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Ahmed Adnan SAYGUN (1907-1991)
Symphony No. 4 Op. 53 (1976) [24.18]
Violin Concerto Op. 44 (1967) [33.13]
Suite Op. 14 (1934) [11.23]
Mirjam Tschopp (violin)
Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/Ari Rasilainen
rec. 2-6 June 2003, Ludwigshafen, Philharmonie, Germany
CPO 777 043-2 [68:56]

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As I mentioned when I reviewed the CPO disc of Saygun's first two symphonies, his music is not a total stranger to the recording studio. There was at least one Koch International CD including a viola concerto of his as well as that CPO disc of symphonies 1 and 2 CPO 999 819-2. The Fifth Symphony is on CPO 999 968-2.

Saygun's music was part of a movement that from 1923 saw Western influences borne in on authentic Turkish voices. His writing was in keeping with the cosmopolitan reforming drive of President Kemal Atäturk. The new government supported Turkish composers to study in the great centres of world culture, Saygun had financial assistance to study in Paris. His brethren included Cemal Resit Rey, Ulvi Cemal Erkin, Hasan Ferid Alnar and Necil Kazim Akses.

The Fourth Symphony is a three movement work lasting well shy of half an hour. The music recalls the muscular surging energy of Markevitch and Hartmann. In the second movement we perhaps detect the gentle disillusion we associate with Rubbra or Finzi but with a stronger infusion of dissonance. I noted less of the Turkish harmonic ‘sway’ or muezzin melisma-ululation found in his first two symphonies. The two outer movements recall the chattering activity of Alwyn's Fourth Symphony and in their aggression the grinding attack of Panufnik's Tragic Overture.

The Violin Concerto is the biggest work here at three minutes over half an hour. Once again the work is creepily energetic, but finds ample time for almost Delian reflection and warmth [2:20]. That lyrical vein also leans towards Berg e.g. at 4.13. Explosive expostulation from the orchestra follows the manner of Schoenberg and William Schuman. Towards the end a Sibelian tempest boils up and curves down into silence enigmatically accentuated by the most gentle of strokes on the tam-tam. Otherworldly Tempest-like music opens the second movement Adagio although there is a more turbulent central episode. The finale projects a sinister aspect - a sort of nocturnal march of conspirators - recalling the finale of Rawsthorne's Violin Concerto No. 1. In the final bars the concerto discovers a new optimism emerging from nowhere. Mirjam Tschopp seems to be fully in command of the work's requirements both in drama and in poetry.

The overture-length Suite is from Saygun's earliest years. The three movements are Meseli, Improvisation and Horon. Here the Turkish harmonic sway is clearly heard. The treaty between East and West does not, in this case, lead to synthesis; both elements can be heard distinctly. The suite might be compared with Enescu's Romanian rhapsodies where folk voices are to the fore. The sparkling finale has a very engaging rhythmic signature.

This is music which in the case of the symphony and concerto evinces full assimilation of western art music. The Suite is an extremely attractive and folk-accented piece.

Saygun's symphony and concerto will be enjoyed by those who like their Berg, Hartmann and Alwyn. All are superbly performed and typically well documented.

Rob Barnett

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