Review of Fazıl Say’s „Hezarfen“ Concerto

I am delighted to bring Fazil Say’s fans another wonderful review of the Hezarfen Ney Concerto by Michaela B. from Germany. She attended the premiere in March of this year and was clearly struck by its brilliance and beauty. And Michaela’s timing could not be better because Fazil Say’s Istanbul Symphony will be released in digital format on Monday, September 24th, with the the CD & DVD to follow on October 22nd. There’s a wonderful documentary on Hezarfen at, and Today’s Zaman also has an excellent review. Cheers!
Review of Fazıl Say’s „Hezarfen“, Concerto for Ney and Orchestra Opus 39:
„Hezarfen“ held world-première on March 6th at Mannheim’s Rosengarten on the occasion of the 6th Akademie-Konzert.
For me it’s quite obvious that „Hezarfen“ was composed to honour the great talent of this extraordinary artist Burcu Karadağ.
„Hezarfen“ sets the story of young Ahmed Çelebi’s famous flight from Galata Tower to Üsküdar to music.
The composition is split up in four parts describing the ocurrence from before the start until Ahmeds (sadly) end in North Africa.
Part One: Istanbul 1632:
Right from the start of the music, the listener will be carried off back to the reign of Sultan Murad IV. Very oriental sounds (caused by the tremendous performance of neyzen Burcu Karadağ) surround you and transform you in a sudden into an İstanbul’lu).
Supported by the ney-performance, Fazıl Say once again shows his great ability to make music visible. Burcu Karadağ not only enables us to sympathize with Ahmed, but as the wind too, she carries Ahmed, the seagull and the audience through mid-air and let us be part of the music/the story.
Instantly you find yourself inmidst the bustle and colourful scene of Istanbul. I’m sure it’s springtime! A very peaceful moment, the birds (gulls) are singing, people are in the mood. But the tension rises, uneasiness touches you: something greater will happen!

Part Two: Galata Tower
Reaching Beyoğlu (not far apart you hear the busy activities of the harbour-trading; the seagulls are excited, they are fighting for the fishes; ships sound with their horns), you witness Ahmed making preparations. He’s excited too: Sultan Murad IV. in his commanding presence has yet arrived and he and all the spectators cause a very uneasy atmosphere. With shaking legs he’s climbing the tower; being very doubtful and quite uncertain. But there’s not need to worry. Ahmed is not alone, he can trust in his steady companion: his true friend, the seagull!
The atmosphere calms down, the concentration raises: ready for take-off!
Part Three: The Flight (I’m convinced: in real-time)
The start appears a little wobbly, but then – softly carried away by the thermic – Ahmed and the gull are quite confident. But the tension rises, it’s hard to stay in mid-air, the strength is waning. But the gull is still at Ahmed’s side and carries him through. A steady rise and fall. But at least they cross the Bosporus and land in Doğancılar, where they receive a warm welcome from the astonished spectators. Once again the Sultan is still one of them. Deeply impressed by what he has seen, he presents Ahmed his well-deserved reward.
Part Four: Algerian Exile (once „Final“)
But suddenly his mood is changing. Finally recognizing that Ahmed’s power can weaken his position he has to get rid of him.
There’s only one solution: „GET LOST!“.
Deeply disappointed and in shock Ahmed tries to change the Sultan’s mind. But no way. He and the gull have to leave Istanbul and the country.
Taking part of their burdensome trip through the desert, you feel the different emotional states they are in: anger, disappointment, despair, helpnessless… But the friends supporting each other and finally reach Algeria.
For I don’t know, what moment Fazıl Say decided to let the story end, for me the very last tone has something definite, that I believe, it ends with Ahmed death.
After years in exile, living in grieve and feeling homeless his despaired soul finally founds it’s peace!
When I listened to „Hezarfen“ for the very first time, I instantly had a „film“ before my eyes. This ney-concerto is because of it’s density and depth something very special and should not only be heard but seen too. Because of it’s very flowing way, it’s perfect to be performed on ice (for the elder of us: Torvill/Dean set a masterpiece on ice when performing Ravel’s „Bolero“. Too short for the audience, „Hezarfen“ unfortunately might be too long for ice-dancing.
Remembering the Augburger Puppenkiste performing Mozart’s „Zauberflöte“ this could be another way to make „Hezarfen“ „seen“.
For Fazıl Say not only being a mediator between East and West but also a pioneer for the musical education of children this idea is maybe to think about?
Michaela B.


About Çetin Bayramoğlu

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