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Stephen Eddins, November 2011

In Requiem Without Words, an anguished, deeply felt memorial to victims of the 2003 Istanbul terrorist attacks, the grim tone is entirely appropriate. The two shorter works occasionally call to mind the music of John Adams, but they are colorful, spirited, and evocative, and they don’t wear out their welcome. The composer conducts the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra and the Turkish Ministry of Culture Choir in committed performances. Read complete review

Raymond Tuttle
Fanfare, September 2011

Kamran Ince (b.1960), born in Montana and raised in Turkey, is probably the only composer to have written a symphony for and about a soccer team (or, as Naxos phrases it, keeping the non-American audience in mind, a “football club”). Galatasaray, founded more than a century ago, is a kind of religion to many of the Turkish people, I gather, so why not write a Galatasaray symphony? The question then becomes, what can this music possibly mean to those of us who are not Turkish, and who might not even be all that excited about soccer? Well, it’s pretty exciting stuff—imagine if John Adams (not John Luther Adams, but the John Adams of Nixon in China fame) had rewritten Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, and you’ll have an idea about what’s going on here. There’s a lengthy Turkish text, fortunately translated into English in Naxos’s booklet. Here’s an example: “Speak. Tell me. / Where does this love come from? / Tell me. Reveal the secret. / What’s the reason for this pride, this passion?” Yes, these people love their soccer, and don’t you dare get in between the two. If you don’t know a word of Turkish—and you probably don’t—and you don’t read the text, you might well guess that you’re listening to a patriotic oratorio. The appearance of a boy soprano clinches it. And you know what? You’ll probably like this poster-sized, heroic, and appropriately populist music immensely, even if you dislike soccer, or even sports in general. It certainly impressed me.

The other big piece on this CD is the Requiem Without Words, composed in the wake of the terrorist bombings in Istanbul in 2003 that killed Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike. A wordless Requiem, then, fittingly becomes a non-denominational one. Still, the keening, melismatic vocals of the ethnic singer create the most potent sense of location. Again, after the work’s opening onslaughts, a more elegiac mood (but equally intense) is established, and Ince’s Minimalist writing (but not strictly so—there is more of Adams than of Philip Glass, although both influences are present) comes to the fore. The singers either sing the vowel “ah,” or (in the work’s agitated climax) seemingly random syllables. Some of the work’s more fragile scoring is very pretty, and when it is, one is reminded of the late Henryk Górecki as well. Like the “Galatasaray” Symphony, this is not difficult music to respond to. Our ears are now trained to accept modern music composed in this style, and when a composer wears his heart on his sleeve as openly as Ince does, we tend not to resist. Very effective stuff.

The two shorter works are no less gripping. Red, Hot, Cold, Vibrant, written in 1992 for the California Symphony, is like an industrial fever dream, full of pounding and shrieking, and madly driving rhythms. If inserted in a film, it would be an immediate hit, and I am surprised no one has thought to do so yet. Before Infrared also has an industrial air, but it is less of a Rite of Spring gone heavy metal than an atmospheric journey with an ominous beginning and an awe-inspiring climax. (The title is an allusion to an earlier work by Ince, called Infrared Only.)

I don’t know how well this music will stand up to repetition—I mistrust anything that works so well the first time I hear it. Nevertheless, Ince has quite an ear for orchestral color, and he has breathed life back into the frankly tired Minimalist style in these four works. I’ll certainly be hunting down earlier examples of Ince’s music…

I can’t think why these recordings have been in the can since 2005–07 and are being released only now. The Bilkent Symphony Orchestra offers further proof that Turkey has world-class orchestras, and the vocal and instrumental soloists carry out their unusual duties with assurance. Ince, one assumes, knows how his music should go—and does it ever go! This CD is highly recommended, unless your doctor has warned you against nervous excitement!

Graham Rickson
The Arts Desk, June 2011

Hot, Red, Cold, Vibrant and Before Infrared are well-structured showpieces, attempts to convey irresistible forward movement, occasionally disrupted by Ince’s shifting offbeat thwacks and crashes. Before Infrared concludes in a mood of twinkling, shimmering serenity—a pleasant few minutes of calm after the relentless kinetic energy of what’s gone before. Read complete review

MusicWeb International, June 2011

It has been six years since Naxos released American composer Kamran Ince’s first CD. It featured his Third and Fourth Symphonies and was warmly reviewed here. Like buses, however, Naxos has, in addition to the present disc, sent along three further volumes of Ince’s music—8.572554, 9.70011 and 9.70141—though as yet these three are only available as downloads.

