Transcendental Studies, Nos. 1–25

Fredrik Ullén (piano)

BIS Records: BIS-CD-1373 (2006)

Web page for BIS Records
Web page for BIS Records BIS-CD-1373

Cd cover image Transcendental Studies, Nos. 1–25

Duration: 71:11

Comments: The first volume of Ullén’s complete survey of the 100 Transcendental Studies. This CD contains studies 1–25.
See Fredrik Ullén’s list of comments on most of Sorabji’s 100 Études transcendantes and a summary table of all known first performances of individual études.

Track listing

  • Track 1: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 1 Mouvementé (1:50)
  • Track 2: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 2 Vivace e leggiero (1:09)
  • Track 3: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 3 — (4:17)
  • Track 4: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 4 (Scriabinesco) (2:53)
  • Track 5: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 5 Staccato e leggiero (1:24)
  • Track 6: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 6 — (1:37)
  • Track 7: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 7 Leggiero abbastanza (1:07)
  • Track 8: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 8 — (1:56)
  • Track 9: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 9 Staccato e leggiero (0:58)
  • Track 10: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 10 Con brio ed impeto — Volante (3:09)
  • Track 11: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 11 (Animato abbastanza) (1:37)
  • Track 12: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 12 Leggiero quasi saltando (1:44)
  • Track 13: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 13 — (3:31)
  • Track 14: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 14 Tranquillamente soave (4:35)
  • Track 15: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 15 — (1:40)
  • Track 16: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 16 — (2:43)
  • Track 17: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 17 Molto accentato (1:56)
  • Track 18: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 18 Liscio. Tranquillamente scorrevole (5:15)
  • Track 19: 100 Transcendental Studies NO. 19 Saltando e leggiero (2:12)
  • Track 20: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 20 Con fantasia (5:24)
  • Track 21: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 21 Con eleganta e disinvoltura (4:37)
  • Track 22: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 22 Leggiero volante e presto assai (1:24)
  • Track 23: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 23 Dolcemente scorrevole (4:00)
  • Track 24: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 24 Con fantasia e grazia (5:40)
  • Track 25: 100 Transcendental Studies No. 25 Vivace e secco (2:42)

Reviews

  • “… utter textual clarity and jaw-dropping virtuosity. His notes are a model of helpfulness, too… Heartily recommended.” (BBC Music Magazine)
  • “… amply illuminating the parallel universe that is Sorabji’s creativity … Those familiar with Ullén’s Ligeti (BIS, 1/97) will know that he has the dexterity and finesse to do this music justice without making light of either its innate difficulty or its protean imagination. Ullén’s observations on each study are succinctly informative …” (Gramophone)
  • “The Transcendental Studies are unique in Sorabji’s output; seldom can a composer of so readily identifiable a style have repeated himself so little. But this set is unusual, both in conception and execution. Not too much should be made of the idea of ‘difficulty’ based on the fact that the title of the set is obviously derived from Liszt’s ferociously difficult series of etudes — Sorabji wrote no easy music, was not especially interested in difficulty or otherwise of execution, and in fact it may be argued that those among these works which function as clearly definable ‘studies&rsquo — in intervals, metrical groupings, articulation and so on — while accessible only to pianists of the highest level, are certainly not more technically demanding than the requirement to perform any number of these tasks simultaneously, as Sorabji almost always does in his compositions. No, the point is that these are pieces of music by Sorabji — he would probably have been horrified at the idea of writing a technical exercise that wasn’t — and it is generally the ones that are the least study-like that carry the greatest musical substance. As this cycle progesses (it will be 6 or 7 CDs) we will see that at key points, the composer could not resist breaking quite dramatically out of the confinement of ‘writing studies’, and writing a characteristic Sorabji composition — a big passacaglia, nocturne, or fugue, for instance (volume 2 will start with one such). These first 25 are all of the shorter species, but even here the variety and originality is nothing short of astonishing.” (Records International)
  • “As a pianistic achievement it is something extraordinary, and Fredrik Ullén once again demonstrates that he combines virtuosity in utter world class with supreme artistic control.” (Dagens Nyheter)
  • “Transcendence — here it means surmounting human limitations and neural resistance… The Swede Fredrik Ullén has now descended into this snake-pit and recorded the first 25 etudes. He does not get strangled like Laokoon. He never loses track of his magnificent overview. His fingers never slack. He has a secure grasp. His use of the pedal is restrained. This kind of music is overpowering. One breathes heavily.” (Die Zeit)
  • “a kaleidoscope of manic wit, bluesy charm, giddying cascades of sound, polyrhythmic jeux d’esprit, flirtatious arabesques, busy nocturnes … … the music has found an interpreter equal to its outrageous pianistic demands … Fredrik Ullén’s real achievement here is simply (simply?) to play the music as music, as effortlessly as he would play a Mozart sonata, to take away the performing-bear elements conferred by its improbable difficulties. The surprising result is that many of these Studies bubble with fun … The recorded sound is top-drawer quality.” (International Piano)
  • “Fredrik Ullén … with incomprehensibly agile fingers and enthusiasm achieves the superhuman … A pathbreaking pioneer achievement” (Piano News)
  • “The challenges set by this music are met spectacularly by Ullén… There will be a grim fascination in seeing how the rest of the cycle emerges.” (The Guardian)