> SAYGUN Symphonies [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ahmed Adnan SAYGUN (1907-1991)
Symphony No. 1 (1953) [27.55]
Symphony No. 2 (1957) [27.29]
Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/Ari Rasilainen
rec 3-7 Sept 2001, Ludwigshafen, Philharmonie, Germany
CPO 999 819-2 [55.26]



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Saygun might need some introduction although his works are not total strangers to the recording studio. There is at least one Koch International CD including a viola concerto of his.

Saygun saw the end of the Ottoman empire and the introduction of Western values into the Turkish Republic from 1923 onwards. He was a man for the times whose inclinations and inspirations were empathetic with those of the great reforming President Kemal Atäturk. The new government were dedicated to marrying Western cultural models with Turkish heritage. Amongst the initiatives borne out of this was a programme of financial support for composers to study in Paris. Saygun with, four other Turkish composers, formed the Turkish 'Kouchka'. They were Cemal Resit Rey, Ulvi Cemal Erkin, Hasan Ferid Alnar and Necil Kazim Akses. Turkish modal material is woven into Saygun's mature works.

The First Symphony is dedicated to the conductor Franz Litschauer who, with the Austrian Radio SO, recorded the work in 1954. Like the Second it is in four movements lasting three minutes short of a half hour. The grand Turkish harmonic sway can be heard at 5.38 in the Adagio of the First Symphony. Bartók's influence can also be picked up. This comes as little surprise as Saygun acted as Bartók's assistant during the Hungarian's instructional folk music field research visit in 1936. It is instructive to listen to the wildly bubbling Allegro which surely must have been written with knowledge of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra as well as Martinů's Fourth and Fifth Symphonies. The orchestral effect is also part Weill, part neo-classical and part Russian - Shostakovich not Pan-Slav nationalism. The highlight of the Second Symphony is the lovely rocking moderato which has the great shifting curtained harmonics of the classic Turkish music you might encounter by chance on shortwave radio.

A palate cleansing experience for those who are sympathetic to music that crosses cultural divides. Admirers of Hovhaness, Cowell, Chisholm, Enescu, Glanville-Hicks, Szymanowski and Cage are likely to find sympathetic material as well as a new experience. Does anyone know of other Saygun discs I might be able to track down and broaden my knowledge in this field? I would also like to hear music by Rey, Erkin, Alnar and Akses.

Rob Barnett

Also see review by Colin Clarke

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