Fazil Say: Black Earth

No modern Turkish musician enjoys a higher international profile than the pianist-composer Fazil Say, whose Warner CDs I welcomed in Cornucopia 27. In an introductory essay to a new Naïve release of his compositions, René Koering sees him as “a winged faun… the child of a country where dream is the driving force”.

His music is an extraordinary melting-pot of sound, colour and pulse, drawing on a breadth of images and associations, from Art Tatum to Sufi trance. Each consumes the other in Dervish in Manhattan, a foot-stomping piece as electrifying as the “self-portrait” Violin Sonata or the high-adrenalin, demon-dancing Paganini Variations.

Say’s Turkishness is anything but folksy. In pieces like Black Earth, Silk Road and the Two Pieces for Piano and Orchestra, he conjures up not so much the song of a people as elements of terrain. Scaling giant peaks, suggesting palaces and ruins, his bass sonorities dig deep into soil and history. His plucked piano strings, transporting the instrument from Europe to Asia, evoke remoteness and legend where spirits older than man watch over the world. His dances are the rituals of war under hot suns, impassioned music of relentless step. Unmissable.

Other Highlights from Cornucopia 31
  • Black Diamonds

    Though Turkish truffles resemble their more famous European cousins in appearance, their fragrance – mellow and delicately fruity – is far milder.
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  • Vintage Cappadocia

    Is this fantastic landscape about to become the new hotspot for wine-lovers? In Cornucopia 31 Kevin Gould heads for the oldest vineyards on earth to find out. Photographs by Frits Meyst

  • The Doorman’s Son who Saved the Empire

    Born into penury, he rose to be revered across Europe. Yet the Ottoman Empire’s youngest ever grand vizier is all but forgotten at home. David Barchard charts the dramatic career of the master strategist Âli Pasha

  • Along the Rocky Road

    When spring arrives in the high passes of the Taurus Mountains, a dazzling display of flowers comes out to greet it. Story and photographs by Martyn Rix

  • The Caliph’s Daughter

    Her life is the stuff of fairy tales. Omar Khalidi tells the story of the princess who captivated Cecil Beaton

  • The Turks of China

    Xinjiang, formerly known as Chinese Turkestan, is home to some ten million people of Turkic descent. Their culture, language and religious beliefs still owe more to central Asia and the northern steppes than they do to China itself. As distant from the China Sea as it is from the Mediterranean, Xinjiang is a place of wild terrain and extreme climate, surrounded by high mountain ranges. By Christian Tyler

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Issue 31, 2004 China’s Wild West
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