> Ahmed Adnan SAYGUN - Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 [CC]: 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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This valuable release of two symphonies by Turkish composer Ahmed Adnan Saygun significantly augments his discography. Saygun's music straddles Turkish and Western European musical traditions, being influenced by his studies on the ud (a plucked string instrument) and the piano, and also by his marrying of Turkish modal scales with a Neo-Classical outlook. Like Bartok, Saygun was fascinated by the folk music of his native country (in fact, the two composers co-operated on a study of Anatolian folk music, on which Saygun penned an article, 'Bela Bartók's Folk Music Research in Turkey').

Saygun's First Symphony dates from 1953. Not only can one hear the synthesis of East and West, but the influence of Neo-Classicism is also marked. Each of the four movements is modelled on a pre-established formal structure (namely Sonata Form; Passacaglia; Minuet; Variations). The first movement exhibits unmistakably Eastern European undertones embedded within a Romantic, Western tradition.

The figure of Bartók looms large in the monophonic opening of the second movement 'Passacaglia', above which a beautifully-played oboe solo floats. This movement is in fact the highlight of the piece, Saygun gradually adding lines to the texture to make the climax an inevitability. The oboe solo which ensues is all the more powerful because of the dynamic contrast. Saygun's musical language is at its most concentrated in this movement, and it receives an appropriately concentrated performance to match.

Notwithstanding some scrappy string playing, the performance standard is high and the recording more than acceptable. The durational proportions of the movements is unbalanced, however: the first two movements each last just under ten minutes each, the third is just over three and the finale just over five minutes. This is a fault the companion work on this disc does not suffer from.

A mere four years separates these two symphonies (amongst other works, the Partita for Solo Cello, Op. 31, the Three Ballads for Voice and Piano, Op. 32 and the Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 33 also date from this period). Saygun uses a larger orchestra and thereby expands his palette in his Second Symphony (dedicated to his father, Mohamed, who died in 1954). Although sharing several traits with the its predecessor, this piece is more mature, very much in balance with itself (all four of its movements are between 6 and 8 minutes duration).

Again, the second movement is the finest, replete with intense, modal melodies. The scoring is dense but never overcrowded: Rasilainen and his orchestra commendably clarify the musical argument, aided by the transparent recording. Neo-classicism is most evident in the contrasting third movement, characterised by a Baroque siciliano rhythm.

All praise, then, to CPO for bringing these works to the record-buyer's attention, and to the Rheinland-Pfalz orchestra (translated as the Rhineland-Palatinate State Philharmonic Orchestra in the booklet) for their dedication to promoting Saygun's music. This disc is certainly worthy of investigation.

Colin Clarke

Also see review by Rob Barnett

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