Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)

Musical and Literary Homages and Dedications

This page provides a chronological list of the many tributes (musical, literary, and otherwise) paid to Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji or his music by friends and admirers. These include works that quote his music or draw inspiration from it in one way or another, such as a reference in the title, whether or not the composer is mentioned in the score or incorporating references to his music. All the works are for piano unless otherwise stated. Dedications to Sorabji are indicated by means of a bullet (). The list has been divided into two categories:

Inclusion of a work should not be taken as an endorsement. The page simply reports what could be documented.

See also the full texts of the literary homages and humoristic homages.

During Sorabji’s Lifetime

Norman Peterkin [1920]: “Rongeng (Malay Dancing and Singing Feast)”, first of three pieces published as Betel — Jade — Ivory: Suite for the Piano (Boston: The Boston Music Company, 1920). The first piece (pp. 2-5) is written “For Kaikhosru Sorabji”; the other two (“Ceremonial”, 6-12; “Chinoiserie”, 13-15) are dedicated to his wife, Marie, and to Ethel and Stanley Ormandy.

Mera Sett [1922]:Valse Triste—Chopin”, in Sculptured Melodies, Illustrated by the Author (London: Privately printed and published for the author by Grant Richards Ltd., 1922), 21-27 (total: [111] pp.). This edition is limited to 500 copies, 100 of which are numbered and signed by the author. This person, whose name may also appear as Mera K. Sett or Mera Ben Kavas Sett, published illustrations for Omar Khayyam in 1914. He was born in Bombay in 1888 and was still alive in 1954. The name does not appear anywhere in the surviving archival documentation on Sorabji.

The book consists of stories meant to illustrate eleven musical works (five by Chopin and one each by Beethoven, Dvořák, Gounod, Rubinstein, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky). A dedication “to Kaikoo Sorabji, Esq.” appears on p. [21] after the chapter’s title; there are drawings on pp. [22], [24], [25], 27. The text itself is on pp. 25-27. The piece known as “Valse triste” is op. 34, no. 2, in A minor.

Scans can be found in a series of eleven posts published between 21 November 2012 and 5 February 2013 on The Side Real Press Blog (Newcastle upon Tyne), but the dedication page preceding the chapter discussed here is missing from the reproduction; the chapter “Valse Triste—Chopin” is found in the post for 3 December 2012. See also Decadent Illustrators: Series Overview and Appendix 17: Mera K. Sett & Rupert Brooke for more on Sett.

Copies of Sculptured Melodies inscribed in 1944 and 1954, respectively, have been located: one to Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Jepson sold at an unknown date by Rooke Books (Bath), the other sold in November 2017 (lot 50) by StoryLTD (India). The digitized version on the Internet Archive (uploaded in 2018) lacks the blank and dedication pages.

Christopher à Becket Williams [1924]: Impromptu and Double Fugue for Two Pianos (London: Curwen, 1924). Dedicated “To Kaikhosru Sorabji”. The following appears on the verso of the title page:

Dear Kike, / On hearing this work you did me the honour to express a wish that it might be dedicated to you. Voilà, mon ami! That such a rigidly diatonic composition should so appeal to you rather surprised me...! Two things I am sure you will join me in hoping, (1) That I shall not be accused of accidentally cribbing the first theme from “Rule Britannia”. (2) That humourless and pale bloodless folk will not try their hands at playing the work. Certain music should not be taken literally, and this piece is best played with one’s tongue in one’s cheek, and after imbibing the cheerful glass (not a glass of your deplorable drink, what is it Infant’s Postum, or something!) Ever yours, “CANTUAR”.

Harold Rutland [1929]: Toccata, The Clarendon Piano Series, edited by John Ireland (London: Oxford University Press, 1929). “For Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji”.

