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Fazil Say

Fazil Say established a substantial dual career as a pianist and composer during the 1990s and has continued to thrive in both arenas. As a performer, he has performed with some of the finest orchestras and musicians worldwide, in music from many eras by many composers, including his own. His compositions have been broadly performed and recorded by others, also. They often employ Turkish folk influences and instruments or refer to events in Turkey's history. Say, son of musicologist Ahmet Say, was born in Ankara and received his early training at the Ankara State Conservatory with Mithat Fenmen. Fenmen encouraged Say to improvise daily. By the time he was a teenager, Say had composed pieces for solo piano, chamber music, and a concerto for guitar. In 1987, Say received a scholarship to study at the Robert Schumann Institute in Dusseldorf. There, and at the Berlin Conservatory, he worked with David Levine. Soon after, his compositions began to exhibit the influence of Turkish folk music and instruments, such as the ney and kudüm, which became a hallmark of his mature works. The suite he designated his Op. 1, the Four Dances of Nasreddin Hodja, won him first prize in the 1995 Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York. This immediately led to engagements around the world. He also won the Beracasa Foundation Prize in 1995, leading to a performance at the Festival International de Radio France-Montpellier. His first album on a major label was released in 1997 and featured Mozart piano sonatas and the Variations on "Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman." The following year saw a successful album of the music of Bach, plus a mini album of the Dances released in France. He had a strong interest in jazz and formed a quartet, Worldjazz, which toured in 2000 and performed at the Montpellier, Montreux, and Istanbul Jazz Festivals. Say has continued to tour and record; nearly every year there is a new album by him or of his music by other performers. His own repertoire ranges from the Baroque to the contemporary, including his own works. The first full album of his own music, Black Earth, was released by Naïve in 2003. Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja joined Say for a disc of sonatas by Beethoven, Ravel, and Bartók in 2007 and premiered Say's violin concerto, 1001 Nights in the Harem, in the same year. He has written solo piano works, which he performs regularly, concertos, orchestral music, ballet, oratorios, chamber music, and film scores. His larger works are often programmatic, such as his first symphony, the Istanbul Symphony, which was premiered in 2010. His works are published by Schott and have been recorded by pianists Ferhan and Ferzan Önder, Friedemann Eichhorn, conductor Christoph Eschenbach, and others. In the 2010s, Say held residencies at many German institutions and festivals as well as a few in Japan and Turkey. In 2016, he became an exclusive Warner artist and received his fourth ECHO Klassick award for his set of Mozart's Complete Piano Sonatas from the same year. More awards were won for Secrets (2017), which he recorded with Marianne Crebassa. 2020 saw the release of both Beethoven's Complete Piano Sonatas and Ballads and Quintets, featuring Say's music played by himself along with the Casal Quartett. For 2022, Say took on another warhorse of the keyboard repertoire, Bach's Goldberg Variations.
© TiVo Staff /TiVo


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