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Work of the week – Fazil Say: Never give up

On 3 April, Fazil Say’s new cello concerto Never Give Up will premiere with the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, conductor Douglas Boyd and cellist Camille Thomas as soloist at the Théâtre Champs- Elysées in Paris.

Say’s cello concerto is expressly a political statement made through music, akin to his Gezi Park trilogy. Although Say lived abroad for many years, he retained strong connections to his home country of Turkey, and has now returned there despite feelings of dissatisfaction with the country’s current socio-political situation. He describes the cello concert as an “outcry for freedom and peace,” written in protest against violence and terror.

Never Give Up: The sound of terror

Say composed the cello concerto in response to the recent attacks in Paris and Istanbul, and the effects such events have on humanity and art. The expression of terror through sound is particularly discernible in the cello concerto’s second movement, the Adagio, where harsh repetitive percussion motifs alternate with screaming woodwind glissandi. The performance instructions for this passage state “with Kalaschnikov” and “like a scream” indicating sounds of rifle shots and human cries. Despite this, the concerto ends optimistically. Say introduces Turkish rhythms accompanied by birdsong and the sound of waves in the strings, painting a peaceful soundscape of his homeland.

In the same concert on 3 April, Fazil Say will perform Beethoven’s Klavierkonzert No.3 in c-Moll, and on 25 August his Symphony No.4 “Hope” will be premiered by the Dresden Philharmonic and conductor Michael Sanderling, at the Kulturpalast Dresden.