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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.
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