Philip Christian Darnton [1932]: Suite no. 2 for piano, op. 1932, no. 2 (1932). “To Kaikhosru Sorabji”. This consists of four movements: “Studio (Allegro)”, “Sarabande”, “Choralis Sanctus (Andante croma), Cadenza ariata, Notturno”, and “Fughetta (Grave)”. The unusual opus number was given at a later date, when the composer collected his three suites, written in 1930, 1932, and 1932, respectively. First performance at an unspecified date in 1933; unpublished manuscript in the British Library under Add. 62736.

Hugh MacDiarmid (Christopher Murray Grieve) [1932]: “Cheville”, in Scots Unbound and Other Poems (Stirling: Eneas Mackay, 1932), 29; reprinted in Collected Poems of Hugh MacDiarmid, revised edition by John C. Weston (New York: The Macmillan Company; London: Collier-Macmillan, 1967), 276; also reprinted in Selected Poetry, ed. Alan Riach and Michael Grieve (New York: New Directions, 1993), 138. “Cheville” is a twelve-line poem inscribed “(For Kaikhosru Sorabji)”. In the 1932 edition an “Author’s Note” mentions that the poems it contains are “separable items” from the first volume of his long poem “Clann Albann”, then in preparation, and that some of them had appeared in various publications, including The New English Weekly. No earlier publication of “Cheville” has yet been found.

Alec Rowley [1936]: Fantasie and Fugal Toccata for Organ (London: J. Williams, 1936). “To Kaikhosru Sorabji”.

York Bowen [1950]: Twenty-Four Preludes in All Major and Minor Keys, op. 102 (London: J. W. Chester, 1950). “To Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, 1950”.

Mervyn Vicars [1953]: Purbecks Hills: Pastoral for String Quartet. “For a very dear friend and an offering in respect and admiration to a very great musician, K. S. Sorabji”.

Mervyn Vicars [1960]: Symphony no. 1 (1958-60). Dedicated to Sorabji.

Michael Habermann [1972]: À la manière de Sorabji: Au clair de la lune. 14 bars in 4/4. Dated at the end: “July 25-August 30, 1972. Recopied June 20, 1995”. Unpublished. Recorded on Élan CD 82264 (see pp. 8-9 of the booklet for background on the piece). Forms part of a series of homages to various composers. Sent on 5 September 1972 to Sorabji, who responded by dedicating to him “Il gallo d’oro” da Rimsky-Korsakov: Variazioni frivole con una fuga anarchica, eretica e perversa (1978-79; 93 pp.).

Mervyn Vicars [1973]: Introduction, Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Sorabji for Pianoforte and Orchestra. Completed on 16 February 1973. Unpublished. See “Comments by Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji — Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji by Mervyn Vicars” (annotated by Alistair Hinton, 13 March 1992, 3 pp.): “The dedicatee is enormously flattered and gratified to have provided the point de depart [recte départ] for this splendid and masterly score, and its gorgeous piano part.”

Alistair Hinton [1974]:Morceau d’anniversaire for Kaikhosru Sorabji for Solo Piano, op. 11. Dated 12.08.1974 on the verso of the title page; dated “from 01.17. to 04.22. on Monday, 12.08.1974” at the end and signed “ton frère Alistair”. 3 pages of music, with the use of the musical letters Kaikhosru [A, B, E♭], Shapurji [E♭, B, A], and Sorabji [E♭, A, B] and quotations from:

Clive Spencer-Bentley [1980-89]: In addition to the seven extant movements of a twelve-movement Mass, the following works are dedicated to Sorabji:

Ministry of Culture and Arts of Poland [1982]: Sorabji was awarded a medal in recognition of his championship of Karol Szymanowski’s music on the occasion of the composer’s centenary of birth (6 October).

Lowell Liebermann [1983]: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, op. 12 (1983). Marked “to Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji with admiration”. The work was recorded by Stephen Hough for Hyperion (CDA66966) in 1997, with the composer conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

David Holbrook [1988]: Am I a Sort of Sorabji? Poem (35 lines) published in The London Magazine n.s. 28, nos. 5-6 (August-September 1988): 95-96.

