Advanced Keyboard Writing

This page lists, in chronological order, the piano works by Sorabji that make use of the following devices or techniques of advanced writing for the piano:

Bösendorfer Keyboard and Sostenuto Pedal

The following table lists the page numbers of his piano works where Sorabji uses the extra low notes of the Bösendorfer keyboard and the middle pedal of the Steinway piano. The page numbers between brackets in the entries below refer to non-existent notes that extend beyond the piano’s range at the top. Curiously, Sorabji seems to have thought initially that the Bösendorfer keyboard was extended in both directions. The 102-key piano (eight octaves and a fourth) built by Stephen Paulello did not exist at the time.

A bullet (•) identifies works for which reference is to the page numbers of the published edition rather than of the manuscript. There may be more than one instance of a given feature on each page. The systematic scan of the works with piano was done when there were hardly any editions and has not (yet) been revised to give preference to the published editions.

Click on a column heading to sort, then shift-click on other headings to sort on multiple columns.
Surround strings with quotation marks for specific searches. Press F5 (Refresh) to revert to the initial order.

Title Bösendorfer Keyboard Sostenuto Pedal
Title Bösendorfer Keyboard Sostenuto Pedal
Concerto II pour piano et grand orchestre (1916-17; 49 pp.) 27-29
Concerto pour piano et grand orchestre [no. 4] (1918; 100 pp.) 57-60
Sonata no. 1 for Piano (1919; 42 pp.) 16 (does not appear in the published edition on p. 18)
Quintet no. 1 for Piano and Quartet of Stringed Instruments (1919-20; 72 pp.)• 12
Sonata seconda for Piano (1920; 49 pp.)• 19, 54
Sonata III for Piano (1922; 75 pp.)• [3] 6, 10, 12, 35, 45, 47
Variazioni e fuga triplice sopra “Dies irae” per pianoforte (1923-26; 201 pp.) [108] 116, 195, 199
Fragment: Prelude and Fugue on FxAxx DAxEx (1926; 3 pp.) 1
Trois poèmes du “Gulistān” de Saʿdī (1926; 16 pp.) 3, 5
Toccata [no. 1] for Piano (1928; 66 pp.) 63, 64
Sonata IV for Piano (1928-29; 111 pp.) [15], [17], [28], [79], 111 36, 53, 67
Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) [58 (near the end of “Fuga I”, in the last bar of the first system, but the problem is fixed in hand in his “Working Copy”)], [167 (twice in var. 34, and not fixed in that copy)] 12, 17, 50, 57, 134, 135, 137, 139, 140, 141, 145, 147, 153, 195, 196
Symphony no. 0 for Piano Solo (1930-31; 333 pp.) 14, 90, 118
Movement for Voice and Piano (1927, 1931; 9 pp.) 5
Quintet II for Piano and String Quartet (1932-33; 432 pp.) 273, 276, 307, 315, 317, 338, 359, 372, 405, 430
Toccata seconda per pianoforte (1933-34; 111 pp.) 10, 11, 17, 28, 32
Sonata V (Opus archimagicum) (1934-35; 336 pp.) 23 17, 18, 19, 23, 28, 31, 35, 39, 43, 45, 48, 70, 76, 77, 96, 97, 107, 113, 114, 116, 118, 119, 121, 122, 123, 126, 127, 129, 135, 140, 142, 144, 146, 151, 156, 158, 159, 161, 162, 167, 178, 219, 236, 237, 267, 274
Symphonic Variations for Piano (1935-37; 484 pp.) 94, 317, 438
