Sorabji and Geoffrey Madge

It was an incredible honour for me to be invited by Sorabji to come and play the Opus Clavicembalisticum for him. During the first few meetings Alistair Hinton accompanied me, later, I visited him a number of times alone. The first time was not without a feeling of trepidation and anxiousness on my part because of what was at stake. For a long time I wanted so much to get deeply into his music, (and preferably not to be sent away like many before me).  Imagine my reaction when he answered, after listening to about 40 minutes of OC, that he didn’t realize that the work was so good and that he would be only too  happy if I were to perform it complete, at the same time making a few suggestions as to how I should  perform it.  Following this he then gave me complete permission to give performances, complete or in part; later also confirming by sending me a letter with this permission; After every performance he would ring; asking in great detail about the quality of the instrument, the hall, and about my reactions during the performances.

Although several articles that are mostly accurate in detail have been published on my various meetings with Sorabji it is good perhaps to repeat here several points. I remember him telling me that the total length of OC should be as on the performance during the Holland Festival of June 11, 1982, this was recorded live on LP for the Royal Conservatorium label (now a collector’s item!). A second live recording a few years later in Chicago issued on BIS is of a similar length. Before both of these performances I had to check and correct the sometimes huge differences in text between the published edition and the manuscript of which I have a copy.
He repeated always that it should sound like a very long song, not a technical study. He was very concerned that the work should sing and not be played with superficial virtuosity, being more interested in the total architecture and that the whole work be presented as one long song. Also important was the expression and very much the sound quality, not just the speed for speeds sake, he hated this, but the many ways of articulating and bringing out the phrasing, inner dynamics and sound qualities that make for a great performance. He disliked pianists who “hit the keys or only played digitally”, demonstrating for me by playing several short passages and chords as an example of how he wanted it to sound and be played, his great idol next to Busoni was Egon Petri who unfortunately didn't get around to performing it although according to Sorabji he was very interested in doing so.

He often spoke and quoted the great Sufi poets and mystics, especially Rumi and Hafiz, both of whom he greatly admired, asking me to read them, which of course I did.

His comments, especially about the playing of Busoni, Godowsky and Medtner but also several contemporary pianists were so important that they should have been recorded. There was a recording made by the Dutch radio of one of my visits.


Performances of Opus Clavicembalisticum, parts or complete:

05/06/80 AMSTERDAM (De IJsbreker) Holland Festival Pars Prima I & II
09/06/80 ALMELO (De Hagen) Holland Festival Pars Prima I & II
11/06/80 DEN HAAG (Schönbergzaal) Holland Festival Pars Prima I & II
24/07/80 SYDNEY (ABC-TV Australia) Pars Prima I & II
05/07/81 MIDDELBURG (Vleeshal) Festival Nieuwe Muziek Pars Prima I & II
Prelude Fugue Toccata
In the hothouse
11/06/82 UTRECHT (Muziekcentrum) Holland Festival  
28/06/82 LONDON St. Bartholomew’s Festival Pars Tertia
24/04/83 CHICAGO (Mandel Hall)
10/05/83 BONN (Beethovenhalle) Int. Beethovenfest
02/11/83 AARHUS/Denmark (Chamber Hall) ISCM days Pars Tertia
09/11/84 MONTREAL (Mc Gill University)
14/11/84 TORONTO (York University) Pars Prima I & II
14/11/84 TORONTO (Music Gallery) Pars Prima I & II
02/08/86 VIITASAARI/Finland (Finnish TV) Pars Prima I, II, IV
26/12/87 MIDDELBURG ( Centrum voor Nieuwe Muziek) Fantasiettina
26/01/88 AMSTERDAM (De IJsbreker) Fantasiettina
09/10/88 PARIS (Opéra Comique) Festival d’Automne
24/02/89  Hilversum (NOS Radio) Quasi Habanera
Adagio from O.C.
12/11/98 NEW DELHI (India International Centre) Pars Prima I II
20/11/98 MUMBAI (National Centre for the Performing Arts) Pars Prima I II
22/11/98 POONA (Gulati Hall) Pars Prima I II
28/11/98 BANGALORE (Guru Nanak Bhavan) Pars Prima I II
12/03/02 BERLIN (Konzertsaal der Universität der Künste)