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Fazıl Say

Fazıl Say

Fazıl Say (Turkish: [faːˈzɯl saj]; born 14 January 1970 in Ankara) is a Turkish pianist and composer.

Fazıl Say
Background information
Born(1970-01-14)14 January 1970
Ankara, Turkey
GenresClassical, contemporary classical
Occupation(s)Composer, pianist
Years active1984–present
Websitefazilsay.com [21]

Life and career

Fazıl Say was born in 1970. He was a child prodigy, who was able to do basic arithmetic with 4-digit numbers at the age of two. His father, having found out that he was playing the melody of "Daha Dün Annemizin" (Turkish version of Ah! vous dirai-je, maman) on a makeshift flute with no prior training, enlisted the help of Ali Kemal Kaya, an oboe artist and a family friend. At the age of three, Say started his piano lessons under the tutelage of pianist Mithat Fenmen.[1]

Say wrote his first piece – a piano sonata – in 1984, at the age of fourteen, when he was a student at the Conservatory of his home town Ankara. It was followed, in this early phase of his development, by several chamber works without an opus number, including Schwarze Hymnen for violin and piano and a guitar concerto. He subsequently designated as his opus 1 one of the works that he had played in the concert that won him the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York: the Four Dances of Nasreddin Hodja. This work already displays in essence the significant features of his personal style: a rhapsodic, fantasia-like basic structure; a variable rhythm, often dance-like, though formed through syncopation; a continuous, vital driving pulse; and a wealth of melodic ideas that may often be traced back to themes from the folk music of Turkey and its neighbours. In these respects, Fazıl Say stands to some extent in the tradition of composers like Béla Bartók, George Enescu, and György Ligeti, who also drew on the rich musical folklore of their countries. He attracted international attention with the piano piece Black Earth (1997), in which he employs techniques made popular by John Cage's works for prepared piano.[2]

After this, Say increasingly turned to the large orchestral forms. Taking his inspiration from the poetry (and the biographies) of the writers Nâzım Hikmet and Metin Altıok, he composed works for soloists, chorus and orchestra which, especially in the case of the oratorio Nâzim, clearly take up the tradition of composers such as Carl Orff. In addition to the modern European instrumentarium, Say also makes frequent and deliberate use in these compositions of instruments from his native Turkey, including kudüm and darbuka drums and the ney reed flute. This gives the music a colouring that sets it apart from many comparable creations in this genre. In the year 2007 he aroused international interest with his Violin Concerto 1001 Nights in the Harem, which is based on the celebrated tales of the same name, but deals specifically with the fate of seven women from a harem. Since its world premiere by Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the piece has already received further performances in many international concert halls.[2]

Fazıl Say scored a further great success with his first symphony, the Istanbul Symphony, premiered in 2010 at the conclusion of his five-year residency at the Konzerthaus Dortmund. Jointly commissioned by the WDR and the Konzerthaus Dortmund in the framework of Ruhr. 2010, the work constitutes a vibrant and poetic tribute to the metropolis on the Bosporus and its millions of inhabitants. The same year saw the composition, among other pieces, of his Divorce String Quartet (based on atonal principles), and commissioned works like the Piano Concerto Nirvana Burning for the Salzburg Festival and a Trumpet Concerto for the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival, premiered by Gábor Boldoczki.[2]

For Sabine Meyer Say has also written a Clarinet Concerto that refers to the life and work of the Persian poet Omar Khayyam in response to a commission from the 2011 Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, and a Sonata for clarinet and piano (op. 42) for the Festival Kissinger Sommer in 2012. Fazıl Say’s works are issued worldwide by the renowned music publishers Schott Music of Mainz.[2]

In his works Gezi Park 1,2 and 3 (op. 48, op. 52, op. 54) from 2013/14 he musically processed the violent suppression of the protests at the Istanbul Gezi Park.[3][4][5]

The lyrics for his song Insan Insan were taken from a centuries old poem written by Alevi poet Muhyiddin Abdal. The track was orchestrated by Say with vocals from Selva Erdener (soprano), Burcu Uyar (coloratura soprano), Güvenç Dağüstün (baritone) and Cem Adrian ("ethnic vocals").[6]

Blasphemy charge

In April 2012, Say came under investigation by the Istanbul Prosecutor's Office over statements made on Twitter, declaring himself an atheist and retweeting a message poking fun at the Islamic conception of paradise.[7][8] Say then announced that he was considering leaving Turkey to live in Japan because of the rise of conservative Islam and growing intolerance in his home country.[9][10]