Tāntrik Symphony for Piano Alone (1938-39; 284 pp.) 1, 4, 6, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 31, 32, 41, 66, 67, 85, 87, 99, 103, 106, 117, 123, 130, 132, 139, 141, 149, 154, 157, 160, 163, 167, 168, 196, 197, 280
Quaere reliqua hujus materiei inter secretiora (1940; 16 pp.) 3, 7, 9, 11, 12
“Gulistān” — Nocturne for Piano (1940; 28 pp.) 17, 21
St. Bertrand de Comminges: “He was laughing in the tower” (1941; 16 pp.) 2, 5, 12
Trois poèmes (1941; 13 pp.) 1
Études transcendantes (100) (1940-44; 456 pp.) Nos. 2, 38 Nos. 16, 20, 27, 29, 36, 50 (entirely devoted to the sostenuto pedal), 58, 59, 100
Concerto da suonare da me solo e senza orchestra, per divertirmi (1946; 70 pp.) 1, 4, 39, 60
Sequentia cyclica super “Dies irae” ex Missa pro defunctis (1948-49; 335 pp.) [237] 337
Un nido di scatole sopra il nome del grande e buon amico Harold Rutland (1954; 26 pp.) 1
Second Symphony for Piano (1954; 248 pp.) 13, 151, 171, 202, 245
Rosario d’arabeschi (1956; 45 pp.) [11] 16, 29, 30, 35, 45
Opus clavisymphonicum — Concerto for Piano and Large Orchestra (1957-59; 333 pp.) 1, 2, 34, 40, 72, 81, 86, 102
Third Symphony for Piano Solo (1959-60; 144 pp.) 6, 17, 94
Fourth Symphony for Piano Alone (1962-64; 240 pp.) 240 87, 138, 144
Frammenti aforistici (20) (1964; 9 pp.) 6
Frammenti aforistici (Sutras) (104) (1962-64; 37 pp.)
Toccata quarta (1964-67; 149 pp.) 149 34, 37, 38, 89, 100, 103
Symphonia brevis for Piano (1973; 120 pp.) 8, 20, 27, 66, 109, 117
Opusculum clavisymphonicum vel claviorchestrale (1973-75; 334 pp.) 35, 55, 65, 80, 131, 225, 273
Sixth Symphony for Piano (Symphonia claviensis) (1975-76; 270 pp.) 40, 41, 47, 57, 66, 70, 83, 87, 150, 183, 207, 247, 269 19, 225, 227
Symphonic Nocturne for Piano Alone (1977-78; 113 pp.) 7, 34, 46, 48, 57, 64, 66, 73, 83, 85 9, 10, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 48, 62, 71 73, 84, 94
Il gallo d’oro da Rimsky-Korsakov: variazioni frivole con una fuga anarchica, eretica e perversa (1978-79; 93 pp.) 7, 33, 35, 60, 64, 70, 78 1-4, 8-13, 14-17, 19, 20-21, 23-24, 27, 28-33, 35, 38, 41, 43-44, 53-54, 58-61, 62, 63-64, 66-69, 70, 71, 75, 77-78, 80, 84-86, 88-89, 89-93
Villa Tasca: mezzogiorno siciliano — evocazione nostalgica e memoria tanta cara e preziosa del giardino meraviglioso, splendido, tropicale (1979-80; 47 pp.) 7-8, 11, 23, 39 11, 42
Opus secretum atque necromanticum (1980-81; 48 pp.) 15, 22, 42, 43, 47 6, 16, 21, 26, 42, 43
Passeggiata arlecchinesca sopra un frammento di Busoni (“Rondò arlecchinesco”) (1981-82; 16 pp.) 10, 16 3, 10, 16

Multi-Staff Systems

The following table gives the page numbers where systems of five, six, seven, and ten staves are used in Sorabji’s works involving the piano or the organ. One-system staves are included in a compilation devoted to multi-staff systems on account of their exceptional character. Two-, three-, and four-staff systems are not considered to avoid lengthening the table unduly with what is standard procedure for Sorabji.

But for rare exceptions, one-staff systems are used for the presentation of fugue subjects. Two-staff systems are standard in the early songs, up to Arabesque (1920; 2 pp.); afterwards, they recur occasionally, up to Frammenti aforistici (4) (1977; 1 p.), especially when the texture is reduced in the large-scale works.

