR
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2013, 08:09:20 PM »
Ha, I just played the Beethoven Op. 90 in a recent recital of mine also. Doesn't seem like an extremely demanding program, which is smart when doing it with something so taxing as Sorabji. I can imagine that it would be a very physical piece because of the sheer volume of notes and the complex passage work that really doesn't compare to anyone else.

I don't remember what I heard from you before, mostly because it was so long ago. I enjoyed and respected your playing then, but I can definitely hear a confident pianist that has improved leaps and bounds. And you think you're self conscious about your playing! I rarely post my recordings because I feel exactly the same way! However, I have considered posting my recent recital on here and/or elsewhere. But enough about me.
Want to chat about classical music on IRC? Go to:

irc.psigenix.net
#concerthall

http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,19772.0.html

-------------------------------------

Check out my YouTube page:

http://www.youtube.com/user/jre58591

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 55697
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, D. Scarlattii, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Martinů, Haydn, Henning
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2013, 01:10:10 AM »
More Scarlatti! (only half-kidding)
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Cato

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 8972
  • An American Hero!
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2013, 03:13:38 AM »
Bravo,John Carey!

Sorabji may have been something of a crank, especially in his later years, but what a crank!  0:) 

I do not have much time right now, but let me say that your playing of the work is excellent and most appreciated.  I first came across Sorabji c. 40 years ago, and always thought he would eventually - if slowly - find an audience.

I would think that you have invested your time well: comments about the work being a collage of emptiness are misguided.  Arpeggios and other "convolutions" are to my ear essential to the nature of the piece: e.g. the runs of notes serve both a harmonic and expressive purpose.  Imagine how deflated the piece would be without those ebullient, ecstatic climbs to the top of the keyboard!  The rhythmic complications are part of the "fantasy" nature of the piece.  Extracting Sorabji's inventions would turn the piece, I would think, into something undistinguished.

And yes, you deserve a better piano!   ;)
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Sean

  • Guest
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2013, 03:46:33 AM »
Cato, Sorabji had a voice indeed but unless you're a demonic octopus with huge natural ability and playing that stuff is a breeze, there's a great deal of other music more worthy of attention...

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 55697
  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, D. Scarlattii, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Martinů, Haydn, Henning
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #14 on: July 29, 2013, 03:50:19 AM »
Sean, you aren't a performer in the least; you aren't a musician in the least.  The fact is, that a great many musicians who have practiced to acquire a high level technique, exult in challenge.  Unlike many a listener, they have no interest in the path of least resistance.

And, I know, I know, you will remain deaf to common sense, but I'll repeat:  you sound at your most fatuous (no easy feat, that) when you pretend to know what is worthy of anyone else's attention.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Sean

  • Guest
Re: SORABJI: Fantaisie Espagnole
« Reply #15 on: July 29, 2013, 04:12:05 AM »
Nicely put Karl.

As a barbed wire antidote I think I'll open the window and put on some Gymnopedies or Spiegel im Spiegel ...

By the way I played piano and clarinet twenty years ago, including Messiaen, if never very well.