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Work of the Week – Fazıl Say: Concerto for percussion and orchestra

Fazil Say’s new Concerto for percussion and orchestra melds a rich array of percussion with colourful and imaginative orchestration. The work will receive its world premiere on 29 March with soloist and dedicatee Martin Grubinger, the Dresdner Philharmonie, and Andris Poga at the Kulturpalast concert hall in Dresden.

Say’s Concerto for percussion and orchestra is a near-relentless work for the soloist consisting of four movements, each named after a percussion instrument. The first movement, for example, is dominated by the sound of the waterphone after which it is titled. A relatively unfamiliar instrument, a waterphone consist of a series of metal bars attached to a round, water-filled ‘body’ that produces a mysterious and eerie sound when the bars vibrate. More familiar instruments form the titles of the remaining movements, Timpani · Rototoms; Vibraphone · Campana; Marimba · Boobams.

Fazıl Say: Concerto for percussion and orchestra – rich percussion sounds in focus

Elements of several musical traditions have informed Say’s writing in the concerto. There are instruction such as ‘walking bass’ and ‘dirty’; ‘köçekçe’ and ‘Slow Belly Dance’ throughout the piece, which also features Anatolian scales and Takht-like improvisations. Ostinato motifs evolving over the course of the piece shape the sound of the concerto.

My style is changing all the time. […] When I studied in Germany, my music was influenced by the discovery of Turkish folklore; today I have found a style that reflects myself, is individual, and satisfies me. This includes the tonal and folkloristic elements. That is in my blood. And that’s my primary motivation when composing; the intellectual is secondary. – Fazıl Say

Following its world premiere, the Concerto for percussion and orchestra will be performed again on 30 March. On 31 March, in a special matinee performance for young people (‘Discovery Phil’), Martin Grubinger and the orchestra will perform excerpts from the piece with presenter, Malte Arkona, offering an insight into the music and instruments. Grubinger will perform Say’s concerto in a number of cities throughout Europe this year including Wiesbaden on 23 August, as part of the Rheingau Musik Festival, in Bremen on 13 September, and Basel on 18 and 19 September. Listeners can also hear Say’s cello concerto, Never give up, in a series of performances by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège on 4 April, 5 and 6 May.



Photo: Marco Borggreve