Three-staff systems are first seen in Concerto [no. 1] pour piano et grand orchestre (1915-16; 177 pp.) and become the standard layout. Four-staff systems are introduced in Sonata no. 1 for Piano (1919; 42 pp.) for two short instances in the published edition, namely, on pp. 31 (in a bar not present in the manuscript) and 43. It is in Toccata [no. 1] for Piano (1928; 66 pp.) that and they become as standard as three-staff systems.

The first work to be notated entirely on four-staff systems is Concerto da suonare da me solo e senza orchestra, per divertirmi (1946; 70 pp.). This also applies to Opus clavisymphonicum — Concerto for Piano and Large Orchestra (1957-59; 333 pp.) and (but for two pages) Opusculum clavisymphonicum vel claviorchestrale (1973-75; 334 pp.). Five-, six-, and seven-staff systems are obviously found only on a few pages of the most massive works. Only once — in Third Organ Symphony (1949-53; 305 pp.) — did Sorabji go further in spreading out his music, reaching ten staves (plus one for the pedal) on a single page.

In the case of the organ works, the one-staff pedal part should be added to the systems referred to here. Surprisingly, there are no multi-staff pedal parts in Sorabji’s music.

A bullet (•) identifies works for which reference is to the page numbers of the published edition rather than of the manuscript. There may be more than one instance of a given feature on each page. The systematic scan of the works with piano was done when there were hardly any editions and has not (yet) been revised to give preference to the published editions.

Click on a column heading to sort, then shift-click on other headings to sort on multiple columns.
Surround strings with quotation marks for specific searches. Press F5 (Refresh) to revert to the initial order.

Title One Five Six Seven Ten
Title One Five Six Seven Ten
Introduction, Passacaglia, Cadenza, and Fugue (1929; compl. Alexander Abercrombie, 2004; 79 pp.) 5
Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) 99, 104 251-52
Symphony no. 0 for Piano Solo (1930-31; 333 pp.) 86, 94, 100, 137, 139, 241, 254-55, 309 333 250-51
Second Symphony for Organ (1929-32; 350 pp.) 306-13 100-104
Quintet II for Piano and String Quartet (1932-33; 432 pp.) 122
Toccata seconda per pianoforte (1933-34; 111 pp.) 1
Sonata V (Opus archimagicum) (1934-35; 336 pp.) 1, 285, 310 224-27, 279, 334 335-36 198-99, 225-27
Symphonic Variations for Piano (1935-37; 484 pp.) 270, 409, 428, 447 248-49, 467-76 441-46 116-17
Tāntrik Symphony for Piano Alone (1938-39; 284 pp.) 207, 221, 253 219-20, 252-53 282-84
“Gulistān” — Nocturne for Piano (1940; 28 pp.) 23
Études transcendantes (100) (1940-44; 456 pp.) No. 100 No. 100 No. 100
Sequentia cyclica super “Dies irae” ex Missa pro defunctis (1948-49; 335 pp.) 331-43
Third Organ Symphony (1949-53; 305 pp.) 132, 141 267-89, 298-99 124
Second Symphony for Piano (1954; 248 pp.) 213-24
Fourth Symphony for Piano Alone (1962-64; 240 pp.) 240
Toccata quarta (1964-67; 149 pp.) 1, 118 116, 145 146-49
Symphonia brevis for Piano (1973; 120 pp.) 76, 109 76, 120
Sixth Symphony for Piano (Symphonia claviensis) (1975-76; 270 pp.) 247, 255-58

Glissandos and Sympathetic Vibrations

The following table lists the page numbers of his piano works where Sorabji uses glissandos, all on white keys unless otherwise mentioned and for the right hand. Whenever necessary, the colour of the keys is given with “(W)” and “(B)”. The frequent instances of “gliss.” added to two adjacent intervals or chords (i.e., performed like appoggiaturas) are not noted as they are not glissandos properly speaking.

The table also lists all the instances where Sorabji asks that the pianist depress the keys to raise the dampers in order to let the strings vibrate sympathetically (notated with losange-shaped notes). The exact wording (usually Italian, less often French) is given.

A bullet (•) identifies works for which reference is to the page numbers of the manuscript rather than of the published edition (unlike the two previous tables).

