Sequentia cyclica sopra Dies irae ex Missa pro defunctis


A Table of Contents
The Main Theme

Passacaglia - see below

Marcia Funebre

Quasi Debussy

The Fuga Quintuplice is, surprise surprise, a five part fugue going from two voices (which I've not seen in any other Sorabji fugue) to six voices. What I have done here, as a single file, is the opening of each fugue at least until each voice has entered if not more then fade out and fade into the end of the fugue into the start of the next fugue through all the fugues and from the fifth fugue fading out after all six voices have entered and fade back into the last couple of cataclysmic bars of the whole piece.

I have done my usual trick for Sorabji's fugues and placed each voice as a separate instrument and spaced them out 1 to 6 left to right so that you can here the real separation of each part. In effect you are listening to six pianos. There are some tempos and volumes that no single live pianist could or would want to achieve so the experience of listening to Jonathan play all this with two hands and ten fingers will be an entirely different and far more extraordinary experience.

My set of extracts lasts just over 15 minutes – I don't know the length of the actual variation I would guess at around 50 minutes. Of course what I've left out is all the development of each fugue backwards, upside down, backwards and upside down and development of second subjects etc etc. But this has helped me to look forward to the fugue rather than dreading it. Over time I may go back and add more of each fugue.

Fugue one (due voci) – there's quite a lot of this as it's slow and there are far less notes so it was easy to input. After the fade out I have included the whole of the stretto a set of cannons with one note, two notes three notes and four notes.

Fugue two (tre voci) – (5:58) – a more lively semiquaver motif fairly short. The counterpoint is in triplets. The ending of the stretto has the usual octave doubling of most voices and the theme played simultaneously at three different speeds!

Fugue three (quattro voci) – (7:23) A more stately and spikey tune (sort of stately minuetish!) the countermelody is in quintuplets. The end of the stretto does the same as fugue two, octave doublings added harmony notes and the theme in different tempos.

Fugue four (cinque voci) – (9:50) A lively short triplet theme passing rapidly down the five voices – the countermelody inevitably pits duplets against triplets. Only a brief part of the stretto here as there are so many notes!

Fugue five (sei voci) – (10:52) A slow long theme close relative to the main dies irae theme. This fugue rises from the lowest to the highest voice and is deep in the subterranean parts of the piano (almost tempted to arrange the opening for tuba sextet – yes? No? Anyone?). There is a short extra bar between the fourth and fifth voices.

Coda: con brio volcanico – (14:23) says it all really – very similar to the end of OC.

The Passacaglia consists of a theme and 100 variations. It follows a similar device to the OC passacaglia in that the theme starts in the bass, moves up to the tenor (26th iteration), then the alto (51st iteration) and then the soprano (76th iteration). At the end it then moves down from soprano + alto (97), alto + tenor (98), tenor + bass (99) and finally bass + subbass (100). Unlike the OC passacaglia this one ends quietly and there is no final resolution (as of course this is only Var. 22 of 27). The final chord is G# minor but with an added G natural.

In these excerpts I have presented the theme and then the first 4 iterations in each voice which fades out and into the last iteration of that voice and into the first four of the next voice and then the last 5 iterations. They are;

Theme 1, 2, 3, 4 – 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 – 50, 51, 52, 53, 54 – 75, 76, 77, 78, 79 – 96, 97, 98, 99, 100.

There are some fine examples of calm quiet simple writing. I particularly enjoy 75 (volcanic end of the alto set) into the beautifully simple and serene beginning of the soprano set.

This performance has three pianos (very close aurally). The theme is always on it's own piano so you can hear more clearly. I have tried to create something of a performance but it will obviously be different to a live performance as I am not a pianist and some of these passages defy belief.

This set, which is a quarter of the piece lasts just over 19 minutes suggesting the whole is nearly 80 minutes!

The Marcia Funebre is a great character piece and only 3 pages (and five minutes) so i couldn't resist.

Another great character piece is variation 19 Quasi Debussy runs for just over 7 minutes.


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© David Carter