Fazil Say: 1001 Nights in the Harem

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WORKS: Violin Concerto (1001 nights in a harem); Alla turca jazz; Patara ballet; Summertime variations
PERFORMER: Fazil Say (piano), Burcu Soysev (soprano), Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Aykut Köselerli (percussion) Çelalettin Biçer (ney); Lucerne SO/John Axelrodhttp://shop.bbcmusicmagazine.com/acatalog/July_10_Orchestral.html


Fazil Say is an accomplished and acclaimed pianist, but the main focus here is on his composing talents. Not so long ago there was a craze for late-18th and 19th-century music that mingled European styles with Turkish traditions. Say demonstrates that this kind of fusion remains fertile in the 21st-century.

His Violin Concerto, written for Patricia Kopatchinskaja who performs here, is colourful and constantly engaging, filled with ear-catching textures, rhythms and melodies. As with Sheherazade, the violin unspools fascinating tales, linking the movements with cadenzas which, as Say says, bind them into an ‘intensely atmospheric unity’. The orchestra match Kopatchinskaja’s vigour and suppleness with incisive playing.

The sleeve, booklet and label go astray on the track order from here. On the disc, Summertimes, a set of cool jazz-flavoured solo piano variations on the Gershwin classic, follows the Concerto. Say displays his technique as well as his understanding of piano-jazz history.


Similarly, on his 110-second alla Turca Fantasia, he mingles Mozart with stride and boogie, but it hardly stands up against Brubeck’s masterpiece Blue Rondo à la Turk! The lovely, evocative and lyrical Patara, also Mozart-inspired, is here performed by piano, soprano, ney (Persian flute) and percussion, forming a magical core for the programme. Barry Witherden