Orchestral Forces

This page presents an overview of the instruments called for by Sorabji in his orchestral works, including those for piano and orchestra. A tabular presentation would have been useful but cannot be accommodated easily without horizontal scrolling in a web page.

A bullet (•) at the beginning of a title indicates the presence of a list of instruments in the score. Given the oversights that may have happened during the composition, it is only when the scores have been carefully edited that one will be absolutely sure that the instrumentation corresponds exactly to that listed below. The data for Symphony [no. 2], “Jāmī”, for Large Orchestra, Wordless Chorus, and Baritone Solo (1942-51; 826 pp.) take into account information provided by David Carter, but definitive information will have to await the final version of his edition.

The instruments are listed on separate lines in the following order:

  • flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon for woodwinds
  • horn, trumpet, trombone, and tuba for brass
  • violins 1, violins 2, viola, cellos, and double basses for strings (numbers are given when specified)

The heading “small score” is used unless Sorabji gave it a specific name.

For the larger works, Rapoport, in SCC, 93-192, indicates “Woodwinds include piccolo, alto flute, English horn, bass oboe, E♭ clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabassoon, contrabass sarrusophone”, which is not exact.

This page contains musical symbols like ♯, ♭, ♮ (i.e., sharps, flats, naturals) that may not display in all browsers.

Concerto [no. 1] pour piano et grand orchestre (1915-16; 177 pp.)

Woodwinds: 2 + 3, 3 + 1 (with mutes for the oboes), 3 + 1, 3 + 1 + contrabass sarrusophone (with mutes for the bassoons)

Brass: 8, 5, 3, 1

Soloist and percussion: piano; timpani, tambourine, cymbals, triangle, tam-tam, bass drum, glockenspiel, xylophone, celesta, 2 harps

Strings: 16, 16, 12, 10, 10-12

Small score: none

Chaleur — Poème (1916-17; 32 pp.)

Woodwinds: 2 + alto flute, 3 (with mutes), 3, 0

Brass: 4 (muted), 0, 0, 0

Percussion: 2 harps, celesta

Strings: 16 div. in 4, 16 div. in 4, 12 div. in 4, 12 div. in 2 (10-12), 8, 10, or 12 div. in 2 or 4 (some double basses with five strings, as indicated in the copyist’s copy)

Small score: none

Concerto II pour piano et grand orchestre (1916-17; 49 pp.)

Orchestral score untraced (only a two-piano reduction is extant)

•Concerto pour piano et orchestra da camera [no. 3] (1918; 100 pp.)

Woodwinds: 2, 2 (with mutes), 2, 1

Brass: 0, 3, 0, 0

Soloist and percussion: piano (with sostenuto pedal); [no timpani], tambourine, triangle, cymbals, tenor drum, glockenspiel, celesta, harp

Strings: 8, 8, 6, 6, 4

Small score: none

•Concerto pour piano et grand orchestre [no. 4] (1918; 100 pp.)

Woodwinds: 2 + 3, 3 + 1 + bass oboe, piccolo clarinet + 3 + 1, 3 + 1 + contrabass sarrusophone

Brass: 8, 5, 4, 1

Soloist and percussion: piano; timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, castanets, tambourine, snare drum, tam-tam, glockenspiel, xylophone, celesta, 2 harps

Strings: numbers not specified

Small score: none

Music to “The Rider by Night” (1919; 54 pp.)

Woodwinds: 1 (with B foot), 1, 1, 1

Brass: 1, 2 cornets, 1, 0

Percussion: cymbals, gong, snare drum, bass drum, rattle

Strings: all solo (with three violin parts)

Small score: none

•Concerto for Piano and Orchestra [no. 5] (1920; 144 pp.)

Woodwinds: 1 + 2 + alto flute, 2 + 1, 2 + 1, 2 + 1

Brass: 4, 4 (in C), 3, 1

Soloist and percussion: piano (with sostenuto pedal); timpani (chromatic), tambourine, castanets, triangle, cymbals, tam-tam, bass drum, snare drum, glockenspiel, xylophone, celesta, harp

Strings: number not specified; double basses with C string

Small score: none

•Symphony [no. 1] for Piano, Large Orchestra, Chorus, and Organ (1921-22; 300 pp.)

Woodwinds: 2 + 3 + alto flute, 3 + 1 + bass oboe, piccolo clarinet + 3 + 1, 3 + 1 + [contrabassoon in score] + contrabass sarrusophone

Brass: 8, 5 + piccolo trumpet, 4, 1

Percussion: piano, organ, timpani, triangle, cymbals, tambourine, glockenspiel, xylophone, celesta, tam-tam, tenor drum, castanets, snare drum, bass drum, bells

Strings: 16-24, 16-24, 12-16, 12-16, 12-16

Small score: contrabassoon, choir (SATB, 50-100), organ, bass oboe, bells

•Concerto for Piano and Orchestra [no.] III [no. 6] (1922; 144 pp.)

