Fazil Say

Fazil Say Composing is always a form of improvisation: with ideas, with musical particles, with imaginary shapes. And it is in this sense that the artistic itinerary and the world-view of the Turkish composer and pianist Fazıl Say should be understood. For it was from the free forms with which he became familiar in the course of his piano lessons with the Cortot pupil Mithat Fenmen that he developed an aesthetic outlook that constitutes the core of his self-conception as a composer. Fazıl Say has been touching audiences and critics alike for more than twenty-five years in a way that has become rare in the increasingly materialistic and elaborately organized classical music world. Concerts with this artist are something else. They are more direct, more open, more exciting; in short, they go straight to the heart. And the same may be said of his compositions. Fazıl Say wrote his first piece – a piano sonata – as early as 1984, at the age of fourteen, when he was a student at the Conservatory of his hometown Ankara. It was followed, in this early phase of his development, by several chamber works without an opus number, including Black Hymns for violin and piano and a guitar concerto. He subsequently designated as his opus 1 one of the works that he had played in the concert that won him the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York: the Four Dances of Nasreddin Hodja. This work already displays in essence the significant features of his personal style: a rhapsodic, fantasia-like basic structure; a variable rhythm, often dance-like, though formed through syncopation; a continuous, vital driving pulse; and a wealth of melodic ideas that may often be traced back to themes from the folk music of Turkey and its neighbours. In these respects, Fazıl Say stands to some extent in the tradition of composers like Béla Bartók, George Enescu, and György Ligeti, who also drew on the rich musical folklore of their countries. He attracted international attention with the piano piece Black Earth (1997), in which he employs techniques familiar to us from John Cage and his works for prepared piano. After this, Say increasingly turned to the large orchestral forms. Taking his inspiration from the poetry (and the biographies) of the writers Nâzim Hikmet and Metin Altıok, he composed works for soloists, chorus and orchestra, which, especially in the case of the oratorio Nâzım, clearly take up the tradition of composers such as Carl Orff. In addition to the modern European instrumentarium, Say also makes frequent and deliberate use in these compositions of instruments from his native Turkey, including kudüm and darbuka drums and the ney reed flute. This gives the music a colouring that sets it apart from many comparable creations in this genre. In the year 2007 he aroused international interest with his Violin Concerto 1001 Nights in the Harem, which is based on the celebrated tales of the same name, but deals specifically with the fate of seven women from a harem. Since its world premiere by Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the piece has already received further performances in many international concert halls. Fazıl Say scored a further great success with his first symphony, the Istanbul Symphony, premiered in 2010 at the conclusion of his five-year residency at the Konzerthaus Dortmund. Jointly commissioned by the WDR and the Konzerthaus Dortmund in the framework of Ruhr. 2010, the work constitutes a vibrant and poetic tribute to the metropolis on the Bosporus and its millions of inhabitants. The same year saw the composition, among other pieces, of his Divorce String Quartet (based on atonal principles), and commissioned works like the Piano Concerto Nirvana Burning for the Salzburg Festival and a Trumpet Concerto for the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, premiered by Gábor Boldoczki. In response to a commission from the 2011 Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Say has also written a Clarinet Concerto for Sabine Meyer that refers to the life and work of the Persian poet Omar Khayyam. In 2012 Fazıl Say has been especially prolific: In March his concerto for ney flute and orchestra, „Hezarfen“, was premiered in Mannheim by conductor Dan Ettinger and the National Academy of Musical Theatre Orchestra of Mannheim with soloist Burcu Karadağ, the piece also having been commissioned by the National Academy of Musical Theatre Orchestra of Mannheim. Say’s second symphony, Mesopotamia Symphony, commissioned by the Istanbul Music Festival, saw it’s first performance in June in Istanbul by the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gürer Aykal. This was shortly followed by the world premiere of Say’s sonata for cello and piano 4 Cities, a BBC commission, by Nicolas Altstaedt and José Gallardo in London at the City of London Festival. In September 2012 the audience of the Konzerthaus Dortmund witnessed the premiere of Say’s version for orchestra and soprano of his 2011 song for soprano and piano The Panther to the words of German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Finally, in October the premiere of Fazıl Say’s third symphony Universe by the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg under the baton of Ivor Bolton was celebrated with standing ovations by the audience. During the 2012/13 season Fazıl Say was artist in residence at the Hessischer Rundfunk in Frankfurt / Main and at the Rheingau Musik Festival 2013 where he was honoured with the Rheingau Musik Preis. In 2013 his Goethe-Lieder with Norma Nahoun and the Stuttgarter Kammerochester were premiered, as well as his piano concerto Water with the Gstaad Festival Orchestra / Kristjan Järvi and his concerto for two pianos Gezi Park 1 for Ferhan and FerzanÖnder with the NDR Radiophilharmonie / Arvo Volmer. 2014 saw the world premieres of Gezi Park 2 (a commission of Wiener Konzerthaus), Sait Faik (commissioned by IKSV Istanbul Music Festival), Hermias –Yunus Sırtındaki Çocuk (commissioned by D-Marin International Turgutreis Festival of Classical Music for their 10th anniversary), Gezi Park 3 (commissioned by Musikfest Bremen) as well as Overture 1914 (commissioned by the National Orchestra of Belgium/Andrey Boreyko to commemorate the centenary of the First World War). In 2014 his recording of Beethoven’s piano concerto No.3 and Beethoven’s sonatas op.111 and op.27/2 Moonlight was released as well as the CD Say plays Say with his compositions for piano. In 2015 Say released a new album; the New Songs. In April 2015, Say’s new work Chamber Symphony Op.62 premiered in New York City at the Carnegie Hall. Afterwards, Say and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra performed Chamber Symphony for the European audience.Say performed at the Paris Mezzo Festival at Philharmonie de Paris and broadcasted live on Mezzo.Say’s new work Symphonic Dances for orchestra, Op. 64 that commissioned by Musikkollegiums Winterthur has been premiered in Winterthur on 9th of September 2015.FazılSay is Artist in Residence in Frankfurt Alte Oper in the 2015/16 season. His recordings of works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin and Stravinsky have been highly praised by the critics and won several prizes, among them three ECHO Klassik. Fazıl Say’s works are issued worldwide by the renowned music publishers Schott Music of Mainz.