On 1 June 2012, an Istanbul court indicted Say with the crime of "publicly insulting religious values that are adopted by a part of the nation", a crime that carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison.[8] According to Anatolia news agency, Say told the Istanbul court he did not seek to insult anybody, but was merely expressing his uneasiness. The court adjourned the case to February 18 after rejecting his lawyers’ request for an immediate acquittal. “When I read them (Say’s tweets), I was heart-broken, I felt disgraced,” Turan Gumus, one of the three plaintiffs, told the court. On 15 April 2013, Say was sentenced to 10 months in jail, reduced from 12 months for good behavior in court. The sentence was suspended, meaning he was allowed to move freely provided he did not repeat the offense in the next five years.[11]

On appeal, Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals reversed the conviction on 26 October 2015, ruling that Say's Twitter posts fell within the bounds of freedom of thought and freedom of expression.[12]

Honors and awards

  • Winner of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions (1994)

  • Paul A. Fish Foundation Awards (1995)

  • Le Monde Awards (2000)

  • Echo Klassik (2001)

  • German Music Critics’ Best Recording of the Year Award (2001)

  • Ambassador of Intercultural Dialogue (2008)

  • "Echo" German Record Award (2009)

  • "ECHO Klassik 2013 Special Jury Award with Istanbul Symphony Album

  • Prix International de la Laïcité 2015 (Comité Laïcité République, France)

  • Beethoven Prize 2016 (Beethoven Academy)[13]

  • Duisburger Musikpreis (2017)[14]

Artist / Composer in residence

  • Alte Oper Frankfurt, 2015/2016

  • Laeiszhalle Hamburg, 2014/2015

  • Bodenseefestival, 2014

  • Wiener Konzerthaus, 2013/2014

  • Hessischer Rundfunk Frankfurt, 2012/2013

  • Konzerthaus Berlin, 2010/ 2011

  • Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival 2011

  • Merano Festival, 2010

  • Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, 2010

  • Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris 2010

  • Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 2010

  • Sumida Triphony Hall, Tokyo 2008

  • Konzerthaus Dortmund, 2005–2010

  • Musikfest Bremen 2005

  • Radio France 2003 & 2005


  1. 1993 CD / (SFB) (Scarlatti–Berg–Say)

  2. 1996 CD / Troppenote Records (Say)

  3. 1998 CD / Warner Music (Mozart Sonatas)

  4. 1999 CD / Teldec (Bach)

  5. 2000 CD / Teldec (Gershwin)

  6. 2000 CD / Teldec (Stravinski–Le sacre)

  7. 2001 CD / Teldec (Liszt–Tchaikovski)

  8. 2002 CD / İmaj (Nazım)

  9. 2003 CD / Naive (Say/Black Earth)

  10. 2003 CD / İmaj (Metin Altıok ağıtı)

  11. 2003 CD / Bilkent (Nazım)

  12. 2004 CD / Naive (Mozart Concertos)

  13. 2005 CD / Naive (Beethoven Sonatas for Piano)

  14. 2006 CD / Naive (Haydn Sonatas)

  15. 2006 CD / Avex (Live in Tokyo)

  16. 2007 CD / Naive (Kopatchinskaja–Say / Beethoven / Bartok / Ravel)

  17. 2008 CD / Naive (Kopatchinskaja–Say 1001 Nights in the Harem)

  18. 2011 Fazil Say: Pictures (CD / DVD)

  19. 2012 Istanbul Symphony & Hezarfen Ney Concerto (CD / DVD)