After Sorabji’s Death

Marc-André Hamelin [1989]: Praeambulum to an Imaginary Piano Symphony (Homage to Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, 1892-1988). 1 folio, 4 pp. Marked at the end: “À mon très cher ami Marc-André Roberge, un des plus intrépides défenseurs de la ‘cause Sorabji’ en signe d’admiration, de reconnaissance et d’amitié — Marc-André Hamelin, January 23-26, 1989” [“To my very dear friend Marc-André Roberge, one of the boldest defenders [or champions] of the Sorabji ‘cause’, as a token of admiration, gratitude, and friendship”].

Hamelin wrote this short pastiche of Sorabji’s “wild style” (about 1′ 35″) between 23 and 26 January 1989 while preparing his first performance of Sorabji’s Sonata no. 1 for Piano (1919; 42 pp.), which he gave on 19 March 1989 at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) at the invitation of Paul Rapoport. The piece is dedicated to Marc-André Roberge, who had invited Hamelin to give a recital at the School (now Faculty) of Music of Laval University (Québec City) on 31 May 1989 as part of the annual conference of the Canadian University Music Society, which he was organizing. The recital that, years later, people in the audience still speak of as one of the greatest recitals they have ever attended, included the following works:

The Praeambulum may have been played only once, for the dedicatee’s private ears, a few hours before the above-mentioned recital, in a practice studio at the School of Music. It is fully playable, and no more difficult than any piece by Sorabji with the same “look and feel”. There is much humour in the interpretative directions: gridando, con brutalità; quasi confuso; comme un marteau pneumatique [like a pneumatic drill]; etc. See also Roberge’s post of 21 October 2007 on the Sorabji Forum and the specific entry on this recital. Roberge’s edition and sound file (made with Sibelius) are unpublished.

Alan Bold [1989]: For Ronald Stevenson. Poem (148 lines) first published in The Glasgow Herald, 16 December 1989; reprinted in Ronald Stevenson: The Man and His Music — A Symposium, ed. Colin Scott-Sutherland (London: Toccata Press, 2005), 258-61. Calls Sorabji an “esoteric adventurer” and mentions Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.).

Alistair Hinton [1990]: Pansophiae for John Ogdon, op. 22. This 44-page organ work dedicated to Kevin Bowyer and John Ogdon consists of: Intrada, Toccata, Intermezzo, Tarantella, Passacaglia, Quasi-Fuga, and Coda-epilogo. In addition to references to works by Balakirev, Beethoven, Liszt, Ogdon, Stevenson, Tchaikovsky, and Widor, the work quotes from Symphony [no. 1] for Organ (1924; 81 pp.) and Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.); it also contains an extended allusion to no. 87 of the Études transcendantes (100) (1940-44; 456 pp.).

Ronald Stevenson [1990]: Hymnus in memoriam KSS. This four-page work for a cappella choir (SATB), which sets the melody of the Suggested Bell-Chorale for St. Luke’s Carillon (1961; 1 p.), uses a text by Muḥammad Mawln Ǧalluʾd-Dīn Rūmī in the translation by the English Orientalist Reynold Alleyne Nicholson (1868-1945) entitled “The Song of the Reeds”, taken from Rumi, Poet and Mystic (London: Allen & Unwin, 1950). Composed in West Linton on 29 August 1990, the manuscript copy was completed on 1 December 1990. It is inscribed “To celebrate the nuptials of Terry and Alistair [Hinton]”. The music is in 4/2 throughout, except for one bar in 3/2. The four-part setting is underlaid with a piano part for rehearsal purposes only.

Alistair Hinton [1993-94]: Sequentia claviensis (per pianoforte solo), op. 28. This 177-page work is dedicated “all’illustrissimo Maestro Carlo Grante....” and “.... e alla santissima memoria del ingegno trascendente e soprumano del divino Maestro SORABJI colla somma umiltà fede e devozione dello scrittore”, a direct reference to Sorabji’s dedication to Busoni in the manuscript of the Variazioni e fuga triplice sopra “Dies irae” per pianoforte (1923-26; 201 pp.). The table of contents at the beginning of the score shows a division into:

The score contains two references to Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.): “(quasi Introito Clavicembalistico)” on p. 55 (beginning of the opening gesture); “reminiscenza clavicembalistica” on p. 117 (quotation of the theme of the passacaglia in “Interludium alterum” in the top line of var. XXXVI).

