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Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji

Sorabji (1977) (Source: Sorabji Archive (Portait: Sir Jeremy Grayson))

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji was an English composer and pianist notorious for his immensely difficult and complex compositions. He was born Leon Dudley Sorabji in Essex in 1892 to an Indian Parsi father from Bombay and an English mother. He assumed his eventual Parsi name later in life. Besides composing, Sorabji donned a number of other hats including that of a music critic and a writer.

Sorabji's compositions are famous for being virtually unplayable except by the most technically gifted of pianists (which included himself). One of the most famous pieces in his oeuvre is Opus Clavicembalisticum which is notable for its length and difficulty, and was, at one point, listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest piano piece ever written. A standard recital can last for a duration between four and five hours.

Sorabji himself last gave a concert performance in 1936 after which he withdrew from the public eye and retired into private life. He was extraordinarily protective of his privacy and also prohibited public performances of his works without his prior consent. Consequently, even though he continued composing, his compositions - old and new - rarely garnered any attention until the late 1970s when he, after much cajoling - finally consented to allow a South African pianist named Yonty Solomon to present a number of his works to the public. This triggered renewed interest in his compositions which has not dwindled ever since.

Kaikhosru Sorabji died in 1988.

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