Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)

Ossias and Crossed-out or Inserted Passages

This page lists those relatively rare passages where Sorabji provides alternative versions or needs to make corrections.

Explanations are given to show exactly what the composer did. The list of crossed-out or inserted passages includes short passages crossed out and replaced or added elsewhere on the page following an oversight; this is so rare in Sorabji’s music to make it worth including. References are to the manuscripts, with an indication of the location in the published edition, when appropriate.

The passages for which Sorabji wrote something like ossia “8va bassa” to offer the possibility of using the Bösendorfer’s extended keyboard are not listed here.

Not listed here are the occasional staff or system extensions that Sorabji had to draw by hand in order to accommodate a few notes or beats for which he had miscalculated the space needed, the note names he sometimes added for clarification purposes in very crowded passages, and the odd crossed-out notes or chords. What matters here is to show when Sorabji had to substantially modify his manuscripts.

This page includes a specific section offering two musical examples for Opus clavicembalisticum written by Sorabji in two different copies of the published score:

  • a texturally amplified opening of pars prima written in the copy given to Harold Rutland (now in the collection of the library at the former Trinity College of Music);
  • a revised ending of pars prima, making a separate performance possible (in the “Working Copy” that he gave to Dr. James Duncan Irving (now at the Sorabji Archive)

For a detailed treatment of the specific issues of notation in Sorabji's works, especially the numerous problems facing any editor, see Simon John Abrahams, “Le mauvais jardinier: A Reassessment of the Myths of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji” (Ph.D. thesis, University of London, King’s College, 2002), 6-125.


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Title Page(s) Comments
Title Page(s) Comments
Fantaisie espagnole (1919; 23 pp.) 16-17 (first manuscript), 13-14 (second manuscript) The cadenza found on p. 20 of the published edition is bracketed and marked “Quasi Cadenza à [sic] piacere” at the top of the page; a footnote reads “Delete A-B ad libitum”. In the first manuscript, it is marked “À volonté: quasi Cadenza”; in the second manuscript, it is bracketed and marked “Quasi Cadenza: à [sic] piacere” and “ab libitum:”. Performers should feel strongly urged not to omit the cadenza.
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra [no. 5] (1920; 144 pp.) 123 Sorabji writes a “Variante: ad libitum” for the passage in octaves in both hands in which the left hand is different.
Sonata seconda for Piano (1920; 49 pp.) 13 Sorabji writes “ossia: omit portion within parentheses: and extend this to (a)” at the end of the second system. The “très sec et détaché” gesture found on p. 19/3/1 of the published edition is nevertheless present and not marked “Omit ad libitum” as in the manuscript.
Sonata III for Piano (1922; 75 pp.) 76 Sorabji writes “Ossia I” and “Ossia II”. The former replaces the single hemidemisemiquaver run in both hands with blind (i.e., alternating) octaves, whereas the latter replaces it with blind chords. On p. 75 of the manuscript a note reads “{Vide page overleaf for authoritative ossias}”. The ossias appear on p. 80 of the published edition.
Pastiche on the “Minute Waltz” by Chopin (1922; 7 pp.) 6, 7a Sorabji wrote an ossia in which the left-hand motive is spread on several octaves rather than repeated in the same octave; see bars 113-16 of my edition.