Chronological list of compositions

Chronological list of Fazıl Say's compositions
Phrigian for PianoEarly Works1984Ankara
Sonata for PianoEarly Works1984Ankara
Ballade for Cello and PianoEarly Works1985Ankara
Preludes for PianoEarly Works1985Ankara
Preludes for Flute and PianoEarly Works1985Ankara
Guitar ConcertoEarly Works1986Ankara
Suite for PianoEarly Works1986Ankara
Schwarze Hymnen for Violin and PianoEarly Works1987Ankara
4 Stücke for PianoEarly Works1987Düsseldorf
Paganini Jazz 1. Version for PianoPiano1988Düsseldorf
Seidenstrasse for Piano soloEarly Works1989Düsseldorf
Debussy Preludes OrchestrationEarly Works1990Düsseldorf
1Nasreddin Hoca’nın dansları for PianoEarly Works1990Düsseldorf
Reflections for Piano Violin and OrchestraEarly Works1990Düsseldorf
Paganini Jazz 2. Version for PianoPiano1990Düsseldorf
3 Maerchen for Piano and Chamber OrchestraOrchestral1991Düsseldorf
Alt Anatolisches Tagebuch for PianoEarly Works1991Düsseldorf
Melodien for PianoEarly Works1992Berlin
Liszt Sonata OrchestrationOrchestration1992Berlin
CD / (SFB) ( Scarlatti / Berg / Say )Recording1993Berlin
3Symphonia Concertante for Piano and OrchestraOrchestral1993Berlin
5aAllaTurca Jazz ( Mozart )Piano1993Berlin
2Fantasiestücke for PianoPiano1993Berlin
4Silk Road for Piano and Chamber OrchestraChamber1994Berlin
5bPaganini Jazz 3. VersionPiano1995Berlin
5cCadenza Mozart K 467Orchestral1995Berlin
5d25 SongsSong1995Berlin
CD / Troppenote Records ( Say )Recording1996New York City
5eConcerto for Guitar in dConcerto1996New York
6Chamber SymphonyChamber1997New York
8Black Earth for PianoPiano1997New York
7Sonata for Violin and PianoChamber1997New York
5fYeni bir Gülnihal Jazz Variations for PianoPiano1997New York
CD / Warner Music ( Mozart Sonatas )Recording1998New York
Sonata for Piano Silence of SoutheastPiano1998New York
Gershwin arrangements for sixtettPiano1999New York
CD / Teldec ( Bach)Recording1999New York
UÇAK NOTLARIBook1999New York
CD / Teldec ( Gershwin )Recording2000New York
CD / Teldec ( Stravinski- Le sacre )Recording2000New York
Pieces for world jazz quartettChamber2000New York
CD / Teldec ( Liszt- Tchaikovski )Recording2001New York
11Silence of Anatolia Piano ConcertoConcerto2001New York
10Cadenza Beethoven No 3Piano2001New York
9Nazım OratorioOratorio2001New York
CD / İmaj ( Nazım )Recording2002Istanbul
123 Ballades for PianoPiano2002Istanbul
13Metin Altıok AğıtıOratorio2003Istanbul
CD / Naive ( Say/ Black Earth )Recording2003Istanbul
CD / İmaj ( Metin Altıok ağıtı )Recording2003Istanbul
CD /Bilkent ( Nazım )Recording2003Istanbul
14Rhapsodia Uzun ince YoldayımChamber2004Istanbul
15Cadenza Mozart KV 537Piano2004Istanbul
CD / Naive ( Mozart Concertos )Recording2004Istanbul
16Thinking Einstein for Piano and OrchestraConcerto2005Istanbul
17Patara Ballet for Ney–Flute, Soprano, Percussions and PianoDance2005Istanbul
18Ultimathule Film MusicCinema2005Istanbul
CD / Naive ( Beethoven Sonatas )Recording2005Istanbul
DVD / İmaj ( Nazım Oratorio )Recording2002Istanbul
19Bach-Say Passacaglia ( Transcription)Piano2005Istanbul
20Summertime Phantasy GershwinPiano2005Istanbul
21Pianist the WolfyCinema2006Istanbul
CD / Naive ( Haydn Sonatas )Recording2006Istanbul
DVD / Arthaus ( Alla Turca )Recording2006Istanbul
22İnsan insanCinema2006Istanbul
CD / Avex ( Live in Tokyo )Recording2006Istanbul
23Fenerbahçe ProjectOrchestral2007Istanbul
24Bach-Say Fantasia in g ( Transcription )Piano2007Istanbul
CD / Naive ( Kopatchinskaja – Say / Beethoven / Bartók )Recording2007Istanbul
251001 Nights in the Harem Violin ConcertoConcerto2007Istanbul
CD / Naive ( Kopatchinskaja – Say 1001 Nights in Harem )Recording2008Istanbul
DVD / Avex ( Live in Tokyo )Recording2008Istanbul
Yalnızlık kederiBook2009Istanbul
26Princess of Lykia for 2 GuitarsChamber2009Istanbul
28Istanbul SymphonyOrchestral2009Istanbul
İmaj ( Fenerbahçe Project )DVD2010Istanbul
29String QuartettChamber2010Istanbul
30Nirvana BurningConcerto2010Istanbul
31Concerto for TrompetConcerto2010Istanbul
32Variations for 2 Pianos and PercussionChamber2010Istanbul
337000 yıllık uçan halı ( 7,000 Year Old Flying Carpet )Theatre2010Istanbul
34Cleopatra for solo ViolinChamber2010Istanbul
35Woodwinds Quintett “Alevi dedeler rakı masasında” (Alevi Fathers at the Raki Table)Chamber2010Istanbul
Nazım Oratorio 2010 VersionReduction2010Istanbul
Yeni bir Gülnihal – Jazz VariationsReduction2010Istanbul
Nirvana BurningPiano Excerpt2010Istanbul
Trompeten KonzertPiano Excerpt2010Istanbul
36Concerto for Clarinet “Khayyam”Concerto2011Istanbul
Fazıl Say: Pianist – Komponist – Weltbürger by Jürgen OttenBook2011Istanbul
Fazil Say: Pictures ( CD / DVD )Recording2011Istanbul
37“4 Lieder” – “4 Songs”Songs2011Istanbul
38Symphony No. 2 “Mesopotamia” for extra large orchestraOrchestral2011Istanbul
39Hezarfen Concerto for Ney and OrchestraConcerto2011Istanbul
41Sonata for Cello and Piano – “4 Cities” ( Dört Şehir )Chamber2012Istanbul
42Sonata for Clarinet and PianoChamber2012Istanbul
43Symphony No. 3 “Universe”Orchestral2012Istanbul
446 SongsSong2012Istanbul
45“Water” for Piano and OrchestraConcerto2012Istanbul
46Space Jump for Trio (Piano, Violin, Cello)Chamber2013Istanbul

