Mevlana Symphonic Suite [21:50]
Yunus Emre Symphonic Suite [25:43]
Bosphorus Symphony Orchestra [Mevlana]/Tugrul Karatas
'Golden Horn' Symphony Orchestra [Yunus Emre]/Tugrul Karatas
rec. Istanbul, 2008-2010. DDD
MEM PRODUCTIONS (no catalogue number) [47:33]
It is difficult to know where to begin with this release. MEM Productions is a Turkish company founded by Murat Malay, which means this is effectively a self-publication. A previous triple-disc release on this label was reviewed here. This fact is of more than passing interest, because CD 3 of that release featured the Yunus Emre Symphonic Suite, though it was known then as the Yunus Emre Symphony. Quite possibly it was renamed because it in no way resembles a symphony. In any case, this appears to be exactly the same recording!
Turkey has produced a number of fine composers of art music in the last century, the so-called "Turkish Five" being the most prominent, but Malay, on this evidence, is not one of them. Even the liner notes, such as they are, describe him merely as "theme composer" - does that mean he did not do the orchestrations or the harmonisations? Similarly, Tugrul Karatas is described as "orchestra composer" - does that mean he wrote the orchestrations, or merely that he assembled the musicians, who are drawn from the ranks of the Istanbul Symphony Orchestra? MEM's website describes Malay as a "journalist-writer", which would explain why the music sounds 'pre-composed', clichéd and superficial, with very little differentiation between any of the ten sections of the two works.
There is no CD booklet as such. In its place comes a foldout poster (roughly Ledger/Crown size), with a gaudy red music design that BBC Radio 3 would probably be proud of on one side and information on the other. Quite what the point of the poster is, is anyone's guess - do MEM imagine that people who buy this CD will stick it up on their bedroom wall? In which case, how do you get at the information on the reverse? Not that the information is all one would wish it to be. Though there is a lot of text, 80% of it talks about the cultural importance of Yunus Emre and Mevlânâ, important Turkish writers from the 12th century - but without relating them at all to the music which bears their names! Another problem is that much of the text is written by Malay himself, whose knowledge of the English language is stretched beyond it limits to degrees that make intelligibility difficult in places. For example: "He asserted a love of symphony, he praises of folly (among crowds who are not suspicious of their mind.)" There is more of this on the MEM website, a link to which is given on the poster. Unfortunately, the link leads straight to a Turkish-only homepage, which will be of little use to most of those English speakers the poster is written for! Random clicking will eventually prove fruitful with regard to language, but the notes on this and previous releases stop only just short of gibberish.
None of these problems would matter as much if the music was worthwhile - but it isn't. Which is not to say that it is bad - although some will say it is - but, though foot-tappingly passable in places, it is simplistic at best, and vacuous at worst. Many of the instruments sound synthetic (computer-generated). If that is not the case, the musicians urgently need better instruments!
The final track of Yunus Emre Symphonic Suite, entitled 'Secret of Headstones', is poorly edited - at least a fraction of a second has been accidentally trimmed off at the beginning. On the other hand, the music is so trite that only a determined few will get that far. Sections four and six of the Mevlana Symphonic Suite suffer the same fate, and many of the tracks on the disc are faded out unnaturally quickly.
Despite all these misgivings, there seems little doubt that this CD will find a market, with its New Age cum pseudo-folk cum 'World' music feel. Ironically, the banality of these pieces means that it will probably earn Malay money - their stock rhythms and melodies lend themselves well to use as TV or film music. Lovers of sophisticated classical music should, however, stay well away.
Lovers of sophisticated classical music should stay well away.