Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)

Key and Time Signatures, Metronomic Indications, Numbered Ideas

This page offers a (hopefully complete) list of the works that contain key signatures, time signatures, metronomic indications, and numbered ideas. In the latter case, these are thematic ideas that Sorabji identifies by means of circled numbers and whose recurrences are so marked. Only the original manuscripts are taken here into account, because the published editions may be different. Comments are added only in the case of peculiarities.

The list shows that, as a rule, the works for piano and orchestra and involving the orchestra have time signatures. Though it includes some chamber works, the Quintet II for Piano and String Quartet (1932-33; 432 pp.) does not have any. The Concertino non grosso for String Sextet with Piano obbligato quasi continuo (1968; 48 pp.) has only a few indications.

Simon Abrahams, Le mauvais jardinier: A Reassessment of the Myths and Music of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (Ph.D. thesis, University of London, King’s College, 2002), 96-99, calls “thematic markers” what is named here “numbered ideas”.

The numbers that exhibit numerological features (for instance, numbers squared or cubed, palindromes, repdigits) appear in bold type.

Key Signatures

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Title Comments
Title Comments
L’heure exquise (1916; 2 pp.) Key signature of F sharp major cancelled in bar 6
Three Pastiches for Piano (1922; 17 pp.) The three pieces have key signatures resulting from their origin as transcriptions of tonal works.
Rapsodie espagnole de Maurice Ravel—​Transcription de concert pour piano (first version, 1923; 16 pp.) Key signatures from the work transcribed
Transcription of the Prelude in E-flat by Bach (1945; 4 pp.) Key signature from the work transcribed
Fantasiettina sul nome illustre dell’egregio poeta Christopher Grieve ossia Hugh M’Diarmid (1961; 10 pp.) Key signatures are present in some passages in Ronald Stevenson’s edition. It is not known if they were present in the manuscript, which was lost after it was returned to the composer; it is most likely that are editorial additions.