Alistair Hinton [1994]: Vocalise-Reminiscenza, op. 29. The work is jointly dedicated to Sorabji and Donna Amato (who gave the first performance in 1996), as well as being written in memory of Sergei Rachmaninoff. The beginning of the dedication reads “in memoriam Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji — for whom Rakhmaninov’s Vocalise became almost an obsession in the last few months of his life...” In a note to the score, the composer explains that Sorabji wanted to write something based on Rachmaninoff’s song in 1988 but was prevented to do so by his state of health, but that his own piece does not attempt to speculate on what Sorabji might have done.

Michael Finnissy [1994]: Folklore I (1993-94) contains a reworking (in bars 173-268) of an abandoned tribute entitled Sorabji.

George Flynn [1995]: Derus Simples for Piano Solo. “Commissioned by and written for my dear friend Kenneth Derus, and in memory of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988)” ([n.p.]: Imprimis Music, 1995). 74 pp. Completed 3 January 1995. In his notes the composer says that his work “acknowledges certain aspects of Ken’s writings” (including his contribution to Paul Rapoport’s SCC).

Christopher Berg [1997]: From Calamus: Song with Simultaneous Piano Nocturne in Homage to the Composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji: for medium low voice and piano (New York: Tender Tender Music; exclusive selling agent, Classical Vocal Reprints, 1997; #9018). 12 pp.

Mark Applebaum [1999]: Aphoristic Fragment. One-minute soundtrack (two-channel electronic playback) for an animation by the visual artist Anna Chupa. Applebaum made a “tip of the hat” to Sorabji whose multi-hour works stand alongside fragments.

Michael Finnissy [2001]: A History of Photography in Sound (1995-2001), for piano, contains an allusion to the subject of the first fugue of Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) at the “Sommessamente moderato” (same tempo indication as in Sorabji) in piece no. 8 (“Kapitalistisch Realisme (met Sizilianische Männerakte en Bachsche Nachdichtungen”), on p. 233 of vol. 2. This is anticipated in a passage with the same tempo indication in the first piece (“Le démon de l’analogie”) on p. 9 of vol. 1.

Carlo Grante [2001]: Nocturne (Hommage à Sorabji). 6 pp. This work is dedicated to Kenneth Derus, himself the dedicatee (with Norman P. Gentieu) of Sorabji’s Opus secretum atque necromanticum (1980-81; 48 pp.). It is part of a set containing pieces paying homage to Prokofiev, Debussy, and Hindemith, as well as two arrangements “à la Godowsky” (one on Chopin’s last mazurka, the other on Liszt’s Campanella and based on a fragment by Godowsky transcribed by Alfredo Casella after a meeting with the pianist-composer). The first performance took place in Tallin on 29 October 2003 during the Estonian Piano Festival. Wrote five pieces of which the titles consist of the name of a composer (Sorabji, Debussy, Prokofiev, Scriabin) or work (Campanella) and the word pastiche, in this case Sorabji-Pastiche.

Michael Spencer [2001]: Eemis Stane: Hommage [sic] to Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji for Solo Piano (Glasgow: Scottish Music Centre, n.d.). 13 pp. First performance by Pete Mumford at Manchester University on 1 January 2001. Draws upon a poem (whose title means “The Unsteady Stone”) taken from the collection Sangschaw (1925) by Sorabji’s friend Hugh MacDiarmid. The words of Frammento cantato (1967; 1 p.) are quoted at the end of the 10-minute piece.

Timothy Tikker [2003]: Sequentia: Dies irae (Introduction and Passacaglia for Organ). Composed between 30 November 1998 and 4 June 2003, 26 pp., ca. 11 minutes. Unpublished. First performance given by the composer on 5 June 2003, St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Charleston, South Carolina. There is also an orchestral version, written in 2003.

