Here we have a great Naxos disc of bold, colorful music by the Turkish-American composer Kamran Ince. Naxos has recorded 4 other albums of Kamran Ince's refreshingly original music, of which I only have one other (Symphonies 3 and 4). I greatly look forward to the acquisition of the other three discs when I can afford to do so!!
Ince gets deeply into Turkish traditional music, presenting it from the inside out. He has an uncanny ability to meet the rawness of this aesthetic on its own terms and create ways to put it into a Western symphonic context without compromising its wailing grandeur. Subtlety is not what his music is about; one must accept a fair amount of literal repetition and raucous sonority-but Ince’s sense of dramatic structure makes the adjustment possible for people who are open to something bold and new, with often larger-than-life sonorities. It is imo, music that sustains its excitement from start to
The "Concerto for Orchestra, Turkish instruments and Voices" (2001/revised 2009) was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, Republic of Turkey. It was premiered at the 2002 Ankara International Music Festival by the Presidential Symphony Orchestra. The instrumentation calls for full orchestra, Turkish instruments (2 zurnas, kemence and ney, and eight voices-four female and four male). The work is about the boldness, rawness, directness of the sound of the Turkish instruments, the Zurna (grandfather of the oboe, louder then a bass drum, more nasal then the bag pipes) and 'village drum', contrasted with the spiritual and courtly character of the sounds of the Kemence (played with a bow, like a small violin, though strings are vibrated by the finger nails) and the Ney (a very airy, flute-like wooden instrument played by the side of the mouth). In some ways the work is inspired by elements of Turkish folk music and Ottoman court music, synthesized with the unique gestures and colors of the modern orchestra. Like the Turkish instruments, the orchestral colors are also used in their pure, most direct forms as separated brushstrokes of brass, strings, woodwinds and percussion.
Commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the subject of Ince's Symphony No. 2 is the events surrounding the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, an event that is fascinating in almost mythological proportions. The various titles of the movements reflect the time line of the siege and the fall of the city, which took over two years. The movements are strung together, played without pauses. "City and the walls" depict the mighty walls that surrounded the city and the relentless pounding of the Ottoman artillery. Silences came at night when the Byzantines skillfully 'restored' the walls for the following days defense. "Haghia Sophia" is one of the most beautiful churches in the world built by the Byzantines. It was the largest church with the most massive freestanding dome that had existed at the time. This movement reflects the prayers of the residents in Haghia Sophia to save their city. "Speeches of Emperor Constantine and Sultan Mehmet" represents the political speeches given to their troops to motivate them into braking the stalemate-the war was going nowhere. "Ships on rails": The marine battle is where the turning point in the siege finally comes. Byzantines had built massive chains across the harbor (!!) to prevent the Ottoman navy from entering. The Ottomans were finally able to respond to that by hauling ships over land on rails at night. In the morning the Byzantines were suddenly faced with the ships in the harbor and the inevitable defeat. Fall of Constantinople reflects the cities final moments before the Ottoman soldiers enter the city before its eventual fall. Epic music for an absolutely epic historical event.
The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra was written in 1984, when Ince was 24. It had a preview performance that took place that fall with the composer as pianist and the Eastman Symphony Orchestra. It is a very important work for Ince, as it put him firmly on the new music map and helped to propel his career. After feeling obligated to be a part of the nationalistic movement of Turkish classical music (which was going strong in the late 1970’s), Ince moved to the States in 1980 and experimented with abstract languages ("it allowed me to start with a clean slate", he explains). It is with the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra four years later, with the influence of new romanticism and dramatic minimalism, that Ince started to mix twisted Turkish modal lines, tonal sonorities, nasal sonorities, minimalist backgrounds, purely percussive sections (Turkish or other), romantic tunes in blocks presented linearly, sometimes juxtaposed, in a nothing held-back fashion. Ince describes these blocks as having static, semi-static and moving characteristics. The love of extreme, simple and pure contrasts was the first ingredient to appear in Ince’s music after his move to the U.S. Through these contrasts he says he wants to 'shake' the audience, truly have them engage in what he is doing, and to ultimately take sides. This has continued to date and is heard in various degrees in his music. The concerto is presented in one continuous movement, though there are three inner sections and a coda.
"Infrared Only" (1985) with its pounding ostinatos (but also hymn-like cantilenas) is equally as feverish as the Piano Concerto, as the the booklet notes promise; Ince unleashes the full force of Western orchestral power and Lisztian piano pyrotechnics. Unhinged and dreamlike as they are, both pieces have decisive inner structures; they really go somewhere, the concerto arriving in a firm D major, Infrared also concluding in D but with a G added to give the ending some fascinating Eastern spice.
What ties the earlier music to the later offerings is a reliance on those repeating blocks of sound, ominous pedals, heavy timpani, and pulsating colors. The Piano Concerto is a workout for the soloist and Ince himself, obviously a gifted pianist, plunges fearlessly into his own thicket of technical challenges. "Infrared Only" is a bit more predictable than the concerto, but it’s fun to hear the brass and drums of the Bilkent Symphony showing their chops! Fascinating and fun stuff....
So, what do you all think of Ince's sound-world? Even when it's a tad 'cinematic' it's clearly penned (imo anyhow) by one of the most original voices of the 20th-21st centuries..