Time Signatures

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Title Comments
Title Comments
The Poplars (1915; 3 pp.)
Chrysilla (1915; 4 pp.)
Roses du soir (1915; 4 pp.)
L’heure exquise (1916; 2 pp.)
Vocalise pour soprano fioriturata (1916; 3 pp.)
Concerto [no. 1] pour piano et grand orchestre (1915-16; 177 pp.)
Apparition (1916; 5 pp.)
Hymne à Aphrodite (1916; 5 pp.) Occasionally in the first manuscript, systematically in the second.
Chaleur—​Poème (1916-17; 32 pp.) Some bars lack a proper time signature.
Sonata no. 0 for Piano (1917; 30 pp.) Time signatures change virtually every bar.
Quasi habanera (1917; 6 pp.) Bars 1-15 are mostly in 8/8, and the rest of the work is in 4/4, with the marking “Le double aussi vite. [quaver] = [semiquaver] du commencement” (Twice as fast. [quaver] = [semiquaver] of the beginning). The 4/4 rhythm is only broken by two cadenza passages. Sorabji at first ignored that the habanera rhythm is in duple time (2/4) and is notated “dotted quaver, semiquaver, quaver, quaver”, for he began writing in 8/8 using the rhythm “dotted semiquaver, demisemiquaver, semiquaver, semiquaver”. He realized his mistake in bar 16 and decided to use the crotchet instead of the quaver as the time unit and to double the tempo.
L’étang (1917; 2 pp.)
Désir éperdu — Fragment (1917; 1 p.) Time signature of 4½/4
Concerto II pour piano et grand orchestre (1916-17; 49 pp.)
Concerto pour piano et orchestra da camera [no. 3] (1918; 100 pp.)
Concerto pour piano et grand orchestre [no. 4] (1918; 100 pp.)
I Was Not Sorrowful—​Poem for Voice and Piano [Spleen] (between 1917 and 1919; 3 pp.)
Le mauvais jardinier (1919; 1 p.)
Trois fêtes galantes de Verlaine (ca. 1919; 11 pp.) Only “À la promenade” (no. 2) has a time signature, namely, of 7/8 and for one bar only on the last page.
Fantaisie espagnole (1919; 23 pp.) The cadenzas (pp. 3-5, 12-13, 20-21, 28, 31 of the published score) have no time signatures.
Sonata no. 1 for Piano (1919; 42 pp.)
Trois poèmes pour chant et piano (1918, 1919; 9 pp.) “Correspondances” uses time signatures of 4 and 6/4; 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12/8; and 9/16. “Crépuscule du soir mystique” uses time signatures of 3, 5, 6, and 7/4; and of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10/8. “Pantomime” uses a time signature of 6/8 except for two bars in 9/8. The time signatures often do not match the music, and some changes are omitted.
Music to “The Rider by Night” (1919; 54 pp.)
Quintet no. 1 for Piano and Quartet of Stringed Instruments (1919-20; 72 pp.) Besides time signatures, Sorabji adds a line at the bottom of each system an “index of beats” consisting of a line of numbers corresponding to each of the beats of a given bar. He may have been the only composer to have used this feature.
Two Piano Pieces (1918, 1920; 20 pp.)
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra [no. 5] (1920; 144 pp.)
Three Pastiches for Piano (1922; 17 pp.) The three works transcribed are in 3/4.
Prelude, Interlude, and Fugue for Piano (1920, 1922; 17 pp.) Only the fugue has time signatures.
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra [no.] III [no. 6] (1922; 144 pp.)
Opusculum for Orchestra (1923; 36 pp.)
Rapsodie espagnole de Maurice Ravel—​Transcription de concert pour piano (first version, 1923; 16 pp.)
Cinque sonetti di Michelagniolo Buonarroti (1923; 40 pp.) The time signatures create bars that are much too long for practical purposes. Contains fractional signatures such as 5/4½.
Concerto per pianoforte e piccola orchestra, “Simorg-Anka” [no. 7] (1924; 100 pp.)
Valse-fantaisie for Piano (1925; 16 pp.) Uses the obvious signature of 3/4
L’irrémédiable (1927; 8 pp.) Uses signatures like 4/4½ + 1/4
Concerto V for Piano and Large Orchestra [no. 8] (1927-28; 344 pp.)
Introduction, Passacaglia, Cadenza, and Fugue (1929; compl. Alexander Abercrombie, 2004; 79 pp.) Uses a 3/4 signature in the passacaglia (with one bar in 4/4 on p. 16/2/5; two separate bars in 5/8 on p. 40, one bar in 4/4 on p. 41). There are frequent changes of time signares in the “Cadenza” and the “Fugue”.
Movement for Voice and Piano (1927, 1931; 9 pp.) Has 7/4 at the beginning [recte 7/8], but this applies only to the first bar.
Pasticcio capriccioso sopra l’op. 64, no 1 del Chopin (1933; 8 pp.) Time signature of 3/4 from the model
Sonata V (Opus archimagicum) (1934-35; 336 pp.) Single time signature of 7/2 for one bar
Symphonic Variations for Piano [and Orchestra] (1935-37; 484 pp.) Used only in the first eight pages
“Quaere reliqua hujus materiei inter secretiora” (1940; 16 pp.) Six time signatures appear on the first page.
Études transcendantes (100) (1940-44; 456 pp.) No. 17 is in 18/8; no. 28 has a 2/4 time signature that does not match the length of the bars; no. 63 (En forme de valse) has a time signature of 3/4 and extensions (4/4, 5/4, etc.) here and there.
Transcription of the Prelude in E-flat by Bach (1945; 4 pp.)
Sequentia cyclica super “Dies irae” ex Missa pro defunctis (1948-49; 335 pp.) Var. 8, which is a waltz, has time signatures different from the main metre on pp. 84 and 86. Var. 15 (“Ispanica”) has some time signatures. Var. 16 (“Marcia funebre”) has a 4/4 time signature in the middle.
Symphony [no. 2], “Jāmī”, for Large Orchestra, Wordless Chorus, and Baritone Solo (1942-51; 826 pp.)
Passeggiata veneziana sopra la Barcarola di Offenbach (1955-56; 24 pp.) A few time signatures break the regularity on the prevailing 6/8 (not marked at the beginning).
Opusculum clavisymphonicum vel claviorchestrale (1973-75; 334 pp.)
Messa grande sinfonica (1955-61; 1,001 pp.)
Concertino non grosso for String Sextet with Piano obbligato quasi continuo (1968; 48 pp.) Only a few instances: bars 63 and 64 of the first movement, mistakenly identified as being in 18/4 and 19/4, instead of 18/8 and 20/8, respectively; and bar 11 of the second movement, identified as 8/4½ to mean a series of eight dotted crotchets.
Opus clavisymphonicum—​Concerto for Piano and Large Orchestra for Piano and Large Orchestra (1957-59; 333 pp.)
Il tessuto d’arabeschi (1979; 32 pp.) Several bars have time signatures with an excessive number of beats, for instance up to ten.

