Variations, Passacaglias, and Fugues

This page gives a chronological list of Sorabji’s works that contain themes and variations, passacaglias, and fugues. The four columns in the centre of the table are:

  • V: Number of variations
  • P: Number of varied passacaglia statements
  • F: Number of fugues
  • S: Total number of fugue subjects in a given work

Comments in the rightmost column provide titles, location within the work, and other details. The Variazione maliziosa e perversa sopra “La morte d’Åse” da Grieg (1974; 2 pp.) is not considered to be a theme and variations.

Sorabji wrote a total of 705 variations, 967 passacaglia (or ostinato) statements, and 38 fugues comprising 87 subjects (or 37 fugues comprising 84 subjects when the completion of Introduction, Passacaglia, Cadenza, and Fugue [1929; compl. Alexander Abercrombie, 2004; 79 pp.] is not counted).

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Title V P F S Comments
Prelude, Interlude, and Fugue for Piano (1920, 1922; 17 pp.)
0
0
1
1
The fugue is the work’s third movement.
Symphony [no. 1] for Organ (1924; 81 pp.)
0
81
1
2
The passacaglia and the fugue are the middle sections of the first and second parts, respectively.
Variazioni e fuga triplice sopra “Dies irae” per pianoforte (1923-26; 201 pp.)
64
0
1
3
The fugue forms the entire Pars tertia.
Fragment: Prelude and Fugue on FxAxx DAxEx (1926; 3 pp.)
0
0
1
1
The four-voice fugue uses the musical letters of the dedicatee’s name, Frank Davey.
Concerto V for Piano and Large Orchestra [no. 8] (1927-28; 344 pp.)
0
48
0
0
The passacaglia is part of the Cadenza included in the third movement.
Toccata [no. 1] for Piano (1928; 66 pp.)
0
64
1
2
The passacaglia and the fugue are the work’s second and fourth part, respectively.
Sonata IV for Piano (1928-29; 111 pp.)
0
0
1
2
The fugue is the fourth of five sections that make up the third part.
Toccatinetta sopra C.G.F. (1929; 8 pp.)
0
33
1
1
The passacaglia is entitled “Piccola passacaglia maliziosa” and the fugue “Fughettina”.
Introduction, Passacaglia, Cadenza, and Fugue (1929; compl. Alexander Abercrombie, 2004; 79 pp.)
0
81
1
3
Sorabji wrote 76 out of 100 intended variations. Alexander Abercrombie added an Introduction, completed the passacaglia up to var. 81, and wrote a cadenza and a four-voice triple fugue. An ossia makes it possible to stop at the end of the passacaglia.
Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.)
49
81
4
10
The theme and variations is the “Interludium primum” of Pars prima (movement 6), and the passacaglia is the third section of the “Interludium alterum” of Pars altera (movement 9). Fuga I and Fuga II (movements 3 and 5) are in Pars prima, whereas Fuga III (movement 8) is at the end of Pars altera, and Fuga IV (movement 11) precedes the final “Coda-Stretta”. The number of subjects increases by one with each fugue, that is, 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Symphony no. 0 for Piano Solo (1930-31; 333 pp.)
64
0
1
1
The theme and variations is the second section of the third part, and is entitled “Toccata variata”. It is followed by the “Cadenza-fugata”.
Second Symphony for Organ (1929-32; 350 pp.)
50
0
1
3
The theme and variations forms the entire second movement, and the “Fuga triplex” is the fourth and final section of the third movement.
Quintet II for Piano and String Quartet (1932-33; 432 pp.)
0
100
0
0
The passacaglia is the second of the two sections that form the second movement.
Toccata seconda per pianoforte (1933-34; 111 pp.)
49
0
1
1
The theme and variations is an “Ostinato” forming the fifth movement. The “Fuga libera a cinque voci” is the ninth and final movement.
Sonata V (Opus archimagicum) (1934-35; 336 pp.)
0
0
1
3
The “Fuga libera a cinque voci e tre soggetti” is the tenth and final movement.
Symphonic Variations for Piano (1935-37; 484 pp.)
81
100
1
3
The passacaglia is var. 54 (at the end of vol. 2), and the “Fuga triplice a 5 voci” is var. 80 (near the end of vol. 3).
