KOCATÜRK: Bir Damla Yasemin. GÜNEŞ: Beste. Camogli. ZEKI ÜN: Söszüz Türkü. Yunus’un Mezarinda. UZUNARSLAN: Viola Sonata. TURCA: Viola Sonata. RIZA BEY: Efem / Beste Tiknaz Modiri, vla; Andrés Añazco, pno / Musical Concepts MC3108
As I pointed out in my review of Idil Biret’s box set of Turkish classics, music from that country, and often performing artists as well, are either ignored or given short shrift in the West for no good reason. Only Ulvi Cemal Erkin, Cemal Resit Rey and Ahmed Adnan Saygun have any sort of profile in Western countries, with Saygun probably being the best-known and most widely respected—and it took decades for him to make any headway in that direction.
Here Turkish violist Beste Tiknaz Modiri presents us with music for her instrument written by six Turkish composers I had never heard of before. Interestingly, one of the youngest composers presented here, Ayça Oztarhan Kocatürk (b. 1976), wrote a heavily Romantic piece, opening with slow, melodic lines for the viola before suddenly picking up the tempo and employing Turkish rhythms in the second half of the piece. Betin Güneş (b. 1957), who has lived in Germany most of his life, has close personal ties with Tiknaz Modiri’s family. Beste, dedicated to her, was written specifically for this recording; it, too is very Romantic in form. Apparently, the later generation of Turkish composers have divorced themselves from the much more interesting and modern works of Erkin, Rey and Saygun. Simple melodies are “in,” complex structures are “out.” Camogli is similarly Romantic-sounding in the first half, more harmonically and technically interesting in the second. Tiknaz Modiri has a full, rich tone that makes her sound like a cello at times.
Ekrem Zeki Ün (1910-1987) was the son of the composer of Turkey’s national anthem. The Romantic vein continues in his pieces—or, at least, Tiknaz Modiri has gone out of her way to ensure that only tonal, Romantic music was included on this CD. If you respond to this sort of thing, then, you’ll enjoy this recital much more than I did. I found my attention wandering because, regardless of the composer or era, when you create a “lovely melody” you’re actually wasting the listener’s time because you’re so involved with sustaining and developing that melody in and of itself that the composition as a whole suffers. It’s akin to an orator who spends so much time slowly enunciating words with beautiful diction that the message gets lost in the form. With that being said, Yunus’un Mezarinda (At the Tomb of Yunus) is a piece using modes and microtones, even though it, too, gets a bit bogged down in melodic structure.
The same sort of formula plays itself out in Melisa Uzunarslan’s Viola Sonata, melodic tunes being juxtaposed with faster sections with unusual rhythms but a mostly tonal bias. Mind you, none of this music is poorly constructed, but much of it is so simple in form that it leans towards banality. Good with a small “g’ but not nearly as outstanding as the works and composers that Biret enjoys playing. The third movement of Uzunarslan’s sonata was by far the most interesting.
Happily, the first movement of Yalçin Tura’s sonata is far more interesting. Born in 1934, Tura was part of the more experimental faction among Turkish composers, and while not as edgily modern as Erkin or Saygun, he is clearly a better composer than those which precede him on this CD. His writing is more terse, less involved with trying to impress the listener with “pretty” music, and thus more detailed and complex in structure. Unfortunately, the second movement is just a slow tune that isn’t developed much at all, but the third movement is a lively dance piece. The CD closes with Ali Riza Bey’s folk song Efem, a nice piece set to a sort of rocking rhythm.
Perhaps the reader can appreciate my position towards “lovely” tonal music this way. To give a comparison with visual art, it’s like the difference between looking at an Andrew Wyeth painting, very finely crafted but representational, and then looking at a painting by Dali or a line drawing by M.C. Escher. There’s just much more going on, and thus such works involve your mind to a greater degree. If, however, you have a capacity for enjoying music that is not too challenging, you will certainly like this recital.
—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley
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