Metronomic Indications

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Title Comments
Title Comments
Chrysilla (1915; 4 pp.) Très modéré [crotchet] = 40 M.M. (Environ)
Roses du soir (1915; 4 pp.) Lent M.M. [crotchet] = 30
Concerto [no. 1] pour piano et grand orchestre (1915-16; 177 pp.) Modéré [crotchet] = 120
Hymne à Aphrodite (1916; 5 pp.) Second manuscript only has “Modéré: ([crotchet] = 50 environ)”.
Chaleur—​Poème (1916-17; 32 pp.) Très lent [crotchet] = 35-40 environ
Sonata no. 0 for Piano (1917; 30 pp.) “Très vite ([semiquaver] = 180-240” on p. 6/2
Music to “The Rider by Night” (1919; 54 pp.) Modéré: ([crotchet] = 50 environ)
Two Piano Pieces (1918, 1920; 20 pp.) “In the Hothouse” has “Très lent ([quaver] = 45 ou moins); “Toccata” has no indication.
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra [no. 5] (1920; 144 pp.) Lent [quaver] = 60
Trois poèmes du “Gulistān” de Saʿdī (1926, rev. 1930; 16 pp.) No. 3 only has two such indications.
Sonata V (Opus archimagicum) (1934-35; 336 pp.) Alexander Abercrombie notes in his edition (p. 331): “MS has an indication ‘[double dotted quaver] = ??? precedente’. Unfortunately the signs represented by ??? are not legible.”
Fragment Written for Harold Rutland (1926, 1928, 1937; 2 pp.) Version of 1926 has “Modéré [crotchet] = 70 (approximatif)”.
Symphonic Variations for Piano [and Orchestra] (1935-37; 484 pp.) Var. 78 (p. 396) has “Abbastanza vivo ([crotchet] = approx. 90.)”.
Études transcendantes (100) (1940-44; 456 pp.) No. 17 has “[crotchet] = 80”.
Third Organ Symphony (1949-53; 305 pp.) Two indications reading “Moderatamente. [[crotchet] = 80 circa]” and “ Vivacissimo [crotchet] = 120” in vars. 28 and 48 of the “Passacaglia”
Second Symphony for Piano (1954; 248 pp.) Single indication on p. 178 reading “Moderatamente [crotchet] = 60 circa”
Third Symphony for Piano Solo (1959-60; 144 pp.) Single indication on p. 94 reading “([crotchet] = 40 circa)”
Opus clavisymphonicum—​Concerto for Piano and Large Orchestra for Piano and Large Orchestra (1957-59; 333 pp.) The “Cadenza fugata” has “Moderatamente vivo. Deciso ([crotchet] = 100 circa)”.
Suggested Bell-Chorale for St. Luke’s Carillon (1961; 1 p.) Suggested tempo [minim] = 60

Numbered Ideas

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Title Comments
Title Comments
Sonata IV for Piano (1928-29; 111 pp.) The first movement uses seven themes, labelled A to G. Ideas H, J, K, and M are identified later (p. 61 of the second movement).
Symphony no. 0 for Piano Solo (1930-31; 333 pp.) The “Fantasia” (pp. 11-85) features twenty-seven ideas whose recurrences are identified; this continues in the “Cadenza”, but Sorabji stopped writing the circled numbers on p. 91. He resumes on pp. 101-10 (“Coda stretta”). Then, he numbered three ideas at the beginning of the “Toccata variata” (p. 176) and, for vars. 37-44, 46-60, and 62-64, indicated that each variation is based on one more theme than the previous one.
Second Symphony for Organ (1929-32; 350 pp.) The “Introduction” states sixteen ideas. In the “Tema cum variationibus”, between var. 43 (the first one of the two so numbered) and var. 48, Sorabji adds circled figures referring to the ideas from the first movement that are worked into the texture.
Quintet II for Piano and String Quartet (1932-33; 432 pp.) The “Fantasia” uses twenty-six ideas and the “Finale” twenty-three.
Fantasia ispanica (1933; 54 pp.) The “Quasi habanera” uses ten ideas.
Tāntrik Symphony for Piano Alone (1938-39; 284 pp.) The first three movements identify separate sets of ideas in an initial section set off by a thin double bar-line. Some of them also come with a letter (from a to d) appended to a number already used, e.g., 48a. The first movement states fifty-five ideas (plus five), the second twenty-seven (plus nine), and the third one twenty-five (plus twenty-two). In no other work are so many identified.
Third Organ Symphony (1949-53; 305 pp.) The “Introito” states forty-nine ideas that recur in the “Fantasia” and the “Coda-Ripieno”.
Second Symphony for Piano (1954; 248 pp.) The first nine pages state sixty-four ideas, plus five additional ones (32a, 35a, 36a, 43a, and 62a).
Third Symphony for Piano Solo (1959-60; 144 pp.) The work uses fifty-four ideas, plus thirteen supplementary ones (18a, 25a, etc.).
Last modified: 2021-06-04
© Marc-André Roberge 2021
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

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