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Ulvi Cemal ERKİN (1906-1972)
Köçekçe, Dance Rhapsody for Orchestra (1943) [9.20]
Violin Concerto (1946-47) [30:50]
Symphony No. 2 (1948-58) [27:49]
Theodore Kuchar (conductor)
James Buswell (violin)
Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra
rec. Fulya Cultural Centre, Istanbul, 29-30 November 2014
NAXOS 8.572831 [67.59]

For anyone who enjoys the music of Khachaturian, there are not entirely dissimilar pleasures to be found in the music of Erkin. There are similarities to the Armenian composer in the use of strong folk melodies, in Erkin’s case those of Turkey – in the Symphony’s final movement, those collected by the composer from Anatolia.

Erkin is in fine company in the use of folk music, but it is integrated into the westernised tradition which became so significant to the development of the Turkish nation. Erkin himself studied in Paris from 1925 until 1930 – another of the many significant twentieth century composers to learn from Nadia Boulanger. Of the five Turkish composers who made up the ‘Turkish Five’, Erkin is perhaps the best known, though most available recordings concentrate on his works for piano. Indeed, his Piano Concerto was immediately popular. Premiered in 1943, it was given a performance in Berlin the same year, at the request of Franz von Papen, then Ambassador to Turkey.

The three works on this CD are three of the most-performed of Elkin’s orchestral pieces. They demonstrate confident handling of orchestral material. If Köçekçe is the most played, the Violin Concerto is probably the most substantial of the three works here. The final movement is perhaps the most specifically ‘Turkish’ in theme, with some driving rhythms, but overall, the piece follows the customary three movements. It is something of a virtuoso concerto, highly attractive, especially as played here, with sympathy and insight, by James Buswell.

Köçekçe is a briefer piece, based on dance tunes. It requires a large orchestra with plenty of percussion, and is an enjoyable curtain-raiser.

Symphony No 2, from 1948 – 1958 has many of the qualities of Köçekçe, and there are similarities, but not identities, in the final movement, based on the same rhythms. It is an interesting work which bears repeated hearing.

Naxos does wonderful work in opening up repertoire beyond the common run of things. It invites the music-lover to explore at very reasonable prices. This CD is in that mould – and it is an exploration which will give much pleasure. Theodore Kuchar, something of a house conductor for the label, presides over committed performances which have both excitement and clarity, as well as some sensitive playing in more reflective moments, as in the theme-and-variation slow movement of the symphony.

This is an excellent introduction to Erkin’s world.

Michael Wilkinson

Previous review: Rob Barnett



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