Woodwinds: 1 + alto flute, 1 + 1 (with mutes), 1 + 1, 1 + 1 (with mutes)

Brass: 1 (in C), 1, 1, 0

Soloist and percussion: piano; xylophone, celesta, glockenspiel, harp; [with indication of sticks needed beyond the standard ones] tenor drum (with timpani and sponge sticks), snare drum triangle (with snare drum stick), cymbals (with triangle, snare drum, and sponge sticks plus bass drum stick), tambourine, tam-tam (with small steel hammer and triangle and snare drum sticks)

Strings: 8, 8, 6, 4, 4

Small score: none

Opusculum for Orchestra (1923; 36 pp.)

Woodwinds: 1 + 3, 2 + 1, 2 + 1, 2 + 1

Brass: 4, 3, 3, 1

Percussion: timpani, glockenspiel, xylophone, organ pedal, triangle, cymbals, tam-tam, tenor drum

Strings: number not specified

Small score: none

Concerto per pianoforte e piccola orchestra, “Simorg-Anka” [no. 7] (1924; 100 pp.)

Woodwinds: 1, 1, 1, 1

Brass: 1, 1, 0, 0

Soloist and percussion: piano; harp; triangle, tam-tam (with standard snare drum and felt-covered sticks), tam-tam (with standard triangle and sponge sticks), cymbals (with snare drum, triangle, and timpani sticks), snare drum, tenor drum, side drum

Strings: 4, 4, 4, 2, 2

Small score: none

Concerto V for Piano and Large Orchestra [no. 8] (1927-28; 344 pp.)

Woodwinds: 5, 4 + bass oboe, 4 + 1, 2 + 2 + 2 contrabass sarrusophones

Brass: 7, 4, 4, 4

Soloist and percussion: piano; harp; glockenspiel, xylophone, celesta, 2 harps

Strings: number not specified

Small percussion score: 4 timpani, side drum, tenor drum, big drum, 3 gongs, 3 triangles, 3 cymbals, castanets

Symphony [no. 2], “Jāmī”, for Large Orchestra, Wordless Chorus, and Baritone Solo (1942-51; 826 pp.)

Woodwinds: 2 piccolos + 4 + alto flute, 4 + 1 + bass oboe, 2 E♭ + 4 [2 piccolo clarinets and pedal clarinet, i.e., contrabass clarinet, do not appear in the score], 4 + 1 [contrabass sarrusophone does not appear in the score]

Brass: 8, 6, 4 [incl. bass and contrabass trombones], 4 [not 2 tubas as indicated in the list; 4 are required in the fourth movement; bass and contrabass needed in movements 1-3 and tenor, 2 bass, and 1 contrabass in the fifth movement]

Soloist and percussion: baritone; wordless choir (SSAATTBB); 2 harps [not 4 as mentioned in the list]; set of gongs, xylophone, bass xylophone, keyed glockenspiel, celesta

Strings: 24, 24, 16, 16, 12

Percussion score: timpani (one chromatic octave; 4 players), bass drum, side drum, castanets, tambourine, 2 triangles (large and small; 2 players), 2 cymbals (large and small 2 players), piano, organ [plus tenor drum and tam-tam, not mentioned in the list, needed in movement 3]

Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra (1935-37, 1953-56; 540 pp.)

Woodwinds: 6, 6, 6, 6

Brass: 8, 5, 4, 2

Soloist and percussion: piano; 2 harps, glockenspiel, xylophone, celesta, gongs

Strings: number not specified

Percussion score: 4 timpani [in fact probably more; there are two staves with up to four very virtuoso chromatic parts], tambourine, snare drum, grosse caisse, 2 cymbals [violin and viola bows needed; p. 286], 2 triangles, castanets, tenor drum, wood block, metal castanets, tonitruone (i.e., thunder sheet, from p. 395 onwards)

Opus clavisymphonicum — Concerto for Piano and Large Orchestra (1957-59; 333 pp.)

Woodwinds: 6, 4 + 2 bass oboes, 4 + 1, 4 + 1 contrabass sarrusophone [not clear, could be a bassoon]

Brass: 8, 6, 4, 2

Soloist and percussion: piano; timpani, 2 xylophones, glockenspiel, 2 harps

Strings: number not specified {referred to as 4/4/4/2/2 in letter, Sorabji to Donald Garvelmann, 2 April 1975}

Percussion score: timpani (different part from main score), cymbals, triangle, tenor drum, side drum, tambourine, castanets, wood block, bass drum, tam-tam,
gongs

Messa grande sinfonica (1955-61; 1,001 pp.)

Woodwinds: 6 [p. 990], 8 [p. 986], 4 + 1 bass oboe, 4 + 2, 4 + 2 contrabass sarrusophones

Brass: 8, 6, 4, 2

Soloists and percussion: SATB (2 each), SSATB (2 choirs), [no timpani], bells, 2 harps, organ

Strings: number not specified

Small score: none

Opusculum clavisymphonicum vel claviorchestrale (1973-75; 334 pp.)

Woodwinds: 1, 1, 1, 1

Brass: none

Soloist and percussion: piano; [no timpani], glockenspiel, celesta, harp, gong

Strings: 4, 4, 4, 2, 2 (five-string) {the number of string instruments is not specified in the score but appears in a letter to Donald Garvelmann, 2 April 1975}

Small score: none

Last modified: 2014-11-03
© Marc-André Roberge 2014
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

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