Playing Sorabji properly requires a special virtuosity and an interpretive commitment few pianists are willing or able to make. Fredrik Ullen most certainly is singular on both fronts, as one hears readily and astonishingly in his ongoing recording of all 100 Transcendental Studies, the latest volume covering Nos. 63-71 (BIS 1851).
All 100 studies were composed between 1940 and 1944. The later pieces especially are sometimes far longer than a typical etude, with eight or nine parts sounding simultaneously at times, with dense and intense passagework going forward at great lengths, exhaustingly.
Ullen responds with a superhuman effort. The music in this volume gives you Sorabji at his most wonderfully eccentric--a post-Scriabin on steroids, with heroic cascades, avant torrents from a never-ending inventive fountainhead.
They are some of the more incredible piano works written, all told, even though we are hearing only nine of the 100. Fredrick Ullen brings out the expressive clout and high passions of the music with a brilliance it is hard to imagine realized by anyone else to this extent.
It is music of an overwhelming power. Even if you know something of Sorabji the composer, this volume will surprise and I think delight you. Newcomers will find this a bracing listen, too. It is some incredible music! Highly recommended!