Opus sorabjianum

Marc-Andre Roberge's admirable study of the life and works of composer, pianist, critic and general curmudgeon Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji. The text contains one of my favorite references to the meeting between a young Sorabji and Ferruccio Busoni, by then a widely-revered master. The tale mirrors innumerable accounts of encounters between young musicians and the Franz Liszt we know from the illustrious Weimar years.

Sorabji recalled that Busoni shook hands with "the courteous grace of manner impossible to the Northern Barbarians," drew out the manuscript of his sonata and asked him to play it. The young composer protested that he was not a pianist and was in the third day of a long fast; he nevertheless had practised carefully in view of the audition, witness the fingerings in the manuscript (the only original ones in his entire output). He thus "got through it, trembling and pouring with sweat," whereupon Busoni said that he could not have played it better. Sorabji asked for a letter that would help him have his work accepted for publication. Busoni, who expressed his surprise that such music was written "in this country," admitted that it had given him "the most extraordinary sensations ... it is like a tropical forest."