Milestones in the Discovery of Sorabji’s Music

This page consists of a chronology of important events (publications, performances, recordings, meetings, etc.) in the discovery of Sorabji’s music over the last fifty-five years or so. Some entries document important events in the development of research seen from the point of view of the author of the Sorabji Resource Site. The list is organized by decades, as follows:

From 2000 onwards the listing inevitably becomes more a chronology of events than a list of milestones, though some entries are actually milestones. Recent events are documented on the page News from the Sorabji Archive.

1960-1969

1960-04-00: Clinton Gray-Fisk publishes in the April issue of the Musical Times an introductory article on Sorabji that will often be quoted.

1962-05-05: Frank Holliday begins a series of private recordings of Sorabji at his piano, some of which were to be heard in 1969 as part of radio broadcasts.

1965-07-00: Gambit: Edinburgh University Review publishes in its summer issue the transcript of a conversation between Hugh MacDiarmid, John Ogdon, and Ronald Stevenson under the title “Sorabji Symposium”.

1966-10-20: John Gates gives the first public performance of Fantaisie espagnole (1919; 23 pp.) at Carnegie Hall, New York.

1969-11-12: Alistair Hinton discovers Sorabji’s music during a visit to the Central Music Library (Westminster).

1969-12-00: Publication of Pastiche on the “Minute Waltz” by Chopin (1922; 7 pp.) as part of an anthology of arrangements of the piece under Donald M. Garvelmann’s own imprint, Music Treasure Publications. This represents the first publication of any music by Sorabji since the release of Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) in 1931.

1969-12-08: Broadcast in New York of a programme organized by Donald Garvelmann, consisting of Erik Chisholm’s text (“The Composer Sorabji”), edited, read, and introduced by Frank Holliday with excerpts from performances by Sorabji.

1970-1979

1970-12-13: The New York WNCN radio station broadcasts a three-hour Sorabji programme produced by Donald M. Garvelmann.

1971-07-00: Paul Rapoport purchases for £2.10 a copy of Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) in London and begins studying Sorabji’s music.

1972-08-21: Alistair Hinton visits Sorabji for the first time in Corfe Castle.

1973-07-12: Michael Habermann gives his first unofficial Sorabji recital in Glen Cove, NY.

1974-09-03: Paul Rapoport, using the Music 360 music-composition programme by Prof. Barry Vercoe of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology running on the University of Illinois’ IBM 360/75 computer, begins producing a computer realization of parts of Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.), totalling 35 minutes of music.

1975-00-00: Bruce Posner completes an honours thesis on Sorabji at Fordham University (New York), which mostly consists of a description, with several music examples, of five sections of Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.). Despite its very limited availability, this academic work is the first scholarly examination of Sorabji’s music.

1976-02-27: Marc-André Roberge orders from Oxford University Press some scores by Sorabji, including Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.), for which he pays £4.86, and begins studying his music.

1976-03-23: Alistair Hinton convinces Sorabji to allow Yonty Solomon to play some of his works in public.

1976-07-28: Sorabji gives Michael Habermann a letter granting him permission to perform his works.

1976-12-07: Yonty Solomon gives the first official Sorabji recital in London, Wigmore Hall, comprising the Fantaisie espagnole (1919; 23 pp.), Two Piano Pieces (1918, 1920; 20 pp.), and Le jardin parfumé: Poem for Piano Solo (1923; 16 pp.).

1977-05-22: Michael Habermann gives his first official Sorabji recital at Carnegie Hall.

1977-06-11: Broadcast of a prerecorded London Weekend Television programme “Aquarius”, produced by Derek Bailey and hosted by Russell Harty, in which Sorabji is interviewed (he was only photographed, not filmed live). Felix Aprahamian (music critic and writer), Peter Hall (theatre and opera producer), Alistair Hinton, Sacheverell Sitwell, and Yonty Solomon are also interviewed.

1978-05-15: Paul Rapoport and Alistair Hinton begin microfilming a substantial portion of Sorabji’s musical manuscripts (filling four reels).