Click on a column heading to sort, then shift-click on other headings to sort on multiple columns.
Surround strings with quotation marks for specific searches. Press F5 (Refresh) to revert to the initial order.

Title Glissandos Sympathetic Vibrations
Title Glissandos Sympathetic Vibrations
Concerto [no. 1] pour piano et grand orchestre (1915-16; 177 pp.)• p. 176: ascending left-hand gliss. (W) and right-hand gliss. (B)
p. 180: ascending left-hand gliss. (B) and right-hand gliss. (W)
Concerto II pour piano et grand orchestre (1916-17; 49 pp.)• p. 20/1/2: ascending left-hand gliss. (B) and right-hand gliss. (W)
p. 43: ascending left-hand gliss. (W) and right-hand gliss. (B) (?)
p. 44: series of six descending and ascending gliss., left hand (B) and right hand (W)
Concerto pour piano et grand orchestre [no. 4] (1918; 100 pp.)• p. 25 (piano part): ascending left-hand gliss. (B) and right-hand gliss. (W)
p. 27: right-hand ascending and descending gliss.
p. 35 (piano part): ascending left-hand gliss. (W) and right-hand gliss. (B); series of descending and ascending gliss., left hand (B), right hand (W)
p. 25 (piano part): “Prenez silencieusement les touches en les accrochant avec la 3eme pédale (sostenuto)”
Fantaisie espagnole (1919; 23 pp.) pp. 19, 25: ascending and descending right-hand gliss.
p. 32: ascending right-hand gliss.
Sonata III for Piano (1922; 75 pp.) p. 19: descending right-hand gliss. (W) followed by an ascending right-hand one (B) p. 19: Seven notes of the demisemiquaver flourish in both hands that precedes the glissandos referred to in the column on the left are reproduced in losange-shaped notes. There is no specific indication.
Pastiche on the Habanera from “Carmen” by Bizet (1922; 6 pp.) bar 71: descending left-hand gliss. interlocked with two chords
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra [no.] III [no. 6] (1922; 144 pp.)• p. 122: ascending left-hand gliss. (B) and right-hand gliss. (W)
Rapsodie espagnole de Maurice Ravel: transcription de concert pour piano (first version, 1923; 16 pp.) pp. 9/3/3, 16/1/3-4, 16/3/, 17/2/3, 17/2/4, 17/2/2, 17/2/4, 17/3/2, 27/1/2, 27/2/1, 28/1/1 (octaves?), 30/3/4-5 (B+W, then W only)
Le jardin parfumé: Poem for Piano Solo (1923; 16 pp.) p. 21 (ed. Powell): starting from a low C sharp octave and ending on the minor ninth A-B flat, double gliss. with the right hand (B) and the left hand (W) p. 21 (ed. Powell): “Toucher silencieux” preceding the striking of the chord’s notes as an arpeggio
Valse-fantaisie for Piano (1925; 16 pp.) p. 25: double ascending gliss. starting on the minor second A-B flat and ending on E-F
Variazioni e fuga triplice sopra “Dies irae” per pianoforte (1923-26; 201 pp.)• p. 115: right-hand double gliss. on a minor second (G-A flat)
Trois poèmes du “Gulistān” de Saʿdī (1926; 16 pp.) “La lampe” (p. 8): left-hand ascending gliss. (W) with right-hand ascending gliss. (B)
Concerto V for Piano and Large Orchestra [no. 8] (1927-28; 344 pp.)• p. 57 (piano part): double ascending gliss., beginning on the minor second G sharp-A and ending on the minor second A-B flat, presumably with one hand (B) and the other (W) p. 57 (piano part): “N.B. Lasciare suonare a piacere poi toccare senza suonare i tasti [bianchi]”
Toccata [no. 1] for Piano (1928; 66 pp.) p. 26/3: descending right-hand gliss.
p. 49/2: ascending right-hand gliss.
Nocturne, “Jāmī” (1928; 28 pp.) pp. 3/1 (B), 8/1, 10/2 (B), 15/3/1 (B, on a major second), 24/1/1 (from a four-note chord to another), 25/1/2
