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Ince: Symphonies No 3 & 4 / Ince, Prague Symphony Orchestra

Release Date: 06/21/2005 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557588   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Kamran Ince
Conductor:  Kamran Ince
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Kamran Ince (b. 1960) is a composer heretofore unknown to me, as I suspect he is to most readers. Of Turkish parentage, he was born in Montana, was educated in Turkey, and since the 1980s has lived in the US. His credentials are impressive: concerts devoted to his music at the Holland Festival, CBC Encounter Series (Toronto), the Istanbul International Festival, the Estoril Festival (Lisbon), and festivals in London and Berlin; and numerous commissions from leading cultural institutions, leading orchestras, and contemporary music organizations and ensembles. He holds a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music, and has been a professor of composition at the University of Memphis and co-director of MIAM (Center for Advanced Research in Read more Music) and its Advanced Studies in Music program at the Istanbul Technical University. His numerous prizes include the Prix de Rome, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Lili Boulanger Prize. His works include pieces for large symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, and ballet and film scores.

The Third Symphony was commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra. Subtitled “Siege of Vienna,” it purports to portray in eight continuous movements the second of two Ottoman attempts, this one under Mehmet IV in 1683, to overthrow the Habsburg Empire. Both attempts failed, but, according to the booklet note, gave the West coffee and croissants. Ince calls for substantial instrumental forces, augmenting the standard orchestra with piano, synthesizer, electric bass guitar, four Wagner tubas, and a large battery of percussion. With forces like these, and movement titles like “City under Siege,” War of the Walls,” and “Final Assault,” one might be led to expect quite a cacophonous din. But Ince does not abuse the powers at his disposal, thereby making the climaxes even more shattering when they do come.

In a number of ways, I found the subject matter, Ince’s response to it, and even the music itself to have certain parallels to Shostakovich’s approach in his Eleventh Symphony. Listen, for example, to Ince’s frozen, disembodied, dead-man-walking soundscape that opens the fourth movement, “Forgotten Souls.” It is a sound not too far removed from the opening measures of the Shostakovich. Likewise, the sudden, violent outbursts of military engagement and battle. This is very effective, colorful, and evocative writing. It is easy to understand Ince’s success both in the concert hall and in film.

If I found certain literary and thematic similarities between Ince’s Third Symphony and Shostakovich’s Eleventh, I hope Ince will forgive me if I find another analogy between his Fourth Symphony and Respighi’s Pines of Rome. Subtitled “Sardis,” it was commissioned by Crawford H. Greenwalt, Jr., director of excavations at the Sardis site northeast of Ephesus. An important city in pre-Christian Anatolia, Sardis was plundered by the Persians in 546 B.C. and was subsequently conquered by Alexander the Great. It became the site of one of the Seven Churches of Asia referred to in the Book of Revelations, fell under Arab rule in 716, and finally passed into Turkish hands in the 11th century. In five movements, for an orchestra including piano, electric and bass guitars, and mandolin, the symphony is a topographical portrait of the river, hills, mountains, and rocks of Sardis, rather than a musical depiction of its history. Like Respighi’s Pines, Ince’s symphony is as cinematic in character as it is a poignant rendering sculpted in stone of an eternal landscape. Domes is an extended orchestral movement (the note calls it a “nocturne”) for flute/piccolo, clarinet, bass clarinet/Eb-clarinet, two bassoons, two horns, trumpet, bass trombone, harp, piano, and strings. It was commissioned by the California Symphony. The best way I can describe it is to say that it seems to be a succession of contrasting moods and tempos that unfold within a larger, overarching mood and tempo that imposes its own time-space continuum on the work as a whole. I’m hesitant to call it Ince’s Time Cycle, but there is a recurring ticking, tinkling motif that makes me feel as if I’m trapped inside some kind of cosmic clockwork from which there is no escape.

Kamran Ince belongs to a new breed of American composers who are writing music that is once again accessible and, at least on its surface, quite beautiful and emotionally engaging. Whether it will have staying power or not, I don’t know. But for right now, it seems that the box office beckons. The Prague Symphony Orchestra, under Ince’s direction, plays superbly, and the Naxos recording is excellent. Strongly recommended.

Jerry Dubins, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 3 "Siege of Vienna" by Kamran Ince
Conductor:  Kamran Ince
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: after 1995; USA 
Symphony no 4 "Sardis" by Kamran Ince
Conductor:  Kamran Ince
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: after 1995; USA 
Domes by Kamran Ince
Conductor:  Kamran Ince
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; USA 

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