Clint Tibbs [2006]: Alscriabjiani: A Free Fantasy in Three Movements for Solo Piano. This 50-minute work is described by its author as a “spontaneous performance” (i.e., improvisation) in which the form and certain thematic elements were preconceived. The three movements are entitled:

The music is influenced by the three composers whose names appear in the title (Alkan, Skryabin, and Sorabji) as well as by Nikolai Roslavets and Samuil Feinberg. The second movement is an homage to the type of writing used by Sorabji in his nocturnes.

The composer, who received a Ph.D. in biblical studies from the Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.) in 2005, writes in his liner notes that he has no classical training in music or piano. A recording made on 8 March 2006 is available from Amazon on a disc manufactured by Disc Makers and bearing the number 8127.

Artur Cimirro [2006-2007]: Twelve Etudes for Piano, op. 1. No. 11 is described in the composer’s list of works as an “etude for huge sound textures” and an “Homage to Kaikhosru Sorabji”; the four-page manuscript has “Homenagem à K. Sorabji”. An “Homage to K. Sorabji” (2007) is also listed as part of a group of works without opus number.

Artur Cimirro [2007]: Sonata no. 1, op. 3. The fifth movement (“Cadência”) of this six-movement, two-hour long unpublished work (for 108-key piano) uses the opening notes of the Sonata V (Opus archimagicum) (1934-35; 336 pp.).

Martin Grütter [2008]: The Berlin-based composer and pianist Martin Grütter cites Schumann, Ravel, Ives, and Sorabji among his influences. He has posted two improvisations on YouTube (14 November 2008, 10 November 2008) in the notes for which this is mentioned.

Jacob Mashak [2008]: Beatus Vir for two pianos. Sorabji’s music served as the initial inspiration for this work lasting 10 hours and 52 minutes. The score consists of 53 pages in proportional notation, with 13 movements ranging in length between 20 and 65 minutes. The difficulty of the work lies not in its pianistic virtuosity but in its duration. The first performance took place on 31 October 2008 at Boston University, with three pianists (including the composer) taking turns.

Alistair Hinton [2010]: Quintet for Piano, 2 Violins, Viola & Cello. The fourth movement (Finale) contains above bar 16 (p. 223 of 333) the marking “(quasi reminiscenza da ‘CPSDMS’ di Sorabji)”, a reference to the Concerto da suonare da me solo e senza orchestra, per divertirmi (1946; 70 pp.), and more specifically to three passages with an A pedal (pp. 1, 15, 72 of Jonathan Powell’s edition). The reference can also be found in bar 216 (p. 283). The difference between the acronym and the title is due to Hinton’s use of Sorabji’s form of the title (Concerto per suonare da me solo).

George Paul Holloway [2010]: Originalmelodie. This work for piano includes an Allegro con brio (p. 3), which author describes as “a cantakerous but ebullient echo of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji’s virtuosic piano music”, an instance of “stylistic allusion” and “alluding to a style or type of music” with reference to the categories in Peter J. Burkholder’s All Made of Tunes: Charles Ives and the Uses of Musical Borrowing (1995). See his “Portfolio of Compositions with Commentary” (Ph.D. diss., University of Southampton, 2011), 310, 315.

Guido Korbach [2010]: Transcendentale Fantasie primus, op. 113, Transcendentale Fantasie secundus, op. 114, “Meander” Transcendentale Fantasie, op. 115. These three “transcendental fantaisies”, marked “nach Art des Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji imitiert” (loosely translated as “in imitation of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji’s style”), are piano improvisations by Guido Korbach, a German healing practitioner (Heilpraktiker) using classical homeopathy in Bitburg (Rhineland-Palatinate). Korbach, who discovered Sorabji’s music in 2009 through recordings of Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) and of the Études transcendantes (100) (1940-44; 456 pp.), studied the piano and the organ between the ages of ten and twenty-two; he became strongly attracted to improvisation some thirty years later. The three improvisations listed above, which date from 2010, can he heard on his YouTube channel; they last 4:38, 8:34, and 4:58, respectively. See also Symmetrische Studie I: Homage to Kaikhosru – Keith Jarrett – Wilhelm Middelschulte – Bernhard Ziehn (YouTube, publ. 23 April 2012, 10:17).

