Fazil Say

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About Fazil Say

Just as Glenn Gould’s performances foreground Gould, so the Turkish composer and pianist Fazil Say puts an idiosyncratic stamp of authority on whatever music he plays. (Like Gould, he sometimes hums along during performances, too.) He is as at home in Mozart (hear his vibrant 2016 recording of the sonatas) as he is in Beethoven (note the fresh approach to tempi and dynamics in his 2020 recording of the sonatas). His sense of stylistic freedom was cultivated at an early age by his teacher, Turkish pianist and composer Mithat Fenmen, who encouraged him to improvise every day. Say studied composition with ‎İlhan Baran (a student of French composer Henri Dutilleux), and later David Levine nurtured his subjective and eclectic approach to repertoire. Say’s repertoire is wide—comprising Bach and Chopin, Debussy and avant-garde music, chamber music and jazz—and his music draws on many influences. Listen to the shades of Bartók and Stravinsky in his three-part cycle, Gezi Park (2013-14), which reflects on the popular uprising in Istanbul's Gezi Park in the spring of 2013, for instance, or the evocative solo piano work Black Earth (1997), in which he applies the prepared piano techniques of John Cage to a piece inspired by a popular Turkish folk song.

Ankara, Turkey
January 14, 1970
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