In 1933, when he composed his Pasticcio capriccioso sopra l’op. 64, no 1 del Chopin (1933; 8 pp.), Sorabji added “from here Version II” (bar 157 of my edition) and crossed out the last two systems of p. 7, which contain the original ending. He added a page containing the last five bars of his new work; it is marked “Definitive Close for Minute Waltz Pastiche of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji”.
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra [no.] III [no. 6] (1922; 144 pp.) 142, 143 Sorabji wrote ossias for the piano part (seven bars plus three quaver beats) on pp. 142 and 143 (as pp. 142a and 143a).
Valse-fantaisie for Piano (1925; 16 pp.) 25 Sorabji suggests at major sixth D-B instead of the minor seventh C sharp-B.
Trois poèmes du “Gulistān” de Saʿdī (1926, rev. 1930; 16 pp.): “La fidélité” 16 The third song has an ossia for the setting of the last two sentences in the voice part (“Reviens. Tu seras aimé comme jamais tu ne l’as été!”). This ossia, which was added in the blank staff between the voice and the piano parts, not only transposes some of the pitches but also changes the rhythm to add irrational values (e.g., 7:4). The published edition by David Wolfson uses the more complex version.
Toccata [no. 1] for Piano (1928; 66 pp.) 66 Sorabji provided a “Versione definitiva” marked “Ossia (meglio)” for the final bar. The ascending run in three-note chords is lengthened by six semiquavers.
Sonata IV for Piano (1928-29; 111 pp.) 37 The editor (Simon Abrahams) provided an ossia to make it possible to deal with notes that are not available at the top of the keyboard.
Introduction, Passacaglia, Cadenza, and Fugue (1929; compl. Alexander Abercrombie, 2004; 79 pp.) 50 A two-beat ossia is offered to conclude at this point: “Ossia (per finire qui):” (the music here is by Alexander Abercrombie).
Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) 204 Sorabji writes on p. 204 of the published edition a footnote reading “Ossia col sesto invece dell’octava” that applies to the right hand of the second system. Therefore, one may play 1-3-6 rather than 1-3-8. In the manuscript (p. 205), this part consists only of octaves.
Symphony no. 0 for Piano Solo (1930-31; 333 pp.) 227 The fifth C-G, in breves, in marked “a piacere” to indicate that it can be held while four other parts start moving above.
Quintet II for Piano and String Quartet (1932-33; 432 pp.) 43, 52 There is no ossia as such on p. 43 of the manuscript, but Alexander Abercrombie, in his edition (bar 223, p. 50) provides ossia staves for the second violin and the cello and provides the following note: “if the ’cellist elects to play this ossia, the second violinist must do so too.” The ossia line for the second violin matches the cello’s main line, and that for the cello corresponds to the second violin’s main line.

There is no ossia either on p. 52, but the editor has provided on p. 61 (bar 267) an ossia stave for each of the string instruments in which the last note of each beamed group is played as a harmonic tone.
Fantasia ispanica (1933; 54 pp.) 8, 35 On p. 8/3/2 the thirds D♭-F♭ and B♭-D♭ in the left hand are bracketed to leave this hand free to strike the E major chord in second inversion in the top staff. Jonathan Powell’s edition (p. 8/3/1) does not take the ossia into account.

On p. 35/4/1, for two beats in the left hand, the four notes may be arpeggiated instead of being struck as a dyad preceded by a dyad played as an appoggiatura. Jonathan Powell’s edition (p. 39/1/3) does not take the ossia into account.
Sonata V (Opus archimagicum) (1934-35; 336 pp.) 232 On p. 232/2 Alexander Abercrombie writes: “[MS has ‘Ossia:’ and brackets round this RH chord but no accacciatura in bass]”.
Symphonic Variations for Piano (1935-37; 484 pp.) 251 On p. 251, the chord in the bass is notated as a minim meant to replace two semiquaver chords on each of the crotchet beats.
Transcription in the Light of Harpsichord Technique for the Modern Piano of the Chromatic Fantasia of J. S. Bach, Followed by a Fugue (1940; 15 pp.) 12, 14 On p. 12/3/2-4 a melodic line extracted from the notes of the chords in the top staff is written in the middle staff and marked “(ad lib.)”; see bars 50-52 of my edition.

On p. 14 several octaves or chords in the left hand are marked “(ad lib.)”; see bars 73-78 of my edition.
Rapsodie espagnole de Maurice Ravel—​Transcription de concert pour piano (second version, 1945; 26 pp.) 23, 24 On p. 23/1/3 a wide chord in the first system may be split or arpeggiated and two chords may be omitted in the left hand in the second system.

On p. 23/2/3 two bracketed semiquavers are written in the middle staff with a line pointing to the next two semiquavers in the top staff. This has the effect of directing the player to play the last two semiquavers one octave lower than the first two. The ossia is shown more clearly in the edition by Frazer Jarvis and Jason Acuña (p. 29/2/2).

