Saygun

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COMPOSERS: Saygun
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: Rheinland-Pfalz State PO/Ari Rasilainen
CATALOGUE NO: 999 819-2
Ahmed Saygun was one of the first Turkish composers to benefit from his country’s Westernisation programme in the Twenties – he studied with d’Indy in Paris, and was Bartók’s assistant on a Turkish field trip. His compositions, though based on traditional forms, are influenced by the neo-classicism that he encountered in France, and the folk music of his native country, which became a lifelong interest.

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Both symphonies date from the Fifties: in the First, for strings and wind only, there’s a characteristic clarity of texture, energetic motor rhythms and a high incidence of counterpoint – a fugal passage in the first movement could have come straight out of Honegger. The music is seasoned with modally inflected themes and some irregular dance rhythms, but these are more integrated in the Second Symphony, where they are distilled into a consistent musical language, more like the synthesis that Bartók produced. In the fugue for ghostly muted strings that begins the finale, the counterpoint and folk music have completely absorbed each other, and the rhythmic activity has direction as well as energy. The playing is engaged and, apart from a few strained passages at the top of the violins, technically assured. Martin Cotton