Orpheus Chamber Orchestra reunites with Turkish pianist and composer Fazıl Say on Thursday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. at Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post, following a highly successful collaborative New York and European tour in 2015. Tilles Center hosts the premiere performance of the evening’s program, which will also make a stop at Carnegie Hall.
Say is featured in his own Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 4, Silk Road, inspired by the folk music found along the ancient trade route from China to Europe. He describes the composition as “a musical journey along a road, beginning in Tibet, leading into Hindu dances, with the third part dealing with music from Iraq. Then, the finale consists of folk tunes and songs from my homeland of Turkey.” Say also performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, which includes the slow movement popularized by the 1967 Swedish film Elvira Madigan.
The concert also includes Rossini’s Overture to his comedic opera La Scala di Seta (The Silk Ladder), and Haydn’s Symphony No. 83, “The Hen,” nicknamed for its clucking grace notes and honking oboe solo.
A standard-bearer of innovation and artistic excellence, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is one of the world’s foremost chamber orchestras. It was founded in 1972 by a group of like-minded young musicians determined to combine the intimacy and warmth of a chamber ensemble with the richness of an orchestra. With 71 albums, including the Grammy Award-winning Shadow Dances: Stravinsky Miniatures, and 43 commissioned and premiered original works, Orpheus rotates musical leadership roles and strives to perform diverse repertoire through collaboration and open dialogue. Performing without a conductor, Orpheus presents an annual series at Carnegie Hall and tours extensively to major national and international venues.
With his extraordinary pianistic talents, Fazıl Say has been touching audiences and critics alike for more than twenty-five years, through direct, open and exciting performances that go straight to the heart.
Fazıl Say had his first piano lessons from Mithat Fenmen, who had studied with Alfred Cortot in Paris. Perhaps sensing just how talented his pupil was, Fenmen asked the boy to improvise every day on themes to do with his daily life before going on to complete his essential piano exercises and studies. This contact with free creative processes and forms is seen as the source of the immense improvisatory talent and the aesthetic outlook that make Fazıl Say the pianist and composer he is today. He has been commissioned to write music for, among others, the Salzburg Festival, the WDR, the Dortmund Konzerthaus and the Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern festivals. His work includes compositions for solo keyboard and chamber music, as well as solo concertos and large-scale orchestral works.
From 1987 onwards, Fazıl Say fine-tuned his skills as a classical pianist with David Levine, first at the Musikhochschule Robert Schumann in Düsseldorf and later in Berlin. This formed the aesthetic basis for his Mozart and Schubert interpretations, in particular. His outstanding technique very quickly enabled him to master the so-called warhorses of the repertoire with masterful ease. It is precisely this blend of refinement (in Bach, Haydn, and Mozart) and virtuoso brilliance in the works of Liszt, Mussorgsky and Beethoven that gained him victory at the Young Concert Artists international competition in New York in 1994. Since then he has played with all of the renowned American and European orchestras and numerous leading conductors, building up a multifaceted repertoire ranging from Bach, through the Viennese Classics (Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven) and the Romantics, right up to contemporary music, including his own piano compositions.
Guest appearances have taken Fazıl Say to countless countries on all five continents. He also performs chamber music regularly, and for many years he was part of a duo with violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja. Other notable collaborators include Maxim Vengerov, the Borusan Quartet of Istanbul and the cellist Nicolas Altstaedt.
From 2005 to 2010, he was artist in residence at the Dortmund Konzerthaus, and during the 2010-11 season, he held the same position at the Berlin Konzerthaus. Say was also a focal point of the program of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in the summer of 2011 with further residencies and Fazıl Say festivals in Paris, Tokyo, Meran, Hamburg, and Istanbul. During the 2012-13 season, Fazıl Say was the artist in residence at the Hessischer Rundfunk in Frankfurt am Main and at the Rheingau Musik Festival 2013, where he was honored with the Rheingau Musik Preis. In April 2015, Fazıl Say gave a successful concert with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, followed by a tour with concerts all over Europe. In 2014, he was the artist in residence at the Bodenseefestival, where he played fourteen concerts. During their 2015-16 season, the Alte Oper Frankfurt invited him to be their artist in residence.
His recordings of works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin and Stravinsky have been highly praised by critics and won several prizes, including three ECHO Klassik Awards. In 2014, his recording of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Beethoven’s Sonatas Op. 111 and Op. 27, No.2 “Moonlight” was released, as well as the recording “Say plays Say,” featuring his compositions for piano.
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with Fazıl Say, piano
Thursday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. at Tilles Center Concert Hall
- ROSSINI Overture to La Scala di Seta (The Silk Ladder)
- MOZART Concerto for Piano No. 21, K.467
- FAZIL SAY Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 4 Silk Road
- HAYDN Symphony No. 83, La Poule (The Hen)
Tickets are $48 and are available online at tillescenter.org, or www.ticketmaster.com, in person at Tilles Center’s box office or by telephone at 516-299-3100 or 800-745-3000. The box office is open Monday-Saturday from 1-6 p.m.
Image at top of release by Matt Dine.