Salim Haddad [2011 et seq.]: The following pieces (played on a digital piano unless otherwise noted) are available on the YouTube channel of the Canadian composer and pianist Salim Haddad.

Most of the sound files are also available on SoundCloud, and self-published versions through Sheet Music Plus; the four etudes are available singly or grouped as Four Virtuoso Etudes in Memory of Sorabji.

Carson Cooman [2014]: Frammento aforistico, op. 1069. The American organist and composer Carson Cooman, Composer in Residence at The Memorial Church, Harvard University, wrote on 20 May 2014 a one-page (two-system) piece dedicated to the author of Opus sorabjianum (“for Marc-André Roberge”). The piece was “composed on the back of a small piece of manuscript paper that the composer had used as a bookmark” while reading the book. The composer adds that “[t]he title (though not the musical style) alludes to Sorabji’s own ‘aphoristic fragments’ for piano”. See a recording by the composer on YouTube (1:13, posted on 19 January 2024).

Leif Segerstam [2014]: Symphony no. 276. The score is dedicated “to Seeli Toivio & Heikki Sassi..., and in resonanceinspirationclouds provided by my mental friend tonechooser Kaikhosru Sorabji”. A promotional flyer (with a logo covering part of the music in the lower-left corner) on the MusicFinland website (no. 22972) contains the manuscript score (6 pp.) of the 24-minute work scored for 2222 4331 13 2, 2pno, str [pic, ehn, bcl, cbsn].

Bryan Crook [2017]: The composer, a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music who is active as an electronic musician, and jazz pianist in Tokyo, made available two Piano Improvisations, Inspired by Sorabji (I, 2:27; II, 3:33), posted in 2017 on SoundCloud but no longer available as of January 2021.

Camael King [2017]: Piano Under the Stairs Improvisation no. 4 (Homage to Sorabji) for Voice, Dog, Rucksack and Piano. The author, from the United Kingdom, describes himself as a “neo-romantic and neo-impressionist classical piano improviser and composer”. The piece, which lasts 47:07, was posted on SoundCloud (file no longer available as of January 2021).

Jacob Adler [2018]: opus claviblasticum for 3 pianos, 4 percussionists, organ, and open ensemble. The work consists of five movements, of which nos. 1, 3, and 5 are structured improvisations and nos. 2 and 4 are written out. A page on the composer’s website, where the score (35 pp.) is available, describes the work as scored “for 4 percussionists, 3 pianos in 13-limit just intonation, organ, and nonet”. First performance at the ASU Prisms Contemporary Music Festival Organ Hall (Arizone State University, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts), 12 November 2018. Sorabji’s name is not mentioned in the score.

Robin Völbel [2021]: Soradrip ... quasi frammento aforistico. The two-bar piece, which lasts 1:27, is available with synchronized score on YouTube (publ. 1 April 2021). The composer introduces the piece as follows: “Quasi fantasiettina aforistica, nata d'un’ispirazione divina basata sul nome illustro dal egregissimo amico, il defunto compositore Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, chiamato Soradrip in modo informale.”

Robin Völbel [2021]: W. 4: Pastiche I. The sixteen-bar piece, which lasts 2:35, is available with synchronized score on YouTube (publ. 24 June 2021). The composer confirmed that it was a pastiche of Sorabji in a reply to a comment.

Simon Mawhinney: The Irish composer Simon Mawhinney, a lecturer at the School of Music and Sonic Arts at Queen’s University (Belfast), discovered Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) as a young musician. Some of his large-scale piano works are said to contain “explicit and deliberate nods to identifiable works of Sorabji”, for example Selimiye (1999-2004), a forty-minute group comprising nineteen miniatures.

Last modified: 2024-03-05
© Marc-André Roberge 2024
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

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