Sunday, 19 January 2014

Fazıl Say & Serenad Bağcan İlk Şarkılar-First Songs Ankara Concert, January 15th 2014

This review is prepared just after the amazing concert given by world famous Turkish pianist and composer Fazıl Say and singer Serenad Bağcan in Nazım Hikmet Congress and Art Center on January 15th, coinciding with the birthday of one of the most famous Turkish poets, Nazım Hikmet. Being a very important figure both as a performer and a composer in international classical music stage for years and having an impressive discography which is full of symphonies and sonatas, Fazıl Say lately released his first songs album consisting his compositions going back to 20 years ago and based on poems of prominent poets in Turkish Literature. This album has drawn considerable attention in Ankara as well as it has drawn all around the country. Already having a very well reputation among Turkish audience with his each work so far, Fazıl Say succeeded again a full house for the concert as a result of the interest in this album. I think it won't be wrong for me to say that it is the first time this much different cultural parts of Turkey have listened to Fazıl Say. He, himself, also told us a confirming story of the taxi driver demanding from him to release such an album during the concert. Fazıl Say, as he said between pieces, has worked a lot to build a bridge over the gap between the instrumental music and Turkish audience and in my opinion he is so successful in doing that. For all these reasons above, the attendees to the concert on January 15th evening were not only consisted of just long time followers of his classical works such as me but also many people fascinated by wonderful compositions in the last album.

Although there is no intermission in the concert we can analyse it in two parts. The first part was consisted of Fazıl Say's noteworthy solo performances whereas the second part was allocated for the album "İlk Şarkılar" (first songs) during which singer Serenad Bağcan has accompanied to Fazıl Say's piano as it was in the album.

The first part has started with solo piano performance of "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Summertime", which you can find in Fazıl Say's Gershwin album played with New York Philharmonic directed by Kurt Masur and released in 1999 from TELDEC. I listened to the album version of Rhapsody in Blue from Fazıl Say and Bilkent Symphony Orchestra in the first part of Ankara premiere of Fazıl Say's İstanbul Symphony. The solo performance was really something that should not be missed. The performance of Summertime, which is now shown to be one of the most important jazz standards and said to be inspired from Dvorak or Tristan chords of Wagner or else defined by its composer George Gershwin as a lullaby, presented the talent of piano virtuoso Fazıl Say to us with its many ghost notes.

We then listened to a composition of Fazıl Say called "Ses" (the sound). Afterwards, a solo arrangement for the last part of a BBC ordered Fazıl Say's composition, "Bodrum" of "Dört Şehir Piano and Violoncello Sonato" (Four Cities), whose world premiere is performed in London in 2012, is very well performed to us. This arrangement of Bodrum, which tells us some stories about the cosmopolitan holiday town of Turkey with its melodies inspired from Turkish Modal Music's piece "Yıldızların Altında"(Under The Stars) and Turkish Folk Music's piece "Uzun İnce Bir Yoldayım"(of famous Turkish troubadour Aşık Veysel), presented an alternative final to the original composition describing an arguing. Instead of the uncomfortable dialogue of the cello and piano in the original composition in the closing part, we have listened to jazz variations of some famous themes of Paganini and Mozart, which has been played by Fazıl before in some other works. I know that Fazıl Say likes playing and listening to Jazz. When I saw that Antalya Piano Festival invited Brad Mehldau in 2012, since Fazıl Say is advisor of this festival I have made a connection in my mind between his interest in contemporary jazz, Brad Mehldau and this concert. At the time I have heard the composition Bodrum, I started to think that he is fond of improvising and carrying a big responsibility of creating the contemporary jazz in Turkey, for which I think actually dedicated Turkish jazz musicians should work. I hope we can listen to a dedicated jazz trio album from Fazıl Say after the Gershwin album. I think, getting so successful with the album "İlk Şarkılar" and making it one of the most important work in songs with Turkish lyrics, Fazıl Say will most probably be able to create a world famous jazz album like his classical works.

The solo part is ended by "Kara Toprak" (black earth) performance who is dedicated to the young people killed in latest Taksim Gezi Park events in Turkey. "Black Earth", is the title track in Fazıl Say's 2003 album and it gets both its main theme and name from the famous Turkish troubadour Aşık Veysel's immortal piece symbolizing the troubadour's connection to the nature and the earth with strong links and showing his gratitude to the nature for its loyalty in feeding him. I have listened to this performance lively from Fazıl Say several times as an encore and this last one was again very very impressive.

In the second part, Fazıl Say presented us the singer Serenad Bağcan who impressed me deeply in the album. All pieces in the album are performed in a different order and from time to time in a different arrangement due to some missing instruments compared to the album.

Firstly, the composition made for the famous Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet's Memleketim" (my country) poem is performed. This piece was originally in Fazıl Say's Nazım Hikmet Oratorio work. This poem had been written by the poet during last parts of his life when he was in Russia and longing for his dear country.

Then, two compositions for two poems of Metin Altıok, who has a special place in both Fazıl Say and his family's heart but has been killed in a fire at a hotel put on by radical Islamist in Sivas (a city of Turkey) Events in 1993, have been performed respectively: "Düşerim" (I fall), whose another version you can find as the first track of Fazıl Say's "Metin Altıok's Ballad" and the saddest piece of the album, "Bu Kekre Dünyada" (in this pungent world).

Serenad Bağcan gave a theatrical and an impressively harmonic performance to the compositions of Fazıl Say which almost have a resolution that can be defined in the order of syllables. I found her a technically perfect and a very successful singer in adding emotion to what she sings.

After these three beautiful performances, we have listened to the composition of Cemal Süreyya's poem "Dört Mevsim" (four seasons) which carries love and sorrow at the same time. There are songs that have a magic power to keep on playing in your ears even when they stop. "Dört Mevsim" is such a song. When it ends, I felt like sounds stood still on the ceilings and spirits of the audience for a long while.

Afterwards, the enthusiastic and march like song written for a thousand years old poem "Akılla Bir Konuşmam Oldu" (I talked with the mind) of Ömer Hayyam, which is like a manifest almost describing the narrow minded people behind the dark current situation in Turkey and carrying also the proposal of Descartes from 1600's "I think, therefore I am", spread to our ears and souls.

The poems Can Yücel's "Sardunyaya Ağıt" (ballad for geranium- flower) written in his imprisoned time around 70's for executed young revolutionist Deniz Gezmiş and Pir Sultan Abdal's "Sordum Sarı Çiğdeme" (I asked yellow crocus) have become the lyrics for next songs in the concert. The concert ended with the song "İnsan İnsan" (people people) of Muhyiddin Abdal's poem following the two songs for two poems of Orhan Veli "Efkarlanırım" (I become sadden) and "İstanbul'u Dinliyorum" (I listen to İstanbul).

I think one of the most impressive parts of the concert happened when Serenad Bağcan was moving her arms like wings of an angel during the performance of last piece consistent with the angel metaphor used by Fazıl Say for describing Muhyiddin Abdal to the audience. The introduction part of this song, which is performed by Cem Adrian with a voice at a high pitch in the album, has been successfully achieved by reverberated vocal of Serenad Bağcan.

The standing ovations lasted for a long time. I think the level of the ovation is not as much as it was in Fazıl Say's usual classical music performances. In my opinion, this may also be resulted from Fazıl Say's calling to audience to the autograph session just before the last performance. The queue for the autograph was really long. As a summary, Ankara audience experienced a good concert. The big hall of Nazım Hikmet Congress and Art Center is far away from being a good concert hall but I can say that the sound design of the concert was fairly good.

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