On pp. 24/2/1 and 24/3/4 two bars are provided with slightly more complex versions. These ossias are reproduced in the edition by Frazer Jarvis and Jason Acuña (pp. 30/1/2, 31/1/1).
Concerto da suonare da me solo e senza orchestra, per divertirmi (1946; 70 pp.) 70a A demisemiquaver run in both hands (p. 24 of Jonathan Powell’s edition) has seven notes in the left hand that can be omitted; dotted lines are provided to show how to match the hands.

The verso (?) of the final page features a slightly different version of the final ascending run in blind octaves of the final bar, which merges the major ( M) and minor (m) versions of the A chord. Whereas the main text shows m-m-m-M in the left hand and M-M-M-m in the right hand, the version marked “Ossia: (i)” has m-M-m-M in the left hand and M-m-M-m in the right hand. Jonathan Powell’s edition (p. 72) uses the ossia as main text but indicates the changes needed in the second beamed group of the run to achieve the original text.
Trois poèmes (1941; 13 pp.): “Le faune” 3 In the first song Sorabji added at the bottom of the page two beats that must be inserted between two bars with a tied F in the piano part. This corresponds to bar 19 of my edition.
Schlussszene aus “Salome” von Richard Strauss—​Konzertmäßige Übertragung für Klavier zu zwei Händen (1947; 25 pp.) 5, 23 The bottom staff on p. 5/4/1-2 contains music that cannot be played by the left hand, which is already busy with the contents of the middle staff. Jonathan Powell, in his edition (bars 54-55), prints in smaller notes what Sorabji ought to have shown as an ossia.

The C-E-C right-hand chord on p. 5/4/1 is provided with a “OSSIA: all’ottava alta” in Jonathan Powell’s edition (bar 57). This is in keeping with the melodic movement in the model. Two beats on p. 23/3 are bracketed and followed by another solution. Jonathan Powell’s edition (bar 304) reproduces the ossia but not the main text; it is nevertheless clear that Sorabji preferred the ossia; he should probably have crossed out the bracketed text.
Sequentia cyclica super “Dies irae” ex Missa pro defunctis (1948-49; 335 pp.) 103, 213, 335, 339 Var. 9 has an ossia offering to replace a semibreve with two minims.

Statement no. 18 of var. 22 has a single chord placed in parentheses.

There is an ossia for a registral change for the last two beats in the left hand just before the “Quasi mixtures” section of the fugue, and the entire left-hand part of this bar also has an ossia for a registral change.

Near the end of the fugue, there is a melodic movement in the bass for which Alexander Abercrombie, in his edition (p. 371) notes “possibly a continuation was contemplated and abandoned”.
Second Symphony for Piano (1954; 248 pp.) 191 At the end of the “Inversus” section of the third part of the fugue, Sorabji adds parentheses around two groups of five pitches and add another version above. The passage is marked “Ossia così”.

On p. 223/2, an asterisk in front of the fourth of six staves is cued to a note at the bottom reading “Ossia colla mano sinistra arpeggiandosi con violenza”; at the bottom of the page there is also an asterisk with (from bottom to top) “E-D-E natural”. The meaning of these markings are not clear at all.
Opus clavisymphonicum—​Concerto for Piano and Large Orchestra for Piano and Large Orchestra (1957-59; 333 pp.) 39, 55, 103 (piano part) The top line offers a slightly more complex ossia.

There is an ossia suggesting striking the main chord as an appoggiatura.

A note reading [NB. * a piacere] makes it possible to omit the single doubling of the lower otcvae at the end of the work.
Suggested Bell-Chorale for St. Luke’s Carillon (1961; 1 p.) 1 At the end of the ninth (final) phrase, Sorabji wrote a bar (marked “for cadence if possible”) consisting of three chords: a six-four dominant chord (F-B♭-D), the sonority G-A♭-C, and a four-note E♭ major triad. He provides an ossia in which the second chord is A♭-D♭-F. Though he prefers the harmonic version, as shown by his note “Best of all if you can play all together”, he wrote another ossia in which the notes of the main version (i.e., the one with the G-A♭-C) are played successively, with fermatas on each of the notes of the final tonic sonority.
Fourth Symphony for Piano Alone (1962-64; 240 pp.) 110, 144, 195, 226 A note on p. 110 reading “N.B *Ossia non [semiquaver tied to semiquaver]” does not seem to change anything to what is already written in the main text.