Tāntrik Symphony for Piano Alone (1938-39; 284 pp.)
0
0
1
5
The “Fuga libera a cinque voci” is movement 7 and is entitled “Sahasrāra” [Padma].
Transcription in the Light of Harpsichord Technique for the Modern Piano of the Chromatic Fantasia of J. S. Bach, Followed by a Fugue (1940; 15 pp.)
0
0
1
1
The “Fuga a 3 voci” is a transcription of the Fugue in D minor, BWV 948, not of the fugue appended by Bach to his Chromatic Fantasia.
Études transcendantes (100) (1940-44; 456 pp.)
0
100
3
7
Etude no. 33 features a fughetta at the end, and Etude no. 36 is a prelude and fugue (for the left hand). The passacaglia is etude no. 75, whereas the “Fuga a cinque soggetti” is Etude no. 11, entitled “Coda-Finale”.
Sequentia cyclica super “Dies irae” ex Missa pro defunctis (1948-49; 335 pp.)
27
100
1
5
The passacaglia is var. 22, whereas the “Fuga quintuplice a due, tre, quattro e sei voci ed a cinque soggeti” is var. 27.
Third Organ Symphony (1949-53; 305 pp.)
0
50
1
6
The passacaglia and the “Fuga sextuplex” are the second and fourth sections of the third movement.
Un nido di scatole sopra il nome del grande e buon amico Harold Rutland (1954; 26 pp.)
0
28
0
0
The ninth box is a passacaglia consisting of twenty-eight statements of the dedicatee’s name with increasingly virtuoso parts added.
Second Symphony for Piano (1954; 248 pp.)
0
0
1
5
The fugue is the last of the five sections that make up the fourth movement in Parte terza.
Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra (1935-37, 1953-56; 540 pp.)
27
0
0
0
The theme and its 27 variations are preceded by an “Introitus”.
Opus clavisymphonicum — Concerto for Piano and Large Orchestra (1957-59; 333 pp.)
0
0
1
1
The “Cadenza fugata” is the middle section of the second movement.
Third Symphony for Piano Solo (1959-60; 144 pp.)
0
82
1
2
The two-part fugue is separated by an interlude and a “Passacaglia finale” consisting of 82 variations (there are two variations numbered 39).
Messa grande sinfonica (1955-61; 1,001 pp.)
0
48
5
5
The passacaglia consists of 32 and 16 varied statements framing an interlude in the “Gloria”. The “Kyrie” contains four fugues, each on one subject, and there is another one, on one subject as well, in the “Offertorium”.
Fourth Symphony for Piano Alone (1962-64; 240 pp.)
49
0
1
3
The “Variazioni” are the fourth and final section of the second movement. Its last variation comprises “Quasi cadenza–Toccata and Fuga”.
Toccata quarta (1964-67; 149 pp.)
24
102
1
5
The work opens with the theme and variations. The passacaglia is the fourth movement, whereas the “Fuga quintuplex” is the second and final section of the concluding seventh movement.
Concertino non grosso for String Sextet with Piano obbligato quasi continuo (1968; 48 pp.)
0
0
1
1
The fugue is part of the finale (third movement).
Symphonia brevis for Piano (1973; 120 pp.)
0
0
1
2
The “Quasi fuga” is the seventh of the eight sections of the second and final movement.
Opusculum clavisymphonicum vel claviorchestrale (1973-75; 334 pp.)
39
27
0
0
The second and final movement, entitled “Variazioni sopra il Credo in qualsiasi modo del Gretchaninoff” is a theme with 39 variations, of which no. 21 is an ostinato with 27 variations.
Sixth Symphony for Piano (Symphonia claviensis) (1975-76; 270 pp.)
64
0
6
6
The third of the four sections of the first movement is entitled “Interludio fugato” (on one subject). The “Ostinato” (with 64 variations) is the fifth and last section of the second movement. The “Quasi fuga” forms the sixth movement; it consists of five fugues using one subject each, all separated by an interlude.
“Il gallo d’oro” da Rimsky-Korsakov: variazioni frivole con una fuga anarchica, eretica e perversa (1978-79; 93 pp.)
53
16
1
2
The “Passacagliettina” is var. 18, and the “Fuga eretica, perversa ed anche anarchica” follows var. 49.
Last modified: 2014-10-29
© Marc-André Roberge 2014
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

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