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 organised 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 home town Ankara. It was followed, in this early phase of his development, by several chamber works without an opus number, including Schwarze Hymnen 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 Nâzım Hikmet and Metin Altıok, he composed works for soloists, chorus and orchestra which, especially in the case of the oratorio Nâzim, 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 Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival, 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. Fazıl Say’s works are issued worldwide by the renowned music publishers Schott of Mainz.

Fazil Say Biography

Artist-in-Residence

Konzerthaus Berlin, 2010/ 2011
Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival 2011
Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, 2010
Merano Festival, 2010
Konzerthaus Dortmund 2005-2010
Paris Théâtre des Champs-Élysées 2010
Tokyo 2008
Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 2010
Musikfest Bremen 2005
Radio France 2003 and 2005

Chronological

Ankara

1984 Phrigian gor Piano *
1984 Sonata for Piano *
1985 Ballade for Cello and Piano *
1985 Preludes for Piano *
1985 Preludes for Flute Piano *
1986 Guitar Concerto *
1986 Suite for Piano *
1987 Schwarze Hymnen for Violin and Piano *

Düsseldorf

1987 4 Stücke for Piano *
1988 Paganini Jazz 1. Version for Piano *
1989 Seidenstrasse for Piano solo *
1990 Debussy Preludes Orchestration *
1990 Nasreddin Hoca’nın dansları for Piano / Opus 1
1990 Reflections for Piano Violin and Orchestra *
1990 Paganini Jazz 2. Version for Piano *
1991 3 Maerchen for Piano and Chamber Orchestra *
1991 Alt Anatolisches Tagebuch for Piano *

Berlin

1992 Pieces for Piano *
1992 Liszt Sonata Orchestration *
1993 CD / (SFB) (Scarlatti-Berg-Say)
1993 Symphonia Concertante for Piano and Orchestra /opus 3
1993 AllaTurca Jazz (Mozart) /Opus 5a
1993 Fantasiestücke for Piano /Opus 2
1994 Silk Road for Piano and Chamber Orchestra /Opus 4
1995 25 Songs / Opus 5d
1995 Cadenza Mozart Kv 467 /Opus 5c
1995 Paganini Jazz 3. Version /opus 5b

New York

1996 CD / Troppenote Records ( Say )
1996 Concerto for Guitar in d / Opus 5e
1996 Chamber Symphony / Opus 6
1997 Black Earth for Piano /Opus 8
1997 Sonata for Violin and Piano / Opus 7
1997 Yeni bir Gülnihal Jazz Variations for Piano / Opus 5f
1998 CD / Warner Music ( Mozart Sonatas)
1998 Sonata for Piano Silence of Southeast *
1999 Gershwin arrangements for sixtett *
1999 CD / Teldec ( Bach)
1999 1. Book / UÇAK NOTLARI
2000 CD / Teldec ( Gershwin )
2000 CD / Teldec ( Stravinski- Le sacre )
2000 Pieces for world jazz quartett *
2001 CD / Teldec ( Liszt- Tchaikovski )
2001 Silence of Anatolia Piano Concerto / opus 11
2001 Cadenza Beethoven No 3 / Opus 10
2001 Nazım Oratorio / opus 9

İstanbul

2002 CD / İmaj (Nazım)
2002 3 Ballades for Piano /opus 12
2003 Metin Altıok Ağıtı /Opus 13
2003 CD / Naive (Say/ Black Earth)
2003 CD / İmaj (Metin Altıok ağıtı)
2003 CD /Bilkent (Nazım)
2004 Rhapsodia Uzun ince Yoldayım /Opus 14
2004 Cadenza Mozart KV 537 /opus 15
2004 CD / Naive ( Mozart Concertos )
2005 Thinking Einstein for Piano and Orchestra /Opus 15
2005 Patara Ballet for Ney-flute ,Soprano, Percussions and Piano /Opus 16
2005 Ultimathule Film music /Opus 18
2005 CD / Naive ( Beethoven Sonatas )
2005 DVD / İmaj ( Nazım Oratorio )
2005 Bach- Say Passacaglia /Opus 19
2005 Summertime Phantasy Gerschwin /Opus 20
2006 Pianist the Wolfy film music /opus 21
2006 CD / Naive ( Haydn Sonatas )
2006 DVD / Arthaus ( Alla Turca )
2006 İnsan insan film music /Opus 22
2006 CD / Avex ( Live in Tokyo )
2007 Fenerbahçe Project/ Opus 23
2007 Bach- Say Fantasia in g /Opus 24
2007 CD / Naive ( Kopatchinskaja –Say / Beethoven /Bartok/ )
2007 1001 Nights in a Harem Violin Voncerto /opus 25
2008 CD / Naive (Kopatchinskaja- Say 1001 Nights in Harem)
2008 DVD / Avex (Live in Tokyo)
2009 2. Book / Yalnızlık kederi
2009 Princess of Lykia for 2 Guitars / opus 26
2009 Film Music Watercolor /Opus 27
2009 İstanbul Symphony /Opus 28
2010 DVD / İmaj (Fenerbahçe Project )
2010 String Quartett / Opus 29
2010 Nirvana Burning Piano Concerto / Opus 30
2010 Concerto for Trompet /Opus 32
2010 Variations for 2 Pianos and Percussion
2010 Tiyatro Müziği ; 7000 yıllık uçan halı / Opus 33
2010 CLEOPATRA for solo Violin / Opus 34
2010 Woodwinds Quintett “Alevi dedeler rakı masasında” / Opus 35
2010 Reductions
Reduction 1; Nazım Oratorio 2010 Version
Reduction 2; Yeni bir Gülnihal Jazz Variations
Klavier Auszug Nirvana Burning
Klavier Auszug Trompeten Konzert
2011 Concerto for Clarinet “Khayyam” / Opus 36
2011 Fazıl Say: Pianist – Komponist – Weltbürger by Jürgen Otten (Book)
2011 Fazil Say: Pictures (CD/DVD)
2011 “4 Lieder” – “4 Songs” / Opus 37
2011 Symphony No.2 “Mesopotamia” for extra large orchestra / Opus 38
2011 Hezarfen Concerto for Ney and orchestra / Opus 39
2012 “SES” / Opus 40
2012 “Sonata” for Cello and Piano 2012 “4 Cities” (4 şehir) / Opus 41
2012 Sonata for Clarinet and Piano / Opus 42
2012 Symphony No.3 “Universe” / Opus 43
2012 6 Songs / Opus 44
2012 “Water” for Piano and Orchestra / Opus 45
2013 Space Jump for Trio (Piano, Violin, Cello) / Opus 46
2013 İlk Şarkılar / Opus 47
2013 Gezi Park 1 Concerto for two pianos and orchestra / Opus 48
2013 Nietzsche and Wagner for piano / Opus 49
2014 “The Bells” based on a poem by Edgar Allan Poe for choir, soprano, mezzo soprano, piano and percussion / Opus 50
2014 Sait Faik for narrators, piano, string quartet, kanun, kemençe, percussion and 2 mezzo sopranos / Opus 51
2014 Gezi Park 2 / Opus 52
2014 Yunus Balığı Sırtındaki Çocuk / Opus 53
2014 “1914″ / Opus TBA
2014 Gezi Park 3 for Orchestra and Soprano / Opus 55

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