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Kamran INCE (b. 1960)
Symphony No 3 Siege of Vienna (1994-5) [24:44]
Domes (1993) [13:39]
Symphony No 4 Sardis (1999-2000) [22:46]
Prague Symphony Orchestra/Kamran Ince
rec. Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague, February 2001. DDD
NAXOS 8.557588 [61:09]


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This disc is part of Naxos’s 21st century classics series, a venture which, inevitably, hasn’t got very far yet but is previously notable for a couple of interesting discs of Leonardo Balada’s music (see links to reviews below). Only one of the works on this new release was actually completed during this century but it is all still fairly “hot off the press”.

Kamran Ince was born in Montana to American/Turkish parents. He was educated in Turkey before returning to the USA in the early 1980s. Ince is now based in Memphis but retains Turkish links as Founder-Director of the Istanbul Modern Music Centre.

As might be expected, Ince’s music displays a fusion of styles and has been described as “muscular, primaeval and neo-romantic”. Whilst there is a strong Eastern component, the American element (and perhaps an influence of Ives) should not be underestimated. All presented here is programmatic, and the forces involved in the symphonies are large, including the piano, additional percussion, synthesiser and electric bass guitar. But, in this day and age, the music makes few pretensions towards the avant-garde.

The Third Symphony goes back several centuries to the second of two sieges of Vienna (in 1529 and 1683) laid by the Ottomans; neither succeeded. The work is in eight scenes played without a break. The opening Long March broods ominously before City under Siege depicts the beginning of the great struggle. War of the Walls is repetitive in a manner that recalls the Leningrad Symphony before leading to quiet reflection on the human cost of it all (Forgotten souls). The fifth scene, Calls, is a call to prayer. According to the composer, this is “like imams calling ... a little out of sync”. The Final Assault occurred on 12 September 1683 and represents the climax of the work. A brief raucous celebration, Victorious City and the work turns full circle with the concluding Great Retreat. This seems to be closely based on the material of the Long March, the composer cleverly creating a defeatist atmosphere, initially loud and anguished, then soft and valedictory but finally questioning – presumably the futility of the venture.

Next comes Domes, an extended nocturne for much smaller forces which makes a powerful impression through repeated but imaginative use of a simple downward progression.

The Fourth Symphony seems to be quite a close cousin of the Third although it goes a lot further back in time. Sardis was a Turkish city dating from the Bronze Age and was the capital of Lydia during the first millennium BC. Some centuries later it fell to Alexander the Great. Ince’s portrait goes back to the beginning and focuses more on depicting the landscape than any specific events. There are five movements entitled (I) Hermus River; (II) Necropol; (III) Acropol; (IV) Thousand Hills and (V) Timolus Mountain. This symphony is more comfortable listening than its predecessor and includes many imaginative orchestral touches. It culminates in a tremendous last movement which juxtaposes the grandeur and tranquillity of nature. Ultimately the music dies away to the sound of cicadas as dawn breaks.

There is no need to say much about the playing of the Prague Symphony Orchestra under the composer, recorded sound or documentation – all of which are first-class.

This is a most interesting disc in an important series. Ince has absorbed many influences but is an original voice. Using the power of history he makes an impression that resonates in modern world. Contemporary music enthusiasts are unlikely to need me to prompt them to seek it out but perhaps I can challenge contemporary music sceptics to give it a try. They will only be a few pounds poorer and might be surprised.

Patrick C Waller

Links to other discs in the series mentioned above:





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