Gezi Park 1


Preliminary note:
Fazıl Say relates the Gezi Park incidents in 3 separate works:
– Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra (30th and 31st May, the days the incidents began).
– Solo piano sonata (1st and 2nd June, the days of resistance and clashes; the increasing hard-line attitude of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and the police targeting of innocent people).
– The Ballad of Gezi Park (for Soprano and Orchestra) on the events in June 2013 when the eyes of the world turned towards Turkey.’

Part 1 “Evening” (30th May 2013, evening, Istanbul Gezi Park)
On the evening of 30th May, there are thousands of people gathered in Gezi Park, there to lend their voices to the protest. They are happy, they represent the modern face of Turkey, they are there for freedom and the crowd around the partition is thronging, thousands of voices ring out; there is hope. It is a beautiful summer’s evening. Everything is peaceful, the songs of hope echo throughout…
The pianos are like two siblings. Their theme is based on the Turkish Hüseyni makam (E-flat Aeolian mode). Sometimes, we can hear the rustling of the trees in Gezi Park emerging from the melody (rehearsal mark 2). The tree is an essential motif throughout this work, particularly in the second part “Night.”
After a four to five minute progression, a group of people in Gezi Park begin a folk dance (at the point where the 3 x 15/quaver metre begins). We know that Kurds and Turks, Alevi and Sunni muslims, believers and non-believers have gathered in Gezi Park. The aim of this solidarity is to protect the park.
The music has become enlivened with this new rhythm; dancing, singing, imperfect rhythms. It is a true Anatolian mosaic we see before us. And when this comes to an end, the music returns to its initial tempo (rehearsal mark 17), the same motifs reverberating in different characters. The orchestra strings stress modal melodies (rehearsal mark 19-20) and the evening releases itself into the quiet of the night.

Part 2 “Night” (Morning of 31st May, between 2 am and 5 am)
Let’s first of all read this very interesting story: Çınar Baba is a Veli (holy man) born and raised in Khorasan, a descendant of Haci Bayram Veli. In Khorasan, he has become known as a “protector of trees.” The great ruler of the age is desirous of building himself a majestic military encampment and for this purpose sets his sights on plundering a nearby forest of plane trees. Çınar Baba rails against this plan and so gathers together his men to stage a resistance.
Since this is a legend…
The trees themselves take part in this resistance. The plane trees march in the night, with their roots they strangle the men who come to cut them down and so the army is destroyed. When Çınar Baba realises that the ruler intends to have him killed, he escapes to Istanbul and seeks refuge in the palace. The Sultan bestows him his protection. He is given responsibility for the care and upkeep of the Palace gardens. He ends his days in Istanbul.
Guess where he is buried…
Yes, that is the right answer.
In Taksim’s Gezi Park. In the years following, that spot attracts crowds of people who rush to plant flowers and trees at the holy man’s tomb. In the square, the vegetation is thriving. The place comes to represent the lungs of Istanbul. In 1806, all those great plane trees are cut down to make a military barracks.
Since this is hearsay…
The souls of Çınar Baba and the destroyed plane trees rise up in anger, Istanbul is in turmoil and rebellions start up. And with the uprising of 31st May the barracks are destroyed and turn to ruin. Years go by and the republic is born. The governor of Istanbul has the ruins of the barracks torn down and in their place he lays out Taksim Gezi Park, which we know today. Out of respect for the holy tomb, plane trees are planted there once again.
(This information is taken from “Istanbul’s nature-loving saints” by Rizeli Gümüş Balta Baba.)

And this is how this story continues:
80 more years go by. Another ruler attempts to cut down those plane trees and bring the barracks back to life. Çınar Baba is also coming back to life. His breath of life makes Istanbul stand to attention again. The plane trees give a few of their number as a sacrifice, but because of all those people gathering in their shade, they are saved.

Drawing inspiration from this story, the “tree” in this section has become a leitmotif in its own right.
Part 2 is on the one hand a “section of leitmotifs.”
The rising of the moon (rehearsal mark 24): The moon is both romantic and frightening at the same time. The “tree” theme leitmotif from rehearsal mark 27 onwards continues for a length of time and is accompanied by a wind machine as used in operas. The 31st of May was a very windy night in Istanbul. The two siblings (two pianos) are entranced by the mysterious spell of the trees. The rhythm entwined within the tree theme is as old as the sounds of the dove (semi-quaver, dotted quaver, semi-quaver). This section contains expressions of explosions, after which we return to the dangerous quiet of the night when the moon rises again. There is disquiet in the air.

Part 3 “Police Raid” (31st May, 5 o’clock in the morning)
At 5 o’clock in the morning the police used disproportionate force on the protestors in a pointless and heartless attack. The democratic-minded people of Istanbul woke up to this news and were galvanized to action, spilling out into the streets; this was an uprising, a resistance on a scale unseen in Turkey’s history and millions of people in Istanbul’s Taksim, Besiktas and Kadikoy districts, in Ankara, in Izmir, in Adana and throughout Turkey, began a protest against the government which lasted for weeks and was watched intently by the whole world.
The police attack was terrible; hundreds of people woke up in burning tents; pepper spray and gas bombs were used, people were injured, pressurised water cannons were deployed, blast bombs were discharged (indeed many cats, dogs and birds died as a result); the gas lead to suffocations, respiratory problems, people lost eyes; there was screaming and shouting, people were falling headlong as they tried desperately to escape. All this action and turmoil is reflected and encapsulated in the music. The music is loud and the orchestra (representing the police) is the dominant element. The brass and percussion sections create riot and destruction.
Once the attack is over, the two siblings (the two pianos) are left alone, they have made their escape into a side street and they are in the grip of a sorrowful and terrible anger and hopelessness. This emotion gradually gives way to a feeling of hope, they have something to say to the whole world; this internal voice, the song of their internal voice is represented as a long duet and so Gezi Park 1 comes to an end with this song of hope. Fazıl Say


I Evening
II Night
III Police Raid


Picc. · 2 · 2 · 2 · 2 · Kfg. – 3 · 2 · 1 · 0 – P. S. (Marimba · Beck. · hg. Beck. · Tamt. · Tamb. · Bong. · Tomt. · Snare Drum · Tenortr. · Cong. · gr. Tr. · Bar Chimes · Claves · Woodbl. [3er Set] · Windmasch.) (3 Spieler) – Str. (12 · 8 · 8 · 8 · 4)

  • Tags: Concerto
  • Opus No: 48
  • Duration: 27 minutes
  • Year of Composition: 2013
  • Commissioned by: NDR Radiophilharmonie
  • Word Premiere Date: October 24,2013
  • World Premiere Location: Hannover (G) NDR, Großer Sendesaal - Ferhan Önder, Klavier; Ferzan Önder, Klavier · Conductor: Arvo Volmer · NDR Radiophilharmonie
  • Schott Music