Symphony no. 0 for Piano Solo (1930-31; 333 pp.)• p. 155: right-hand ascending gliss. against an arpeggio notated in grace notes 
Introduction, Passacaglia, Cadenza, and Fugue (1929; compl. Alexander Abercrombie, 2004; 79 pp.) p. 29/3/2 (var. 47)
Quintet II for Piano and String Quartet (1932-33; 432 pp.) p. 393 (beginning of “Intermezzo”): two runs (ascending and descending) notated in smaller notes could be performed as gliss.
Fantasia ispanica (1933; 54 pp.) p. 53/1
Sonata V (Opus archimagicum) (1934-35; 336 pp.) p. 31: “riprendere silenziosamente l’ accordo, poi rilasciare il Ped.”
Fragment Written for Harold Rutland (1926, 1928, 1937; 2 pp.) bar 11 (1926 version): three descending gliss. (B)
Symphonic Variations for Piano [and Orchestra] (1935-37; 484 pp.)• p. 125 (var. 27): an ascending two-octave gliss. in the right hand above a series of descending grace notes in the left hand; the same context also appears on p. 129 (without any specific indication).
p. 258 (var. 50): three gliss. in thirds
p. 265 (var. 52): a right-hand gliss. of two octave and a half
p. 358 (var. 66): long descending left-hand gliss.
Trois poèmes (1941; 13 pp.) The last bar of the first song (bar 24) has what appears to be a double right-hand gliss. (B) with two major seconds. It is most likely that the two dyads will be struck and that the hand will simply play a normal gliss. on the black keys.
“Gulistān” — Nocturne for Piano (1940; 28 pp.) p. 17/2: five “quasi glissando di arpa” ascending and descending runs followed by a gliss. (B)
St. Bertrand de Comminges: “He was laughing in the tower” (1941; 16 pp.) p. 18/2: descending gliss. on a minor second (A-B flat), landing on a major second (C sharp-D sharp)
Études transcendantes (100) (1940-44; 456 pp.) No. 26 (p. 176): ascending left-hand gliss. (W), ascending right-hand (B)
No. 44 (p. 317): ascending right-hand gliss.
No. 9 (p. 51): “depress silently”
Rapsodie espagnole de Maurice Ravel: transcription de concert pour piano (second version, 1945; 26 pp.) pp. 16/3/1 (on a third), 29/1/1, 29/2/1, 31/2/2 (in both hands) p. 13/2-3
Concerto da suonare da me solo e senza orchestra, per divertirmi (1946; 70 pp.) p. 14/3/2 (bar 66), 41/3 (bar 39), 62/1/1 (bar 88)
Sequentia cyclica super “Dies irae” ex Missa pro defunctis (1948-49; 335 pp.) p. 47: “riprendere per tocco silenzioso poi tenere l’accordo colla terza pedale detta ‘sostenuto’”
Un nido di scatole sopra il nome del grande e buon amico Harold Rutland (1954; 26 pp.) p. 18/3: ascending right-hand gliss. (W) against descending left-hand gliss. (B)
Second Symphony for Piano (1954; 248 pp.)• p. 131: left-hand descending gliss.
Passeggiata veneziana sopra la Barcarola di Offenbach (1955-56; 24 pp.) p. 7/4/1: right-hand ascending gliss.
Rosario d’arabeschi (1956; 45 pp.) p. 30: “tocco silenzioso tenuto colla terza pedale”
Fourth Symphony for Piano Alone (1962-64; 240 pp.)• p. 141: “toucher silencieux par résonance sympathique”
Opusculum clavisymphonicum vel claviorchestrale (1973-75; 334 pp.)• p. 275: “Lasciare vibrare alcune battute[,] riprendere con tocco silenzio”
Sixth Symphony for Piano (Symphonia claviensis) (1975-76; 270 pp.) p. 96 (end of prima parte): double gliss. starting on the tritone E-B flat (thus W for the bottom one, and B for the top one)
Last modified: 2018-03-12
© Marc-André Roberge 2018
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

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