These two works date
from 1961 and 1984 respectively and
the disc is a follow-up to the
2002 release of Saygun's first two
symphonies also conducted by Ari Rasilainen
(CPO 999 819-2). In preparing this review
I also listened to the two Piano Concertos
(Koch Schwann 3-1350-2) with Gulsin
Onay, the pianist, recorded in 1991
I am on safe ground
if I say that Saygun's major works are
utterly unknown outside Turkey and that
it is difficult to imagine a concert
performance of any of them in the UK
or the USA. Therefore what we need are
excellent performances on CD. This has
most definitely been achieved on each
of these three discs. But does the music
I have to say straight
away that these latest works do not
have the immediate appeal of the earlier
ones; indeed they lack a distinct character.
That is the initial impression. The
Turkish elements, the clash between
Western and Eastern musics which was
quite apparent in the first two symphonies
is less easily discerned here.
Saygun uses modal melodies
and harmonies and these are derived
from those of his homeland. The booklet
notes describe him as one of the 'Turkish
Five' but do not tell us who the others
are, only the Russian five! Speaking
of the notes, I have come across the
writer the redoubtable Habukuk Traber
before and his translator Susan Praeder,
and find him mostly quite impenetrable.
Anyway my own researches produced some
little known names like Ulvi Cemal Erkin
and Ferit Alnar (try to find a Hungaroton
disc HCD 31455 'Turkish Orchestral works
if you want to hear more including Saygun’s
'Five Turkish Folk Songs') who use modes.
Like Saygun Turkish dance rhythms are
used in many of their works. Saygun,
with half an eye on the west also uses
intense chromaticism even atonality.
His palette therefore is broad and colourful.
The slow movement of the 1st Symphony
(1953) has a winding modal Oriental
type melody sung out by the oboe. However
in the symphonies featured on the present
disc the two elements are held more
naturally together. The oriental influences
are there but are just one of many ingredients.
Rhythmically the Bartók
influence is strong. Saygun had after
all been Bartók's assistant on
his field trips. They shared these intensive
folk-music studies during the mid-1930s
travelling around Anatolia. Saygun served
as interpreter and adviser. His early
music can appear a little like 'Turkish-Bartók'.
Not long after however, Saygun's style,
nurtured by Turkish art music from the
comfortable home from which he came,
had undergone a considerable evolution.
Nevertheless motoric ostinati common
in Bartók are not far from his
language as in the Scherzo section of
the 3rd Symphony.
is also unmistakable in Saygun, as in
the evocative middle movement of the
1st Piano Concerto  with its barren
landscape. It is also detectable in
the 5th Symphony's Tranquillo third
movement but also throughout his work.
I say Impressionism it is the sound
world of Ravel, really I should add
crossed with Bartok in his dark brooding
'Bluebeards' Castle' vein a mood I can
certainly detect also in the 1st movement
of the 5th.
Having said all this
however about influences to try to give
you some idea of how the music sounds
I must conclude that when listening
to his works we hear nothing more or
less than symphonic music sometimes
dark and passionate and often dazzling
with orchestral brilliance and virtuosity
which can easily hold its own with the
works of Western masters. These works
are characterized by and impressively
demonstrate the adaptability of traditional
western forms but which also abound
in elements of non-western thinking.
So to conclude. If you
have not heard any Saygun yet then perhaps
start with the first two symphonies
and then probably the piano concertos
before going on to these works. Nevertheless
these are fine pieces and superbly played
and recorded. Ari Rasilainen cannot
have had any opportunities to try them
out on an unsuspecting pupil and yet
his pacing and orchestral balance seems
to be ideal.