About this Recording
9.70236 - Cello and Piano Music (Turkish) - SAYGUN, A.A. / MANAV, Ö. / UÇARSU, H. / USMANBAŞ, İ (Tokay, Serdaroğlu)
English  Turkish 

Turkish Music for Cello and Piano


Ahmet Adnan Saygun (1907–1991)

Ahmet Adnan Saygun, born in Izmir, was a prominent Turkish composer who studied at the Schola Cantorum in Paris with Vincent D’Indy, Eugène Borrel, and Paul Le Flem between 1928 and 1931. He taught extensively in Ankara and Istanbul Conservatoires throughout his life, and in 1936 carried out research into Turkish folk music with Béla Bartók in southern Anatolia. As a composer, Saygun was attached to the traditional values of European classical music, searching for the ideal combination of Turkish folk music and Western musical heritage to construct a new identity for modern Turkish music. He was also an influential ethnomusicologist, pedagogue, and scholar.

The Sonata for Cello and Piano Op. 12, composed in 1935, was dedicated to the memory of David Zirkin, a German cellist who fled from Nazi Germany and lived in Turkey as a highly esteemed teacher. The Sonata belongs to Saygun’s first creative period, characterised in the main by his quest to construct a unique Turkish style from a blend of Western structural elements and Anatolian musical tradition. It aims to present a fresh and modern sound for the new Turkish Republic. At this time, in addition to being fascinated by the marriage of traditional Anatolian folk music with traditional Turkish-Ottoman music (as derived from Bartók’s ideas), Saygun was heavily influenced by pentatonicism. The five-note scale formations form a central tenet of Asian music, and Saygun considered them a cornerstone of Turkish musical roots. The pentatonic scales are a distinguishing feature of Saygun’s first creative period and, predictably, of the Sonata.

Özkan Manav (b. 1967)

Özkan Manav was born in 1967 in Mersin and counted among his teachers the influential Turkish composers Ahmet Adnan Saygun and İlhan Usmanbaş. Later, he studied with the American composers Lukas Foss and Marjorie Merryman at Boston University, where he earned his doctoral degree. He has been awarded prizes in the USA, Germany, Turkey, Bulgaria and Italy, and his music has been released on CD in Turkey, Germany, and the USA. He has been teaching at his alma mater, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University Istanbul State Conservatory since 1991.

The Three Turkish Folk Songs can be seen as an exploration of Turkish folk music idioms through folk songs originating from three different regions of Anatolia. The first piece is a love song from the Aegean coast. Its recitative-like middle section and the coda distinctly echo the popular Aegean coast dance zeybek. The second piece provides a soothing transition between the outer works, and is based on an aksak, a limping, asymmetrical measure in a moderate tempo. This work is based on a courting song from the eastern Black Sea region. The third piece is based on a lively folk song from central Anatolia, mostly sung and danced by women. There are instances of extended playing techniques in all three pieces, some of which are derived from bağlama (Anatolian long-necked lute) playing, while others stem from vocal gestures and exclamations.

Even though my music still dwells widely in the territory of contemporary music, the number of my imminent visits to folklore has reached a point reminiscent of a double life, which feels like being an amphibian.

Özkan Manav

Hasan Uçarsu (b. 1965)

Hasan Uçarsu was born in Istanbul in 1965. He studied composition with Ahmet Adnan Saygun at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University (MSFAU) Istanbul State Conservatory, where he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in composition in 1990 and 1992 respectively. He completed his doctorate in composition in 1997 at The University of Pennsylvania, USA, with George Crumb and Richard Wernick. Since then, he has been teaching at MSFAU Istanbul State Conservatory. As a composer, his main concern is to create an original musical language with a special emphasis on personality and identity. To this end, he utilises novel compositional techniques to develop a musical aesthetic which represents the sounds, geography and cultures of his homeland.

Elif Dedim, Be Dedim was commissioned in 1999 as part of a project which brought together folk song arrangements for cello and piano. A fervent believer that arranging folk songs for Western instruments is tantamount to segregating it from its original musical and social context, Uçarsu was concerned that an arrangement of this Anatolian folk song for cello and piano would result in the loss of many of its original, authentic features; in particular, the lyrics. To counteract this, he attempted to bring out the inner spirituality and cultural meaning with programmatic instrumental writing for lines such as ‘Ah! There is no way to write down my sorrows even if a bird’s wing turns out to be a pen.’ The arrangement concludes in a dramatic manner, with the cellist and pianist requested to sing a line of the song whilst simultaneously playing it, in order to fully express the ethos.

İlhan Usmanbaş (b. 1921)

İlhan Usmanbaş, born in 1921, is the major representative of the second generation of Turkish composers of polyphonic music and one of the most influential figures for the younger generation with his depth of vision and ceaseless aspiration for newer musical expression. He studied cello and composition at Ankara State Conservatory and became a student of the prominent ‘Turkish Five’ (Saygun, Erkin, Rey, Alnar and Akses), who forged the foundations of Western music in Turkey, composing their most outstanding work in the early years of the Republic. However, Usmanbaş shifted to the movements the movements neglected by the ‘Turkish Five’: neo-classicism, twelve-tone composition, serialism, aleatoric music, and open form. As an advocate for the new, he was a pioneer of extended playing techniques in Turkish contemporary music. Through scholarships from UNESCO and The Rockefeller Foundation, he visited the USA in 1952 and 1957–58, studying composition with Luigi Dallapiccola and Milton Babbitt in Tanglewood. Throughout his life, Usmanbaş has been awarded numerous international prizes.

Music for Cello and Piano No. 1 is the composer’s first twelve-tone work. The twelve-tone series is so designed that it permits the formation of chords by fourths as well as small figures by thirds and seconds. This short piece uses cello pizzicati versus percussive piano notes and chords; repeated chords against the cello’s melodic lines; quick passages for some measures and then meno mosso measures; and steady cello pizzicati (in the coda) against smooth piano arpeggios.

Music for Cello and Piano No. 2 was written during the composer’s studies with Kemal İlerici, a composer and theorist who proposed an authentic harmonic practice of quartal harmony for Turkish modal music. The rhythmic patterns used in both instrumental parts are also related to Turkish classical music’s metric patterns with heavy and light beats which are presented predominantly in the piano’s left hand. Beginning with a long introductory section of the piano in the Segâh makam based on B with a diminished fifth (a makam being a system of melody types used in Turkish music), the music continues with the cello towards other makams. The introductory section comes back before each cello entrance and is shortened each time it is repeated.

Aleatoric for Cello and Piano Nos. 1 & 2 consist of a number of figures assigned to each instrument. The clearly identified figures are performed randomly at the discretion of the musicians. In Aleatoric for Cello and Piano No. 1, the cello has staccato note groups, slow quavers, glissandi, long held double stoppings, and a very rapid figure reaching the high end with glissandi. The piano, however, has very quiet figures repeated notes, long held notes with small notes in between, or arpeggios with pedals. In Aleatoric for Cello and Piano No. 2, the cello figures include very high notes played near the bridge, a tremolo near the bridge, a very rapid figure beginning on the very high notes and gradually falling down to the lowest notes of the instrument; the piano has clusters on high and low registers repeated from ff to pp, tremolos with clusters interspersed, and rapid gestures. Each piece is expected to last around 4 to 5 minutes.

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