Sorabji: Toccata Seconda per Pianoforte

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Khaikosru Sorabji (1892-1988) is one of the most enigmatic and controversial 20-th century composers. Largely self-taught he chose his own way, never fitting into any school or movement, his style is highly idiosyncratic, inspired by late-romantics like Busoni and Szymanowski. Characteristic for his piano music are the enormous proportions and textural density of his works, some of them lasting several hours in performance, taxing the performer and audience to the utmost.

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Composer: Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji
Artist: Abel Sánchez-Aguilera (piano)

This album contains the Toccata seconda per Pianoforte by Sorabji, presented by Piano Classics, a label of Brilliant Classics.

A huge Sorabji premiere on disc, and a must-hear recording for virtuoso pianophiles.

The Toccata seconda for piano (1933-34) belongs to an extraordinarily fertile decade in Sorabji’s creative life that saw the composition of a series of gigantic works, from Opus Clavicembalisticum to the Symphonic Variations and Tāntrik Symphony for solo piano. At ‘merely’ two and half hours in duration, the Toccata is more modestly scaled than these works, but still a composition of ambitious scope, which has had to wait for a new generation of Sorabji performers – the Spanish Abel Sánchez-Aguilera foremost among them – to be introduced to audiences beyond the coterie of Sorabji devotees.

Reflecting in both its title and its style the composer’s enduring love of Bach, the Toccata seconda consists of nine movements taking inspiration from several Baroque genres: not only the toccata itself but also chorale prelude, passacaglia, fugue, free fantasies and fast sections in perpetual motion style, which are braided with Sorabji’s idiosyncratic slow movements – in this case, a ‘tropical’ nocturne and polyphonic aria.

In fact the Toccata is an admirable synthesis of Sorabji’s style, distilled into a relatively compact format. The balanced alternation of contrasting movements of moderate length, the variety of mood and form, the emphasis on melody and lyricism, the transparent textures in spite of the great pianistic challenges, all make this work particularly approachable to the listener and an excellent introduction to Sorabji’s large-scale works.

A distinguished biochemist turned pianist, Abel Sánchez-Aguilera has given performances of Scriabin’s complete sonatas, the Spanish première of Sorabji’s Toccata seconda and the first performance of this work in the UK since its prèmiere in 1936. This album joins Jonathan Powell’s recent recording of the monumental Sequentia Cyclica (PCL10206) and Lukas Huisman in the Symphonic Nocturne (PCLD0119) as significant contributions to the Sorabji discography on Piano Classics.

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Toccata seconda per Pianoforte:
0:00:00 I. Preludio-Toccata
0:15:11 II. Preludio-Corale
0:32:39 III. Scherzo
0:43:06 IV. Aria
0:54:42 V. Ostinato
1:16:33 VI. Notturno
1:30:52 VII. Interludio – Moto perpetuo
1:38:56 VIII. Cadenza – Punta d’organo
1:43:19 IX. Fuga libera a cinque voci
2:15:48 IX. Coda-Stretta

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