Leading International Composer: Fazıl Say, Turkey

with University of Maryland School of Music Faculty and Students

March 15, 2018, 6 PM

The Phillips Collection, Gallery 116

Fazıl Say is not only a virtuosic pianist but also a prolific composer. Say had his first piano lessons from Mithat Fenmen, who asked him to improvise on themes from his daily life in addition to his essential piano exercises. This creative process formed the immense improvisatory talent and the aesthetic outlook that make Say the pianist and composer he is today. Say fine-tuned his skills as a classical pianist with David Levine, first at the Musikhochschule Robert Schumann in Düsseldorf and later in Berlin. His blend of refinement (in Bach, Haydn, and Mozart) and virtuoso brilliance (in Liszt, Mussorgsky, and Beethoven) helped him win the Young Concert Artists international competition in New York in 1994. Since then he has played with renowned American and European orchestras and numerous leading conductors, building a repertoire ranging from the Viennese Classics and the Romantics to contemporary music. Fazıl Say’s interests include improvisation, jazz, and a passion for Mozart, all of which are reflected in his compositions. So, too, is his interest in Turkish folklore and literature. His output ranges from large-scale orchestral works (including four symphonies and several concertos), as well as a wide variety of music for chamber ensemble and large-scale vocal works. Say has been commissioned to compose works for, among others, the Salzburg Festival, West German Radio (WDR), the Vienna Konzerthaus, and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival.

Performers for this concert include University of Maryland School of Music faculty and students.

In partnership with the University of Maryland.


FAZIL SAY (b. 1970)
Cleopatra for Solo Violin, Op. 34
     performed by Laura Colgate

Space Jump for Piano Trio, Op. 46
     performed by Kei Sugayama, violin, Molly Jones, cello, and Andrew Welch, piano

Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 42
     performed by James Stern, violin, and Fazıl Say, piano

Alevi Dedeler rakı masasında (Alevi fathers at the rakı table) for Wind Quintet, Op. 35
     performed by Wavelength Winds

String Quartet “Divorce,” Op. 29
     performed by the Left Bank Quartet

Please note that this concert will be held at The Phillips Collection in Gallery 116.

With his extraordinary pianistic talents, Fazıl Say has been reaching audiences and critics alike for more than 25 years, in a way that has become rare in the increasingly materialistic and elaborately organized classical music world. Concerts with Say are something different. They are more direct, open, and exciting; in short, they go straight to the heart. Which is exactly what the composer Aribert Reimann thought in 1986 when, during a visit to Ankara, had the opportunity to appreciate the playing of the then 16-year-old pianist. He immediately asked the American pianist David Levine, who was accompanying him on the trip, to come to the city’s conservatory, using the now much-quoted words: “You absolutely must hear him, this boy plays like a devil.”

Say had his first piano lessons with Mithat Fenmen, who had himself studied with Alfred Cortot in Paris. Perhaps sensing just how talented his pupil was, Fenmen asked the boy to improvise every day on themes to do with his daily life before going on to complete his essential piano exercises and studies. This contact with free creative processes and forms is seen as the source of the immense improvisatory talent and the aesthetic outlook that make Say the pianist and composer he is today. He has been commissioned to write music for, among others, the Salzburg Festival, WDR, Dortmund Konzerthaus, Schleswig-Holstein, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern festivals. His work includes compositions for solo keyboard, chamber music, as well as solo concertos and large-scale orchestral works.

From 1987 onwards, Say fine-tuned his skills as a classical pianist with David Levine, first at the Musikhochschule Robert Schumann in Düsseldorf and later in Berlin. In addition, he regularly attended master classes with Menahem Pressler. His outstanding technique very quickly enabled him to master the so-called warhorses of repertoire with masterful ease. It is precisely this blend of refinement (in Bach, Haydn, and Mozart) and virtuoso brilliance in the works of Liszt, Mussorgsky, and Beethoven that gained him victory at the New York Young Concert Artists International Competition in 1994. Since then he has played with all of the renowned American and European orchestras, including numerous leading conductors, building up a multifaceted repertoire ranging from Bach, through the Viennese classics and Romantics, right up to contemporary music, including his own piano compositions.

Guest appearances have taken Say to countless countries on all five continents; Le Figaro called him “a genius.” He also performs chamber music regularly: for many years he was part of a fantastic duo with the violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja. Other notable collaborators include Maxim Vengerov, the Minetti Quartet, Nicolas Altstaedt, and Marianne Crebassa.

