The DVD contains the Istanbul Symphony, Hezarfen Concerto, Live concerts & documentary
Fazil Say's first symphony, 'Istanbul', is a tribute to the legendary main Turkish city, a bridge between Europe and Asia, an absolutely exciting universe. Each movement is representative of something unique and specific about the city. Mixing Occidental music with turkish folkmusic, much of this inspiration appears to have come from places within and around the city that Say has lived for almost ten years. This is the third recording of works composed by Fazil Say, following the successful 'Black Earth' [V4954] released in 2003 and '1001 Nights in the Harem' [V5147] released in 2009.
Fazil Say: Naturally, the IstanbulRead more that I have been trying to describe was always a nostalgic, dreamy, vintage Istanbul. The composer, the work, the ney player, everyone is in search of that Istanbul. And what they want to find, what they want to ome back to, is the hijaz theme of “Nostalgia” which comes before the F sharp formation at the beginning of our symphony. And just as the symphony rose through the rustling of the waves of the Sea of Marmara at the very beginning, and so at the end it will be buried in the waves again with hijaz makam theme.
R E V I E W:
SAY Istanbul Symphony1. “Hezarfen” Concerto for Ney and Orchestra2 & • 1Gürer Aykal, cond; 2Dan Ettinger, cond; Burcu Karadag (ney); 1Hakan Güngör (kanun); Aykut Köselerli (perc); 1Borusan Istanbul SO; 2Mannheim Natl Theater O • NAÏVE 5315 (68:00) Live: 1Istanbul 12/25/2010; 2Mannheim 3/6/2012
& Istanbul Symphony, live concert & documentary. “Hezarfen” Concerto, documentary (DVD: 90:00)
Fazil Say is a young (b. 1970) Turkish composer who wrote his first piano sonata at the age of 14. This, his First Symphony, is in seven movements and was written, the composer tells us, as nostalgia for an Istanbul that is no more, the “Istanbul of the 1940s, or 1900, even some legendary time.” He explains that despite using a number of oriental modes and instruments to give it the proper local flavor, it is “not a symphony of complicated mathematics, but it is a work that has contrasts.” Thus the music is purposely written in an accessible style so that its moods and pictorial features may be better understood by a greater number of people.
From strictly a listening experience, I found this music very interesting and enjoyable in places, but because development is kept simple and the basic feeling is romantic, I personally found my interest wandering quite a bit. Its form as well as its language is so close to movie music, and kept so simple in structure, that despite its many interesting rhythmic and textural passages it tends towards being musical wallpaper.
Which is not to say that the music lacks interest—far from it, there are many interesting passages, especially where Arabic modes are used. Listening to Say talk about his music on the accompanying DVD, the symphony begins with an “ocean wave” machine to represent the Sea of Marmara, then opens in the hejaz mode. Both the kanun and the ney (reed flute) are briefly heard in this movement as it eventually moves into a “janissary” theme that, the composer tells us, everyone in Turkey knows. Part 2, “Religious Order,” represents for Say a “cult,” and the music has a rhythmic element that fascinates Say. “In the past 20 or 30 years these cults have become brotherhoods and have lost sight of their original purpose…they are too involved with politics and economics.” Say employs dhikr themes which include elements of these rituals. The third part of the symphony, “Blue Mosque,” represents the Sultanahmet Mosque. This portion is almost a brief ney concerto; the second theme is played by the violas and starts in the segah mode. At the end there is a “celestial element” that for Say is inspirational and moving without being denominational, and it ends in a big ensemble.
“Beautiful girls on the ferry” represents their traveling to the summer resort islands in the Sea of Marmara which include a conglomerate of ethnicities: Sunni, Jewish, Greek, Alevi, a true “cosmopolitan paradise.” Istanbul residents go there in the summer, sometimes only on weekends, sometimes for whole weeks. This movement depicts four or five young women laughing and joking on the ferry. A kanun introduces its own theme; the young ladies quarrel and argue over it. The fifth movement, “About the travelers to Anatolia,” is part of Sey’s own memories of coming to Istanbul as a child on the train: “All trains going to Anatolia, Asia and the Middle East leave from the Haydarpasa Terminal…something happens at the terminal, the train is boarded and the journey begins with the noises of the train.” This music is supposed to conjure up images of people you meet on a journey, people you imagine about but never really get to know.
The sixth movement, “Oriental Night,” begins with a kanun improvisation, the only part of the symphony not actually composed by Say. The main element here, he tells us, “is a köçekçe which I wrote in the karcigar mode.” The middle portion was inspired by a theme by Turkish composer Tanburi Mustafa Çavus titled Dök zülfünü meydane gel, which Say assigns to kanun and orchestra. Say added “variations and metaphors,” including the 9/8 “limping” tempo of the Turkish aksak, which is divided (exactly like Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo à la Turk) 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3. This rhythm is also used in various portions throughout the symphony. The last movement, simply titled “Final,” returns the listener to the F?-formation at the beginning of the symphony, and as at the beginning the symphony moves off back into the sea.
The accompanying DVD contains a full performance of the symphony, a documentary in which Say explains the various movements, and a short (14:00) documentary about the “Hezarfen” Concerto that includes a history of the ney (which goes back to around 2800-3000 B.C.E.). It is particularly associated with the Sufis. Say presumes that this is the first ney concerto ever written; it commemorates the first documented manned flight, probably better described as the earliest form of hang gliding, performed by Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi in 1632. He began by leaping from the top of the Galata Tower in Beyoglu, witnessed by a great crowd of spectators, then flew east over the Bosphorous Straits where he landed nine minutes later in Üsküdar. Far from being hailed as a hero, Hezarfen was viewed as “dangerous,” and the Sultan exiled him to Algeria. So much for the joys of being a pioneer!
As with the symphony, the concerto combines traditional Western instruments with Eastern ones as well as Eastern modes and rhythms. To my ears, the construction here is even simpler than the symphony. It, too, is extremely well played by the various forces and well recorded technically. The music is also more “spacey,” with open textures, often reducing the players to a handful of percussion instruments, a few basses, and the ney, in order to give it the quality of a flight through open space (at one point, just timpani and bass trombone). The music also “suspends” itself at times, remaining in one place, similar to minimalism.
I trust I have described the music well enough (aided, of course, by Say in his documentary) for you to decide whether or not this is something you will want to acquire. As long as you realize that this is intentionally light music, I assure you that you’ll not be disappointed.
Delightful discoveryNovember 21, 2013By Marsha C. (San Francisco, CA)See All My Reviews"I love this CD. It is a remarkable discovery that makes me want to return to Turkey to live there once again."Report Abuse