KSS64 St Bertrand de Comminges

Piece details

  • Written for: Piano
  • Date composed: 1941
  • Dedicatee: Edward Nason
  • Approximate duration (minutes): 21
  • Manuscript pages: 16
  • Manuscript location: Private collection
  • Comments: Sorabji wrote two pieces based on ghost stories by Montague Rhodes James, the academic and expert on early manuscripts and Christian apocrypha. The first of these compositions — Quaere reliqua hujus materiei inter secretiora — was based on James’s story Count Magnus and was written in 1940. A year later, Sorabji provided this piece with a companion — St Bertrand de Comminges “He was Laughing in the Tower” — suggested by James’s Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook. The subtitle refers to a line from the story: “A few remarks passed between father and daughter, of which Dennistoun only caught these words, said by the sacristan, ‘He was laughing in the church’, words which were answered only by a look of terror from the girl”. The story is set in the Pyrenean town of St Bertrand de Comminges, and exemplifies the most effective elements of James’s style with its ironic but generous portrait of the English academic abroad finding himself out of his depth dealing with the supernatural. Sorabji’s music, while not strictly programmatic, mirrors James’s depictions of the supernatural with its strong sense of atmosphere, employment of shock tactics and a the palpable sensation of climax towards the end. (notes: Jonathan Powell)

Editions available from the Sorabji Archive

  • Typeset edition (Jonathan Powell), A3L. 18 pages.
    Price: £15 (paper), £10 (pdf)
    Right-click to download high resolution sample page: PDF PNG
  • New edition (Chris Rice), A3P. 42 pages.
    Price: £15 (paper), £10 (pdf)
    Right-click to download high resolution sample page: PDF PNG
  • Manuscript, A3L. 16 pages.
    Price: £15 (paper), £10 (pdf)
    Right-click to download high resolution sample page: PDF PNG


  • Michael Habermann (piano),
    Musical Heritage Society/MusicMasters MHS7530H (LP), MHC9530K (Cassette), MMD20118 (LP), MMD40118 (Cassette), MMD60118 (CD) (June 1987)
    Track 1 (20:20)
  • Donna Amato (piano),
    Altarus Records AIR-CD9025 (1994)
    Track 2 (22:54)
  • Michael Habermann (piano),
    British Music Society BMS427-429 (3CDs) (2004)
    Track 19 (20:20)
  • Jonathan Powell (piano),
    Altarus Records AIR-CD-9082 (2007)
    Track 19 (18:49)
  • Michael Habermann (piano),
    Naxos 8.571363-65 (2015)
    Track 19 (20:20)


  • 22/11/1977 Yonty Solomon (piano)
    Wigmore Hall, London, UK
  • 19/11/1984 Michael Habermann (piano)
    West Shore Unitarian Church, Cleveland OH, USA
    Rocky River Chamber Music Society
  • 16/09/1992 Donna Amato (piano)
    British Music Information Centre, London, UK
  • 09/10/1992 Donna Amato (piano)
    Espace d’Interprétation Yvonne-Hubert, Loyola Campus, Concordia University, Montréal, Canada
    Leonardo Project: Conférence multi-disciplinaire sur la performance avancée — Lecture-recital
  • 21/03/1993 Donna Amato (piano)
    St Peter’s Lutheran Church, Lexington Avenue, New York NY, USA
  • 26/03/1993 Donna Amato (piano)
    Wiener Secession Wiener Fest, Vienna, Austria
  • 20/02/2004 Jonathan Powell (piano)
    St Cyprian’s Church, London, UK

Broadcasts etc.

  • 10/06/1987 Yonty Solomon (piano)
    BBC Radio 3, London, UK [broadcast]
  • 09/08/1992 Michael Habermann (piano) [extract]
    Radio Bremen, Bremen, Germany [broadcast of recording]
    Hauptabteilung E-Musik, Redaktion Neue Musik
  • 15/10/1992 Yonty Solomon (piano)
    BBC Radio 3, London, UK [repeat broadcast]
    “Sacred and Profane” programme
  • 11/09/2003 Michael Habermann (piano)
    CKCU, Ottawa, Canada [broadcast of recording]
    Dave Dalle Show