Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)

Citations of the Dies irae

This page lists in chronological order the works in which Sorabji used the medieval sequence Dies irae by Thomas of Celano (d. ca. 1250).

All page references are to the published editions.

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Title Comments
Title Comments
Music to “The Rider by Night” (1919; 54 pp.) The sequence is featured as part of the dark introduction (bars 11-13) in the clarinets, bassoons, and brass instruments.
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra [no.] III [no. 6] (1922; 144 pp.) The opening segment is heard in the woodwinds and strings playing the upper part in the first movement (p. 56). The words, albeit with a few oddities, are written between the systems of the violas and cellos.
Variazioni e fuga triplice sopra “Dies irae” per pianoforte (1923-26; 201 pp.) The theme sets the entire sequence minus its repetitions, for a total of sixteen phrases.
Sonata V (Opus archimagicum) (1934-35; 336 pp.) The “Preludio-corale sopra ‘Dies irae’” sets the entire sequence minus its repetitions, for a total of sixteen phrases in each one of three large groups (pp. 323-31, 331-44, 344-66).

The second fugue (pp. 390-99) uses a variant of the sequence with some faster rhythmic values.
“Quaere reliqua hujus materiei inter secretiora” (1940; 16 pp.) The first page states a fragment of the sequence, at the words “in favilla”.
St. Bertrand de Comminges: “He was laughing in the tower” (1941; 16 pp.) The opening segment of the sequence is quoted in two instances (pp. 3/2/2, 14/1/1).
Sequentia cyclica super “Dies irae” ex Missa pro defunctis (1948-49; 335 pp.) The theme sets the entire sequence minus its repetitions, for a total of sixteen phrases.

Var. 22 is a passacaglia with 100 variations on a rhythmicized version of the three segments of the sequence’s first tercet.

Segments of various phrases of the sequence are used in the fugue, though with a more chromatic treatment.
Third Organ Symphony (1949-53; 305 pp.) The entire first verse of the sequence is played in the pedal part (p. 87) in the second part of the work.

It is also used for a chordal statement at the end of the “Toccata” in the third part.
Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra (1935-37, 1953-56; 540 pp.) The first six notes are heard in the horns and viola in var. 17.
Toccata quarta (1964-67; 149 pp.) The sequence is quoted in var. 53 of the “Passacaglia” (two statements, the second of which is a major second lower) and at the beginning of the “Intermezzo secondo. Of a neophyte and how the Black Art was revealed to him.”
Passeggiata arlecchinesca sopra un frammento di Busoni (“Rondò arlecchinesco”) (1981-82; 16 pp.) The sequence is quoted a single time (p. 18).
Last modified: 2021-05-30
© Marc-André Roberge 2021
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

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