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.
Links to other
discs in the series mentioned above: