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Fazıl Say

Fazıl Say

Country of origin: Turkey
Birthday: January 14, 1970

About Fazıl Say

He is not only a brilliant pianist, but will without doubt also become one of the great artists of the 21st century. (Le Figaro)

Fazıl Say was born in Ankara on 14 January 1970. He began playing the piano at the age of four and commenced piano studies when he was eleven. A workshop with David Levine and Aribert Reimann in Ankara provided the decisive impulse to begin composing. It was also the same outstanding musicians who succeeded in securing a place for the young up-and-coming talent at the Robert-Schumann-Hochschule in Düsseldorf. Fazıl Say subsequently continued his studies at the Berlin Conservatory of Music from1992 to 1995. He composed his work Black Hymns at the age of sixteen. His career was given further impetus through the award of the first prize at the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York; since then Fazıl Say has given over 100 concerts each year. Large-scale compositions followed such as the 2nd Piano Concerto Silk Road which Say premiered in Boston in 1996 and performed more than a dozen times during the concert season 2003/2004. He was Artist in Residence at Radio France in both 2003 and 2005. He was invited to be Artist in Residence by the Music Festival in Bremen in 2005, by the Konzerthaus Dortmund in 2007, and by the Dresdner Philharmonie in the 2018/2019 season. Fazıl Say founded a world jazz quintet in 2000 with whom he has performed in numerous jazz festivals including Montreux and Istanbul.

Say’s musical career is characterised by his double role as composer and internationally renowned pianist. His musical concepts are influenced by his great interest in jazz and improvisation and he frequently incorporates these elements into his compositions, producing highly virtuoso adaptations of works for piano such as the jazz fantasy based on Mozart’s Alla Turca (1993), Paganini Jazz (1995) or the 4 Pieces for DJ and Piano (2003). His oratorio Nâzım, set to verses by the Turkish poet Nâzım Hikmet and commissioned by the Turkish Ministry for Cultural Affairs was given its first performance in Ankara in the presence of the Turkish President in 2001. Say composed his 3rd Piano Concerto in 2002 as a commission by Radio France and Kurt Masur and premiered it with the Orchestre National de Radio France under the baton of Eliahu Inbal. The first performance of his oratorio Requiem für Metin Altıok was given at the Istanbul Festival to an audience of 5000 in July 2003. He performed in the premiere of his 4th Piano Concerto Thinking Einstein in Lucerne in May 2005.

In the Mozart commemorative year 2006, the city of Vienna commissioned the ballet Patara as homage to the great Classical composer. One year previously, Say had completed his rhapsodic piano composition Black Earth which also embraces elements of Turkish folklore. A further composition for piano solo completed in 2006 was Inside Serail which was performed at the Salzburg Festival. Fazıl Say composed his first violin concerto with the allusive title 1001 Nights in the Harem in 2008. The premiere of this work took place in Lucerne performed by the dedicatee of the work, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra under the direction of John Axelrod. This violin concerto is Say’s first ambitious orchestral work without a solo part for the composer. The title is an allusion to the collection of oriental fairy tales, the Arabian Nights. The solo violin undertakes the role of the seductive, untiring storyteller Scheherazade. The piece became one of the most frequently performed concert works of the 21st century.

Say enjoyed similar success as a symphonic composer: The first symphony İstanbul Senfonisi was premiered in 2010 by the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln under Howard Griffith and has since been performed over 100 times. While its more immediate successor Mesopotamia Symphony (2011) also has an oriental subject, Say's third symphony Universe (2013) deals with astronomy. In contrast, the fourth symphony Umut Senfonisi ("Hope"), premiered in 2018 by Michael Sanderling and the Dresden Philharmonic, has a political-societal background: As in the cello concerto Never give up (2017), composed at about the same time, Say addresses the issue of Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris and other European cities. His previous response to contemporary events was his Gezi Park Trilogy (Gezi Park 1 for 2 pianos and orchestra, Gezi Park 2 Sonata for piano and Gezi Park 3 for mezzo-soprano and piano), composed between 2013 and 2014. Say’s Symphony No. 5, composed in 2022 for the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under the baton of Nil Venditti, and the Violin Concerto No. 2 (premiered in 2022 by the Konzerthausorchester Berlin under Christoph Eschenbach with Friedemann Eichhorn as soloist) continue this tendency with reflections on the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Alongside numerous awards for his piano performances, Fazıl Say has also received other accolades including the silver London International Award in 2007 and, in the following year, the German Art Directors Club prize. He also received the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis for his arrangement of Stravinsky’s “Sacre du Printemps” for piano duet. In 2017, Say was awarded the Music Prize of the City of Duisburg as well as for two CD releases the ECHO Klassik and the Edison Klassiek .