Other works


  • Uçak Notları (Airplane Notes) Ankara (1999)

  • Metin Altıok Ağıtı (Requiem for Metin Altıok) (2003)

  • Yalnızlık Kederi (Sorrow of Solitude) (2009)

  • "Fazıl Say: Pianist – Komponist – Weltbürger" by Jürgen Otten (2011)


  • Fazıl Say – Alla Turca (DVD, 2008)

  • Fazıl Say – Live in Japan (DVD)

  • Fazıl Say – Nazım (DVD, 2001)

  • Fazıl Say – Fenerbahçe Senfonisi (DVD)

  • Fazıl Say – Istanbul Symphony Concert (DVD, 2012)

  • Fazıl Say – Istanbul Symphony Short Documentary (DVD, 2012)

See also

  • Bilkent University

  • Bilkent Symphony Orchestra

  • Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Konzerthaus Dortmund


Citation Linkhaber.sol.org.trSay, Ahmet (2016-10-15). "Fazıl Say Nasıl Yetişti?". Sol Haber (in Turkish). Retrieved 2016-10-17.
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Citation Linkfazilsay.com"Biography". Fazil Say Official Website. Archived from the original on 13 November 2012. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
Sep 20, 2019, 1:58 PM
Citation Linkde.schott-music.com"Gezi Park 1". Deschott-music.com. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
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Citation Linkde.schott-music.com"Gezi Park 2". Deschott-music.com. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
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Citation Linkde.schott-music.com"Gezi Park 3". Deschott-music.com. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
Sep 20, 2019, 1:58 PM
Citation Linkwww.youtube.comADA MUSICundefined (Director). Fazıl Say – insan insan / Muhyİddİn Abdal (Lyric). Retrieved 2018-11-24.
Sep 20, 2019, 1:58 PM
Citation Linkwww.todayszaman.com"Probe launched against pianist Say over controversial tweets". Today's Zaman. 12 April 2012. Archived from the original on 15 June 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
Sep 20, 2019, 1:58 PM
Citation Linkwww.nytimes.comSebnem Arsu and Daniel J. Wakin (1 June 2012). "Turkish Pianist is Accused of Insulting Islam". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
Sep 20, 2019, 1:58 PM
Citation Linkwww.hurriyetdailynews.com"Turkish composer hopes to move to Japan". Hürriyet Daily News. 23 April 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
Sep 20, 2019, 1:58 PM
Citation Linkweb.archive.orgNorman Lebrecht (23 April 2012). "Atheist pianist quits Turkey over rise of Islam" Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine. artsJournalblogs.
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Citation Linkgulfnews.com"Pianist Fazil Say gets jail term for blasphemy". Gulf News. Gulf News. AFP. 2013-04-15. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
Sep 20, 2019, 1:58 PM
Citation Linkwww.hurriyetdailynews.comMesut Hasan Benli (26 October 2015). "Top appeals court reverses blasphemy decision against Turkish pianist Say". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
Sep 20, 2019, 1:58 PM
Citation Linkwww.beethovenacademy.org"Beethovenpreis 2016". Beethoven Academy. 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
Sep 20, 2019, 1:58 PM
Citation Linkwww.waz.deHorstmeier, Anne (31 August 2017). "Fazil Say wird mit dem Duisburger Musikpreis ausgezeichnet". Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Essen. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
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Citation Linkfazilsay.comFazıl Say Biography
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Citation Linkwww.istanbul.edu.trFazıl Say biography
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Citation Linkwww.fazilsay.comOfficial website
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Citation Linken.qantara.deCharges against Turkish Star Pianist Fazil Say: Facing Trial for Joking on Twitter
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Citation Linken.schott-music.comSchott-Music Profile
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Citation Linkweb.archive.orgechoklassik.de
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