The ossia on p. 144 consists of the same C-E-F-G-A-B chord found at the beginning of the “quasi glissando”, but with ties leading to it, with an indication that it should be held with the third pedal.

The ossia on p. 195 consists of a series of repeat low C sharp octaves instead of G sharp octaves.

The ossia on p. 226/3 is a D sharp minor chord in first inversion replacing a D flat major chord in first inversion at the end of a section. On the same page (first system), a series of seven quavers (7:4), of which the first one is tied from the previous double dotted minim; the septuplet is placed between large brackets as if to suggest that the initial could simply be held instead.
Symphonia brevis for Piano (1973; 120 pp.) 57, 66, 88, 109 On p. 57 (end of “Preludio quasi toccata”) the final note of a descending is changed from a semiquaver to a semibreve tied to a dotted crotchet.

On p. 66 (end of “Aria fiorita”) a note for the Bösendorfer Imperial keyboard is offered.

On p. 88/1/2 one may tie a right-hand chord to the beginning of the next bar or make a quick rest.

On p. 109/2 (end of the second part of the fugue) a note for the Bösendorfer Imperial keyboard is offered.
Sixth Symphony for Piano (Symphonia claviensis) (1975-76; 270 pp.) 26 The indication “[suggested as ossia ‘meglia’ than all’ottava sopra]” appears in Jonathan Powell’s edition.
Symphonic Nocturne for Piano Alone (1977-78; 113 pp.) 77 Three beats in the right hand in a series of three or two chords.
“Il gallo d’oro” da Rimsky-Korsakov: Variazioni frivole con una fuga anarchica, eretica e perversa (1978-79; 93 pp.) 21 The ossia, marked “Codetta a piacere”, consists of a single bar with a descending movement in stark octaves in both hands between the two variations labelled XI.