This CD, like the previous one, has been issued in Naxos’s “21st Century Classics” series. At least this time two of the works were actually written in the 21st century—the three on the fist disc dated from between 1993 and 2000. Nevertheless, the earliest piece on this new release was composed in 1986, and a second in 1992; moreover, if any works in this programme are classics, Naxos could have made it clearer which.

With Hot, Red, Cold, Vibrant, Ince’s aim, according to the unusually hagiographical liner-notes, was “to capture the driving energy of rock on his own terms”. What exactly that means is open to debate, but there is no doubt that this is a rumbling, hissing, honking steamroller of a work that, well, trundles on until finally running out of fuel. With its similar use of blazing brass over deep, throbbing strings and ominous bursts on the bass drum, Before Infrared sounds like a less noisy companion piece to Hot, Red, Cold, Vibrant, but in fact it was written to complement another orchestral work, Infrared Only, recorded on Naxos 8.572554. Neither of these pieces is earth-shattering—sub-John Adams is a reasonable description—but there is a certain amount of pleasure to be had for a while from their brash flash.

On the other hand, the Requiem Without Words and the ‘Galatasaray’ Symphony are, it is probably fair to say, both love-’em-or-hate-’em works. The elements that some—or perhaps many—listeners may find variously annoying, ridiculous or appalling are similar in both works. Firstly, there is the ‘extra voice’ aspect—in the Requiem, the “ethnic” voice is strident to the point of overwhelming. In the Symphony—which is actually more cantata than symphony—the boy soprano’s voice in its lower registers is inconsistently intoned and insipid.

Secondly, in the opening section of the Requiem a clicking noise accompanies the voices; whereas in the Symphony there is an incessant, unvarying and intrusive bass drone behind virtually all but the first minute of the first movement. And in fact, like Ince’s beloved thumping bass, it hardly ever goes away, until the work reaches its ‘climax’ in the opening of the musical theatre-like finale.

The Requiem is a worthy work, in that it was written to mourn the dozens of civilians killed in Istanbul in 2003 by religious maniacs using lorry bombs. It has a number of good moments, steeped in poignancy, but in the final reckoning tends towards the clangourous, rambling and repetitious.

Generally speaking, the performances on this CD range from reasonable to good. Naxos have omitted to provide any information at all about the soloists. Recording quality is high throughout, but most of the voices are over-miked. The booklet contains the lyrics of the texts sung during ‘Galatasaray’, although only in English translation—no Turkish original to follow, which is especially tough on any Turks taking an interest in a half-Turkish composer—or their favourite football team.

There is plenty of rhythm in these works…those who…equate volume with passion, should find much to enjoy in Ince’s music., April 2011

The new CD of music by Turkish composer Kamran Ince is orchestral and choral, and impressive on many levels. Ince’s Symphony No. 5 was written in 2005 for the 100th anniversary of the founding of Turkey’s most successful football (soccer) club, Galatasaray, and this work is celebratory indeed, with soloists, chorus and large orchestra combining for an appropriately outgoing and rather raucous piece. Requiem without Words is at the opposite end of the musical spectrum: it mourns a 2003 terrorist bombing in Istanbul that indiscriminately killed Muslims, Christians and Jews. Ince’s range is apparent throughout this disc, which opens with the intense drive of Hot, Red, Cold, Vibrant and concludes with the sonic smash of Before Infrared, a work that shows Ince’s ability to hurl sound in great gobs toward the audience.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2011

Winner of many prestigious awards, including the coveted Prix de Rome, Kamran Ince was born in the United States in 1960, but spent his formative years in Turkey before returning to his homeland. His music, in a style conveniently described as of  ‘modern commerciality’ is much in demand, its many fashionable modes, often moving into the world of the minimalists, clothed in rich sonorities. The most extensive score is the Fifth Symphony from 2005 to mark the 100th anniversary of Turkey’s most famous football club, Galatasaray. Scored for boy soprano, soprano, tenor, choir and orchestra, it is as much a cantata as it is a symphony. That the score has melody, high impact and rhythmic vitality may well suffice, though the emotive link, both in words and music, is of a transient subject only recognised in parts of the world. Pounding and persistent rhythms drive the music into your memory in much the same way as we hear football crowds chanting. A really impassioned performance, the boy soprano, Anil Kirkyildiz, having a wonderfully rustic voice. As if the the singer is being choked to death, we have the feel of impending death in the hard-hitting Requiem Without Words, the orchestration incredibly brutal and speaks volumes without words of the cruelty that still exists in the world. It is a message that he tells at length before reaching a moment of peaceful repose to remind us that beauty will still exist whatever we do. The high impact of Infrared takes us back to the disc’s opening, Hot, Red, Cold, Vibrant. Ince conducts in these benchmark recordings, the playing and singing of a high order, the engineers doing their best to give a degree of internal detail.

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