From 2005-10, he was Artist-in-Residence at the Dortmund Konzerthaus; during the 2010/2011 season he held the same position at the Berlin Konzerthaus. Say was also a focal point of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in the summer of 2011. There have been further residencies and Say festivals in Paris, Tokyo, Meran, Hamburg, and Istanbul. During the 2012/2013 season Say was the Artist-in-Residence at the Hessischer Rundfunk in Frankfurt am Main and at the Rheingau Musik Festival 2013, where he was awarded the Rheingau Musik Preis. In April 2015, Say gave a successful concert with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall that was followed by an extensive European tour. In 2014 he was the Artist-in-Residence at the Bodenseefestival, where he played 14 concerts. During their 2015/2016 season the Alte Oper Frankfurt and the Zürcher Kammerorchester invited him to be their Artist-in-Residence. Say’s current residency is with the Festival der Nationen in Bad Wörishofen.

In December 2016, Say was awarded the International Beethoven Prize for Human Rights, Peace, Freedom, Poverty Reduction, and Inclusion, in Bonn. In the autumn of 2017, he was awarded the Music Prize of the city of Duisburg.

His recordings of works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin, and Stravinsky have been highly praised by critics and won several prizes, including three ECHO Klassik Awards. In 2014, his recording of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (with hr-Sinfonieorchester and conductor, Gianandrea Noseda) and Beethoven’s Sonatas Op. 111 and Op. 27/2 "Moonlight" was released, as well as the album Say plays Say, featuring his compositions for piano. Since 2016, Say has been an exclusive Warner Classics artist. In the autumn of 2016, his recording of all of Mozart sonatas was released on the label, for which, in 2017, Say received his fourth ECHO Klassik award. Together with Nicolas Altstaedt, he recorded the album 4 Cities (2017). In autumn 2017 Warner Classics will release Nocturnes by Frédéric Chopin and the album Secrets, featuring French songs which he recorded together with Marianne Crebassa.

Hailed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “remarkably poised... sensitive and majestic,” violinist Laura Colgate regularly performs as a substitute with the Philadelphia Orchestra andNational Symphony Orchestra. She has collaborated with the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Alban Berg Quartet, and Emerson Quartet, among many others. Having recently completed her Doctorate on advocacy for Women Composers, Dr. Colgate continues to actively promote her Half of Humanity projects, presenting lectures and recitals at schools, universities, and in concert series.

Violinist Kei Sugiyama holds both B.M. and M.M degrees from The Juilliard School. As a Morse Teaching Artist Fellow he has worked extensively with underserved middle school children in New York City. His most recent engagements include performances as a Britten Pears Young Artist, and as a member of the Verbier Festival Orchestra.

Molly Jones is the Assistant Principal Cellist of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and a founding partner of Lumino Festival of the Arts, which will begin its debut season in 2018. She is currently completing her Doctoral studies, with her dissertation titled Voices from the Holocaust, Remembered: Selected Works for Cello.

Pianist Andrew Welch enjoys a career performing as both a soloist and collaborator with such artists as Carmen Balthrop, Richard Giarusso, Leah Arsenault, and Noah Getz, with whom he recorded for Albany Records. Andrew also serves as assistant conductor and pianist for the Georgetown Chorale and as Director of Music Ministry at Dumbarton UMC.

Hailed by the Washington Post for “virtuosity and penetrating intelligence,” violinist James Stern has performed at the National Gallery, Smithsonian Museums, The Phillips Collection, Library of Congress, and the White House with the Smithsonian Chamber Players and VERGE Ensemble, with whom he has also toured internationally. He has performed at the Marlboro and Ravinia festivals. His solo Bach CD is available on Albany Records. He tours nationally with the trio Strata (violin, clarinet, piano). A former faculty member at the Cleveland Institute, he is now Professor at the University of Maryland.

Wavelength Winds, comprised of flutist, Naomi Harrow, oboist, Lydia Consilvio, clarinetist, Natalie Groom, horn Derek Maseloff, and bassoonist, Qun Ren, is the fourth resident fellowship wind quintet at the University of Maryland. In addition to being seasoned performers and pedagogues, Wavelength's members are accomplished in disciplines ranging from business to international politics. The group's mission is to present diverse, stimulating works and innovative collaborations that resonate with music lovers of all kinds.