Geboren am 14. Januar in Ankara
ab 1973
Klavierunterricht bei Mithat Fenmen, einem Schüler Alfred Cortots
Musikstudium am Staatlichen Konservatorium der Universität Ankara (Klavier bei Kâmuran Gündemir, Komposition bei Ilhan Baran)
Klavierstudium an der Robert-Schumann-Hochschule Düsseldorf bei David Levine (durch eine Empfehlung von Aribert Reimann und ein Stipendium des DAAD). Abschluss mit Konzertexamen
Umzug nach Berlin; Dozent für Kammermusik an der Hochschule der Künste Berlin; erste Aufführungen seiner sinfonischen Werke
Gewinn des internationalen Wettbewerbs "Young Concert Artists" in New York; Umzug nach New York
Uraufführung des Oratoriums "Nâzım", ein Auftrag des türkischen Kultusministeriums
Umzug nach Istanbul
Artist in Residence bei Radio France (2005 erneut)
Artist in Residence beim Musikfest Bremen
seit 2006
Generalvertrag mit Schott Music
Exklusivkünstler des Konzerthauses Dortmund
London International Award in Silber für "Black Earth" in "Musik im Blut" (Spot von Jung von Matt/Elbe für Konzerthaus Dortmund)
Jury-Präsident beim Montreux Jazz Festival (2008 erneut)
Ernennung zum "Botschafter des Interkulturellen Dialogs" durch die EU
Bremer Musikfest-Preis
Mehrere Preise für "Black Earth" im Spot "Musik im Blut": Goldener Preis des Art Directors Club Deutschland; Clio Award in Silber; Cannes Lion in Bronze
Uraufführung des Violinkonzerts "1001 Nights in the Harem" (Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Luzerner Sinfonieorchester, John Axelrod)
Fazıl Say-Festival in Tokyo
Residencies beim Théâtre du Chatelet Paris, der Elbphilharmonie Hamburg und den Meraner Musikwochen
Uraufführung der "Istanbul Symphony" mit dem WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln unter Leitung von Howard Griffiths
Uraufführung des Konzertstücks "Nirvana Burning" für Klavier und Orchester im Rahmen der Salzburger Festspiele (Fazıl Say, Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, Sascha Goetzel)
Portrait-Reihe bei den Festspielen Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Uraufführung des "Trompetenkonzerts" (Gábor Boldoczki, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Lothar Zagrosek)
Artist in Residence am Konzerthaus Berlin
Says Werke sind Programmschwerpunkt beim Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival. Uraufführung des Klarinettenkonzerts "Khayyam" (Sabine Meyer, Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, Işın Metin)
Plattino-Preis des Vereins "Türkisch-Deutsche Studierenden und Akademiker Plattform" e.V., gemeinsam mit Feridun Zaimoğlu
Uraufführung der 2. Sinfonie "Mesopotamia Symphony" und der 3. Sinfonie "Universe"
Artist in Residence des hr-Sinfonieorchesters
Uraufführung des Klavierkonzerts "Water (Su)" bei den Festspielen Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Say, Gstaad Festival Orchestra, Kristjan Järvi) und des Konzerts für zwei Klaviere "Gezi Park 1" (Ferhan und Ferzan Önder, NDR Radiophilharmonie, Arvo Volmer)
ECHO Klassik-Sonderpreis für "Istanbul Symphony"
Rheingau Musikpreis
Ehrenpreis des Zelt-Musik-Festivals Freiburg
Composer in Residence am Konzerthaus Wien
Artist in Residence beim Bodenseefestival
Internationaler Beethovenpreis für Menschenrechte, Frieden, Freiheit, Armutsbekämpfung und Inklusion
Musikpreis der Stadt Duisburg
ECHO Klassik für die Gesamteinspielung aller Klaviersonaten von W.A. Mozart
Edison Klassiek für das Album "4 Cities" mit Nicolas Altstaedt
Composer in Residence der Dresdner Philharmonie