About this Recording
8.579009 - ATILLA, C.: Symphony No. 2, "Gallipoli - The 57th Regiment" (Ahıskal, Şenler, Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, Tüzün)

Can Atilla (b. 1969)
Symphony No. 2 in C minor, ‘Gallipoli – The 57th Regiment’


The Gallipoli campaigns have always held a particular significance for the Turkish composer Can Atilla. In 2012 he composed the original score of what was to become the most successful Turkish film about the Battle of Gallipoli: Gallipoli 1915. This project generated many ideas for a second work, and thus the ideas for the Second Symphony began to germinate.

Atilla’s Second Symphony in C minor is a war symphony depicting the innocence and desperation of humanity in the face of war. The symphony, prepared on the occasion of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli, is both a national symphony of the Republic of Turkey and also the first classical symphony written about the Battle of Gallipoli. It was composed in memory of the 57th Regiment, who showed great heroism in the war and all of whom lost their lives in the battle. Furthermore, the third and fourth parts of the symphony are dedicated to Anzac soldiers. The première of the work was performed during the Peace Summit in Istanbul on April 23, 2015, presented to representatives of 30 countries, including Charles, Prince of Wales.

The Second Symphony is particularly influenced by the Late Romantic Period. The first two movements of the symphony are in the form of a sinfonia concertante for solo cello and orchestra. The fourth movement of the work is an elegy—melodic, melancholic, full of sorrow and anguish. It is a portrait of a world threatened by the dark shadow of war.

Allegro moderato maestoso begins with an orchestral tutti ‘Fate’ motif, a musical expression of the tragedy and horror of all battles. This is followed by a motif in the heroic key of E flat major, symbolising bravery and victory. The two motifs intertwine and the introductory section is completed with traditional Baroque harmonic progressions. The solo cello then performs the main elegiac theme—senza orchestra—which is then incorporated into an orchestral tutti with a grand crescendo. The solo cello enters again, this time with the Fate and Bravery themes reworked as classical variations with full orchestra. The orchestral transitions were written mostly with Baroque harmonic cadences, and are stylistically influenced by the traditional orchestral marches of the nineteenth century. The solo cello interjections in this section depict Lieutenant Colonel Hüseyin Avni Bey, Commander of the 57th Regiment; his feelings, concerns and longing for his family. In the coda, the main theme is then heard in its darkest incarnation, maestoso, ending with the death march to represent the complete decimation of the 57th Regiment: every life was lost by the end of the battle.

Adagio appassionata tells the story of the soldiers’ yearnings and their love letters. The solo cello expresses the feelings of soldiers who are torn between their beliefs and duties, whereas the orchestra expresses the brutal actuality of battle. These dramatic and tragic effects remain throughout the movement.

Marcia funebre Andante angoscioso is a lament written for soprano and orchestra. The soprano, accompanied by the orchestra, sings emotive verse written by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, who was involved in the Gallipoli campaigns. His words are a compassionate declaration of respect for the mothers of the Anzac soldiers who had lost their lives fighting against the Ottoman Empire in Gallipoli. Today, these meaningful and profound lyrics are written on the monuments at the Gallipoli Martyrs’ Memorial:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.”

Finale – Andante con moto – Vivace furioso – Adagio begins with a Romantic chorale written for the Anzac soldiers. Following this chromatic and evocative atmosphere, the orchestra is silenced by the combined efforts of the solo cello and soprano. The cello and soprano duet heard in this section portrays the brotherhood between Turkish and Anzac soldiers in their shared fate. The soprano accompanied by the orchestra performs the poem by Anzac poet John Le Gay Brereton (1871–1933) in music reminiscent of an Anzac folksong.

Within my heart I hear the cry And you may have no praise from me For warfare’s vast vulgarity; Only the flag of love, unfurled For peace above a weeping world, I follow, though the fiery breath Of murder shrivel me in death. Yet here I stand and bow my head To those other banners led, Because within their hearts the clang Of Freedom’s summoning trumpets rang, Because they welcomed grisly pain Happy because, in gloomiest night, Their own hearts drummed them to the fight.

The main theme in C major is repeated with the participation of the orchestra and cello; then rises in a crescendo, with the strings following the soprano. After a general pause, the folkloric Anzac melody in A minor is combined with the main theme in C major before lapsing, with a long decrescendo, into a deep and tranquil silence. The furioso theme of the Vivace section is in C minor and further illustrates the calamities of battle. This segment is also evocative of Beethoven’s symphonies. The work is finalised with the reappearance of the lyric, C major theme of the soprano—underscoring the belief that peace and freedom are the most basic of human rights.

Can Atilla and Angela Ahıskal

With gratitude to the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Turkey, the Chief of General Staff and the executives of Pet Holding

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