All-day Sorabji at the Elbphilharmonie

All-day Sorabji at the Elbphilharmonie


norman lebrecht

September 16, 2019

The British organist Kevin Bowyer has put a Hamburg instrument through its toughest test by performing the second symphony of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988), the noted British iconoclast.

The performance lasted nine hours.

It was part of a daylong Sorabji immersion that began at 11.00 and ended at 23.10.

Report here.



  • Elb says:

    *Kevin* Bowyer, actually.

  • Sadly I could not attend personally although I did go to the work’s world première (also played by Kevin Bowyer) in Glasgow in June 2010. Yesterday was his fourth complete performance of the work, although he has played individual movements from it on other occasions. I am sure that he will record it eventually. He has prepared remarkable typeset critical editions of all three of Sorabji’s organ symphonies, without which performances would be impossible. For more information, see or write to .

  • Jean says:

    I hope there is some food offering also (sandwiches, pop corn, etc… ?)

  • John Borstlap says:

    Someone who heard Scriabine, Messiaen and Schoenberg and got the idea of piling them up to make the music more interesting.

    If he had had a strict PA, it might not have got so far.

    And yet, the man was fascinated by JS Bach, who knew quite well how to organise many different notes together:

  • Timo Leuders says:

    I got the chance to attend the whole concert (travelled from Freiburg) – it was a life-time experience. Seems that I was the only one with the score (purchased pdf) and so had the double pleasure of seeing and hearing the immense structures. The acoustics served the piece very well, everything was very clear-cut. And of course: Keeping a 2-hour fugue interesting was entirely the artistry of Mr. Bowyer – I cannot thank him enough!

    • John Borstlap says:

      So, not the artistry of the composer? That would make me quite suspicious. And what about the necessity to have a fugue of 2 hours length? Is something becoming clearer when hammering it in for much longer than average? Are thick books better than thin ones? Is a Wagner 4 nights opera for that reason better than a Mozart one night opera? Is complexity an artistic category? And if so, how should we value a Mozart symphony or aria? Just asking….

    • Dr Presume says:

      I think the composer might also have something to do with that two-hour fugue maintaining its interest! 😉

      But lucky you for attending the concert. I was fortunate enough to have been at the WP of the complete symphony back in 2010, and it’s still so very firmly etched in the memory, so can only imagine how good it was on the Elbphilharmonie’s organ!