Ossias for the Opening and Ending of pars prima of Opus clavicembalisticum

Crossed-Out or Inserted Passages

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Title Page(s) Comments
Title Page(s) Comments
L’heure exquise (1916; 2 pp.) 2 The end of the final bar is crossed out and rewritten immediately afterwards.
Concerto [no. 1] pour piano et grand orchestre (1915-16; 177 pp.) 155 (between bars 420 and 421) The entire bar is crossed out. Sorabji had begun to depart from the ostinato of the previous bar one bar too soon in the orchestra.
Apparition (1916; 5 pp.) 4 One beat of the piano part (bar 20 of Simon Abrahams’s edition) is crossed out and replaced with a new one written at the bottom of the page.
Sonata no. 0 for Piano (1917; 30 pp.) 5, 9-10, 12, 13, 16, 18-19, 20, 23, 24, 28-29 Sorabji crossed out entirely or partially 42 out of 150 systems. This appears to have been carried out quite randomly, since there is no meaningful link on either side of a cut that would make it logical for one bar to follow another. Sorabji probably considered that his work was too long and deleted liberally. The music nevertheless remains fully legible, which means that a full performance would be possible.
Quasi habanera (1917; 6 pp.) 1 Bars 1-15 are mostly in 8/8 with the marking “Le double aussi vite. [quaver] = [semiquaver] du commencement” (Twice as fast. [quaver] = [semiquaver] of the beginning). Sorabji seems to have ignored, at least when he began writing down the piece, that the habanera rhythm is in duple time (2/4) and is written “dotted quaver, semiquaver, quaver, quaver”. He thus began writing in 8/8 using the rhythm “dotted semiquaver, demisemiquaver, semiquaver, semiquaver”. He obviously 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. My edition shows the music as it should have been written right from the start.
Concerto II pour piano et grand orchestre (1916-17; 49 pp.) 3 In each of two beats in the third system Sorabji crossed out three semiquaver chords in the right and two semiquaver chords in the left hand. The result is thus three in the time of two rather than six in the time of four.
Fantaisie espagnole (1919; 23 pp.), first manuscript 6, 7, 12-13, 14-15 A number of bars or systems on these pages are crossed out and do not reappear in the second manuscript or in the published edition.
Pastiche on the “Minute Waltz” by Chopin (1922; 7 pp.) 6 Sorabji crossed out bar 160 (end of the third system on p. 7) and replaced it with a fuller version written right underneath in the fourth system, directing the eye with an arrow to its continuation in bar 2 of this fourth system (which, curiously, opens with a virtually exact copy of bar 157). He then added the last two bars (bars 162-63 of the appendix). Fortunately, his copyist managed to provide a clear ending in his copy.
Variazioni e fuga triplice sopra “Dies irae” per pianoforte (1923-26; 201 pp.) 175-76 On p. 175 Sorabji started to write the end of his stretta too early. Upon realizing his mistake, he drew arrows to the bottom of the page, whereas he wrote the start of the section. On the third system of p. 176, he wrote “see p. 175 for continuation”, where the music written too early is found. See the entry for Tāntrik Symphony for Piano Alone (1938-39; 284 pp.) for a similar situation.
Toccata [no. 1] for Piano (1928; 66 pp.) 50 The bar following the presentation of the second subject is crossed out.
Nocturne, “Jāmī” (1928; 28 pp.) 2 The end of the first system is cut out and replaced with its continuation on a piece of paper that appears to be taped. Sorabji obviously had to resort to this solution because he had cut an inscription that appeared in the upper left corner of the recto, thereby causing a number of beats to disappear.
Toccatinetta sopra C.G.F. (1929; 8 pp.) 4 One beat is crossed out in var. XXI.
Fantasia ispanica (1933; 54 pp.) 32 Sorabji must have been thinking ahead, because he wrote at the beginning of the third system fourteen beats that had to come only fourteen beats later; furthermore, the end of the second system ended with ties that were, so to speak, suspended for a full system. Thus, systems 2-4 are numbered 2, 4, 3 and the following directives are added: “To system 3 below” (at the end of system 2) and “From system 3 below” (at the beginning of system 3). There are also sets of arrows showing the path to be followed.
Tāntrik Symphony for Piano Alone (1938-39; 284 pp.) 217 Sorabji enclosed in parentheses a complete bar bearing the heading “Stretta prima” and added the word “Erratum” after realizing that he had begun the stretto a few bars ahead of time (it begins on p. 218). Arrows show where the music actually continues. See the entry for Variazioni e fuga triplice sopra “Dies irae” per pianoforte (1923-26; 201 pp.) for a similar situation.
Transcription in the Light of Harpsichord Technique for the Modern Piano of the Chromatic Fantasia of J. S. Bach, Followed by a Fugue (1940; 15 pp.) 6 An arpeggio flourish, notated with quavers rather than demisemiquavers, is bracketed and marked “Erratum”. This would have appeared after bar 45 of my edition.
Rapsodie espagnole de Maurice Ravel—​Transcription de concert pour piano (second version, 1945; 26 pp.) 19, 23 On p. 19 part of the third system and the entire fourth one are bracketed and crossed out; Sorabji had written a cadenza-like passage using hemidemisemiquavers but changed to a run of thirds in both hands. This passage would have come before the last bar on p. 24 in Jason Acuña’s edition.

On p. 23/3/2-3 two bars are crossed out and marked “Errata”. This passage would have come before the first bar of the last system on p. 29 in the edition by Frazer Jarvis and Jason Acuña.
Schlussszene aus “Salome” von Richard Strauss—​Konzertmäßige Übertragung für Klavier zu zwei Händen (1947; 25 pp.) Title page Sorabji writes a note reading “Insert seven missing bars after long trill (duly inserted)”; this passage is found on p. 19b and corresponds to bars 262-68 of Jonathan Powell’s edition.

Following his note, Sorabji wrote a few beats, probably as a reminder; their location in the score, however, cannot be found.
Last modified: 2021-05-21
© Marc-André Roberge 2021
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

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