In the rapidly changing musical landscape, Wavelength Winds is continuously seeking intriguing projects and new works. The group is currently working with local artist Konshens the MC in an ongoing project called “Classically Dope,” a fusion of hip-hop and classical music. This spring, Wavelength Winds and Avant Projekts will team up to create a music, dance, and film collaboration centered on the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. The group is also commissioning works from composers John Steinmetz, Leigha Amick, and Ben Stevenson.

The Left Bank Quartet (comprised of violinists David Salness and Sally McLain, violist Katherine Murdock, and cellist Eric Kutz) with their diverse and colorful backgrounds, came together through the auspices of the Theater Chamber Players, and rather unexpectedly discovered the joys of a vibrant and enthusiastic collaboration. They have been The Left Bank Quartet since 1999, taking their name from the fact that the Kennedy Center, their first regular venue, is situated on the left bank of the Potomac River. They are the faculty quartet at the University of Maryland.

Their combined experiences include participation in the major festivals of the musical world: Aspen, Banff, Chautauqua, Marlboro, Mostly Mozart, Prussia Cove, Ravinia, Santa Fe, Spoleto, and Yellow Barn, among others. Their teaching experiences, collaborations, national and international tours, recital and concerto performances, and success in international competitions give this Quartet a rich and varied tapestry as they weave their musical message.

The Quartet’s repertoire encompasses an eclectic range, with quartets of composers such as Carlos Chávez, George Crumb, Zsolt Durkó, Henri Dutilleux, Alberto Ginastera, Pierre Jalbert, Leon Kirchner, György Kurtág, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, György Ligeti, Usko  Meriläinen, Conlon Nancarrow, and Silvestre Revueltes augmenting the standard fare. Compositions written for and premiered by the quartet include Mark Wilson’s Time Variations (Capstone Records) and Lawrence Moss’s String Quartet No. 4, recently released on the Innova label. Gramophone Magazine’s review praised the composition for its “charm” and “dazzle,” stating, “Moss uses the instruments with idiomatic mastery, ranging from kittenish endearments to electric flashes of energy … played by the Left Bank Quartet with brilliant focus and timbral variety…”

Cleopatra for Solo Violin, Op. 34 (2010)
Cleopatra was commissioned for the International Violin Competition Henri Marteau in 2011 as the compulsory piece for the competition. In Cleopatra for Solo Violin, Op. 34, Say deals with Henri Marteau's Caprice No. 10 Intermezzo, as an homage to him. The result is a violinistically demanding piece which makes use of the modern playing techniques of the violin and at the same time includes Arabian sounds in varied rhythmic patterns.

Space Jump for Piano Trio, Op. 46 (2013)
What do Say and the extreme sportsman Felix Baumgartner have in common? Space Jump: the spectacular jump from the stratosphere. In this composition, Say depicts each phase of the jump, from take off to a safe landing on earth. His intense fascination with this event prompted a work containing every emotion he experienced as a spectator.

Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 42 (1997)
In his Violin Sonata, Say combines the classical western form with folk music elements of his home country, spiced with jazz-like intensified rhythms. Comparable to Piazzolla's popular pieces, this is world music in the truest sense of the word.

Alevi Dedeler rakı masasında (Alevi fathers at the rakı table) for Wind Quintet, Op. 35 (2011)
In four short movements Say humorously describes an everyday scene in an Anatolian village: Alevi fathers drinking rakı (a Turkish, unsweetened alcohol) at a well-laid table. An andantino ritornello in irregular meters, present in all movements, provides the thematic context of an eventful scene.

String Quartet “Divorce,” Op. 29 (2010)
“In the composition of this string quartet, I have permitted myself to be led by my personality and experiences and have attempted to relate experiences such as divorce, separation, and the failure of a relationship in the language of music with the aid of notes and rhythms. As is the case with my other compositions, this quartet is more a work originating from intuition than the description of a historical event, journey, or place.

The beginning of the first movement is somewhat wild, rapid, and sorrowful with an irregular rhythm. Intermittent sections ensue which are reminiscent of a jazz club. Living history is our present which we are currently experiencing.

The second movement, with a melancholic atmosphere, is dominated by colors, the subject of searching, and the search for a remedy for unhappiness.

In contrast, the final movement is intended to express the hatefulness, arguments, and disputes within a relationship which have transformed into a profound trauma.” —Fazıl Say

Notes courtesy of Schott Music.