1978-12-05: Paul Rapoport publishes a chapter entitled “Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji and His Opus Clavicembalisticum” in his book Opus est: Six Composers from Northern Europe (ISBN 978-0-900707-88-7, 978-0-8008-5844-5; library locations at WorldCat). This is the first time that Sorabji and his music are discussed in book form by a musicologist.

1979-00-00: Publication of the reprint of Around Music by Hyperion Press (New York).

1980-1989

1980-02-02: The first performance ever of an orchestral work by Sorabji, the Cinque sonetti di Michelagniolo Buonarroti (1923; 40 pp.), takes place at the University of Toronto’s Walter Hall as part of the New Music Concerts thanks to the substantial collaboration of Paul Rapoport.

1980-11-00: Musical Heritage Society releases Michael Habermann’s first Sorabji recording. This represents the first commercial recording of any of Sorabji’s music.

1982-05-03: The Delius Society, Philadelphia Branch, organizes a concert on the occasion of Sorabji’s 90th birthday, featuring the first performance of a work specially commissioned by Norman Gentieu, Il tessuto d’arabeschi (1979; 32 pp.), the only commission he ever fulfilled.

1982-06-11: Geoffrey Douglas Madge gives the second complete public performance of Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) at the Holland Festival (Utrecht, Muziekcentrum Vredenburg). The first performance had been given by Sorabji himself in Glasgow on 1 December 1930.

1983-04-00: Marc-André Roberge publishes an article entitled “Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, compositeur sui generis” in Sonances, revue musicale québécoise. This represents the first substantial discussion of Sorabji in French.

1984-11-09: Geoffrey Douglas Madge performs Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) in Montréal. Marc-André Hamelin, one of the two page-turners (he turned — or more accurately slid — pages for parts one and three; pages for part two were turned by Véronique Robert), and Marc-André Roberge meet for the first time (an event that was to have far-reaching consequences for the reception of the music of both Alkan and Sorabji); the latter also meets Paul Rapoport for the first time (an important meeting for Sorabjian research).

1985-00-00: Nazlin Bhimani completes her M.A. thesis at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver) on Sorabji’s critical writings about British music in The New Age and Michael Habermann completes a D.M.A. dissertation entitled “A Style Analysis of the Nocturnes for Solo Piano by Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, with Special Emphasis on Le jardin parfumé” at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.

1985-03-09: Paul Rapoport, on the day following a performance by Ronald Stevenson of his Passacaglia on DSCH at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario), commissions Marc-André Roberge with the preparation of a list of performances of Sorabji’s works for the symposium book that he was planning (Sorabji: A Critical Celebration). He also gives Roberge a private copy of his initial list of Sorabji’s works, thus enabling him to begin his research using reliable data. This marks the actual beginning of his scholarly involvement with Sorabji’s music.

1986-00-00: Publication by Da Capo Press (New York) of the reprint of Mi contra fa, preceded by an introduction by Donald Garvelmann.

1987-02-00: Alistair Hinton, at the suggestion of Paul Rapoport, phones Marc-André Roberge to ask him for a copy of the list of performances of Sorabji’s works he was preparing for Sorabji: A Critical Celebration.

1987-07-25: Kevin Bowyer and Thomas Trotter give the first complete performance of Symphony [no. 1] for Organ (1924; 81 pp.) at the 1987 International Congress of Organists (London, Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street). This represents the first time organ music by Sorabji is performed since E. Emlyn Davies’s (partial) performance of the work on 17 May 1928.

1987-11-00: Publication of Ronald Stevenson’s edition of Fantasiettina sul nome illustre dell’egregio poeta Christopher Grieve ossia Hugh M’Diarmid (1961; 10 pp.) by Bardic Edition (Aylesbury). This represents the first publication of a work by Sorabji since the release of Donald M. Garvelmann’s edition of the Pastiche on the “Minute Waltz” by Chopin (1922; 7 pp.).

