“The music of Sorabji acquired mythic status long before his death in 1988, not least through the ban on public performances imposed by him in 1938. When the ban was lifted in 1976 Michael Habermann was among the first pianists to take up Sorabji in earnest. The fruits of his devotion – technically and conceptually – to some of the most demanding music yet conceived for piano can be heard on these recordings, made over a 15-year period. Spanning mainly the period 1918-41, the set covers the first half of Sorabji's career, dominated by the vast Opus clavicembalisticum, later championed by John Ogdon and Geoffrey Douglas Madge, and represented here by a swift and eventful rendition of its first two sections. 'In the Hothouse' and Fantaisie espagnole will appeal to anyone who enjoys the more demonstrative output of Scriabin or Szymanowski, while the pastiches show that Sorabji's music wasn't without humour. The second disc comprises a trio of nocturnes: pieces whose rhapsodic unfolding belies their intricacy of construction. If the harmonic profile of Le jardin parfumé draws in resonances of Delius and pre-echoes of Messiaen, that of Djâmî represents a sublimation of means to wholly original ends – and is the undoubted masterpiece of this collection. Aficionados would no doubt make even greater claims for Gulista¯n, but here the very complexity of texture seems designed to conceal rather than intensify expression. As to the performances, there can be no doubting the extent of Michael Habermann's sympathies, nor his depth of insight. The release comes with informative notes by Habermann, and can be cordially recommended to those keen to immerse themselves in a composer whose singularity of expression is sometimes matched by the conviction of his achievement.”
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