By the Musical Way #2


Only one of these three tales is true. Which? No prizes offered. Answer in about two weeks’ time.

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988), the reclusive English composer, wrote many lengthy pieces, including Opus Clavicembalisticum for solo piano, which occupies 250 printed pages and takes over two hours to perform. His only opera, ‘Noremac’, explores corruption in high places, and plays for four hours without interval. It requires three brass bands and a ‘small herd of asses’ besides the usual forces. It has yet to be staged.

The Bohemian composer Josef Mysliveček (1737-81) was a close friend of the Mozarts, (père Leopold and fils Wolfgang Amadeus), both of whom much admired his compositions. He was exceptionally prolific, with 55 symphonies under his belt. His private life was colourful, and this was his undoing because he contracted syphilis, lost his nose as a result, and died naked in a shed.

The pioneering American Composer, John Cage (1912-92), famous for a work of total silence: 4’33”, composed another piece, this time of indeterminate length, called ‘Telephone’. The ‘music’ is the sound of a telephone ringing. The audience is expected to sit within earshot until someone dials that number; then they can go home. It is rarely performed.