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Ahmed Adnan SAYGUN (1907-1991)
Piano Concerto No. 1 op.34 (1951-57) [26:45]
Piano Concerto No. 2 op.71 (1985) [25:31]
Gülsin Onay (piano)
Bilkent Symphony Orchestra/Howard Griffiths
rec. Bilkent Hall, Ankara, April 2006. DDD
CPO 777289-2 [52:36]


Experience Classicsonline

From 1928 until 1931 when he returned to his native Turkey, Saygun studied in Paris with D’Indy. Later he did folk-music field work with Bartók in Anatolia. His writing is brilliant and his piano concertos have a defiant indomitable character in which dissonance is accommodated and made yielding to Saygun’s heroic message. There are also moments of gentle and transparent fragility and not just in the Bergian glimmer of the middle movement of the First Concerto. Its last movement is a splintery-burst of activity and light - a spray of notes and whirling rhythmic writing. The Second Concerto has the same blasting energetic drive we found in the First Concerto. The dissonance may be a shade stronger than in its predecessor but it retains the earlier work’s richness and a melodic presence is stronger here (4:15, I; 3:01, II) that in the earlier piece. The adventitious echoes in the two works are from Bartók, Prokofiev and Ravel. These are often mixed with a guttural full orchestral attack redolent of Stravinsky’s Rite and of Rózsa.

The First Concerto was premiered in 1958 in Brussels by Idil Biret with the composer conducting. It was later championed by both Gülsin Onay, a pupil of Saygun and by Igor Zhukov. Saygun wrote his Second Concerto for Onay who premiered it in December 1985. She has taken it to concert halls all over the world. These recordings must be regarded as having a certain authority which would have little meaning were they not so freshly invigorating.

Here is a composer who was in the right time and place to capture and indeed to intensify Turkey’s proud nationalism. He received the personal support of Kemal Ataturk. It is fitting that Saygun is being championed by the Bilkent University an establishment in which he was intending to take up a professorship in 1991 but which he was denied by his death.

Rob Barnett

see also other Saygun reviews:

Complete String Quartets
Symphonies 1 and 2
Symphonies 1 and 2
Symphonies 3 and 5
Symphony No. 4; Violin Concerto
Concertos (cello; viola) 



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