1988-09-00: Alistair Hinton establishes the Sorabji Music Archive (renamed Sorabji Archive in January 1991) to provide easy access to the composer’s musical and literary production.

1988-11-00: Continuum releases a recording of Kevin Bowyer’s playing of Symphony [no. 1] for Organ (1924; 81 pp.).

1989-00-00: The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections, Mills Memorial Library, McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada), purchases Frank Holliday’s collection of materials relating to Sorabji. This represents the largest public collection of material relating to Sorabji.

1989-05-00: Release of John Ogdon’s recording of Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.), realized in 1985 and 1986, on the Altarus label, which was to release many other recordings of music by Sorabji in the years to come.

1989-06-00: Marc-André Roberge, in conversation with Paul Rapoport, says that he would have numerous problems to solve in writing a biography of Sorabji. Rapoport answers: “That will be your job!” This suggests to Roberge that he should tackle this enormous project, which he later mentions to Alistair Hinton, who replies: “Loud cheers! I’ll give you all the help I can.”

1990-1999

1990-01-00: Marc-André Roberge, as part of his ongoing research on Sorabji, hires André Garneau, a saxophonist and music copyist from Québec City, to set the musical text for critical editions of shorter works using NoteWriter II by Passport Designs, Inc.

1992-04-00: The Sorabji Music Archive publishes the first of Marc-André Roberge engraved editions of shorter works and songs, all provided with a historical and analytical introduction and a critical report.

1992-06-20: Marc-André Roberge meets Alistair Hinton for the first time (after having corresponded with him since 1987) and spends a week discovering the contents of the Sorabji Music Archive.

1992-08-14: Centenary of Sorabji’s birth, which is marked by an exhibition put up by Alistair Hinton at the British Music Information Centre (in September).

1992-03-09: Marc-André Roberge spends a few days at the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections at McMaster University and goes through the Frank Holliday Collection of Material Relating to Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji.

1992-12-03: The long-awaited collective book Sorabji: A Critical Celebration ([xv], 512 pp.; ISBN 978-0-85967-923-7, library locations at WorldCat), edited by Paul Rapoport, is published by Scolar Press (later Ashgate, Routledge since 2016. Interested persons finally have access to a full and accurate catalogue of works, replete with countless details that lift the veil on their unique musical and literary characteristics. The book was reprinted in 1994 with corrections but is now out of print in its original form. Routledge has reissued it as a VitalSource eBook on 5 July 2017 (ISBN 978-1-31-508780-1), and in paperback on 30 August 2017 (ISBN 978-1-13-826050-4).

1994-00-00: The Paul Sacher Stiftung (Basel) acquires from Alistair Hinton all of Sorabji’s manuscripts in his possession since Sorabji’s death.

1996-02-00: Erica N. Schulman, a scientific programmer with a Ph.D. in Physics from Columbia University, prepares for the Sorabji Archive a website hosted on a server at McGill University (but no longer developed) thanks to arrangements made by Joel Wapnick, a professor of music education who had discovered Sorabji’s music a few years earlier.

1998-12-06: Christopher Berg organizes a Sorabji concert at Merkin Concert Hall at Abraham Goodman House in New York. The programme includes the first performance of the Quintet no. 1 for Piano and Quartet of Stringed Instruments (1919-20; 72 pp.) and the American premières of Sonata seconda for Piano (1920; 49 pp.) by Tellef Johnson, and of Trois fêtes galantes de Verlaine (ca. 1919; 11 pp.) by Felicity La Fortune and Christopher Berg.

2000-2009

2001-00-00: Simon Abrahams publishes the first of several editions of (mostly) piano works, setting high standards of layout.

2001-02-17: Erica Schulman Kane founds a discussion group on Yahoo! that becomes active only on 6 August 2001.

2001-03-01: Jonathan Powell gives the first of several recitals devoted to (mostly) first performances of Sorabji’s works.

2002-00-00: Jonathan Powell publishes the first of several editions of extensive piano works, edited in view of, and in the light of, his own performances and recordings, setting like Simon Abrahams high standards of presentation.

2002-11-14: Elizabeth Farnum gives in New York, with Margaret Kampmeier, a recital devoted to Sorabji’s songs, many of them in first performances, coinciding with the release of a recording on the Centaur label.

2003-00-00: Original editions of books and scores of works by Sorabji begin to appear regularly on the second-hand book market, namely, on the site AbeBooks.com, fetching increasingly higher prices.

2004-00-00: The growing practice of illegally disseminating copyrighted music on the Internet by means of anonymous postings on discussion groups devoted to the piano and on web pages without identifiable authors begins affecting the rights of legitimate copyright owners of Sorabji-related materials.

2004-00-00: Alexander Abercrombie publishes the first of his editions of large-scale piano works, setting like Simon Abrahams and Jonathan Powell high standards of excellence.

2004-00-00: Marc-André Roberge, who had not published any edition of music by Sorabji since 1994, resumes his editorial activities with further editions of works by Sorabji for the Sorabji Archive using the Sibelius notation software.

2006-00-00: BIS Records releases the first disc (out of a projected six) of Fredrik Ullén’s recording of the complete Études transcendantes (100) (1940-44; 456 pp.).

2006-02-00: Sean Vaughn Owen completes a Ph.D. in musicology at the University of Southampton with a dissertation entitled “Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji: An Oral Biography” (372 pp.) containing substantial biographical findings about Sorabji’s mother that finally put to a well-deserved eternal rest the legend of her “Spanish-Sicilian” background.

2006-07-26: Announcement of the foundation of the Sorabji Archive’s website.

2007-02-23: Foundation of a Sorabji Forum hosted on the Sorabji Archive’s website.

2008-04-22: Alistair Hinton announces the foundation of Kevin Bowyer’s Sorabji Organ Project (website no longer active; <http://www.sorabji-organ.org/>).

2008-08-21: Alistair Hinton announces the relocation of the Sorabji Archive from Bath, Somerset, to Eaton Bishop, Herefordshire.

2009-05-02: Alistair Hinton announces the completion of his project of scanning his collection of master copies of musical manuscripts and editions of Sorabji’s music.

2010-2019

2010-06-08: Kevin Bowyer gives in Glasgow the first complete performance of Second Symphony for Organ (1929-32; 350 pp.). This represents, at nine hours, the longest work by Sorabji ever performed. Accounts of this event are available on the Sorabji Forum.

2010-06-18: Jonathan Powell gives in Glasgow the first complete performance of Sequentia cyclica super “Dies irae” ex Missa pro defunctis (1948-49; 335 pp.). This represents, at a little more than seven hours, the longest piano work by Sorabji ever performed.

2010-08-11: Marc-André Roberge announces the inauguration of the Sorabji Resource Site on the server of the Faculty of Music at Laval University in time for the 118th anniversary of Sorabji’s birth.

2012-07-00: The Sorabji Archive announces that all of Sorabji’s scores (both manuscripts and editions) and published literary writings can be issued electronically in PDF format rather than only as photocopies (see page Catalogue of material available from the Archive), as used to be the case since its foundation, thereby considerably reducing their cost and contributing to their easier availability.

2013-03-18: The Sorabji Archive announces that the catalogue entries for the scores of Sorabji’s music (see page Compositions) now come with a sample page (PDF, PNG) in all available formats (manuscript and handwritten or engraved editions).

2013-08-14: Marc-André Roberge announces, on the very day of Sorabji’s 121th anniversary, the release of his long-awaited book Opus sorabjianum: The Life and Works of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, the complete text of which, along with sound clips for the musical examples, can be downloaded for free from this website.

Last modified: 2018-06-26
© Marc-André Roberge 2018
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

The contents of this website devoted to the English composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji may be freely used for documentary purposes in a research context provided that due credit is given but may not be mirrored on any other server. Links to external or third-party websites cannot be guaranteed to be, or remain, valid or persistent, and their contents cannot be guaranteed to be, or remain, accurate or appropriate.

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