Fazil Say

Debut at Luzerner Sinfonieorchester on January 13th 2025

With his extraordinary pianistic ability, Fazıl Say has been touching audiences and critics alike for almost 30 years in a way that has become rare. Concerts with this artist are different concerts; they are more direct, more open, more exciting. In short: they go straight to the heart. This is what the composer Aribert Reimann must have meant when, during a visit to Ankara in 1986, he had the pleasure, more or less by chance, of hearing the then 16-year-old. He immediately asked his companion, the American pianist David Levine, to come to the conservatoire in the Turkish capital, and he did so with the words that have since become commonplace: “You have to listen to him, the boy plays like a devil”.

Fazıl Say received his first piano lessons from Mithat Fenmen, a pianist who had studied with Alfred Cortot in Paris. Fenmen – perhaps sensing how great the boy’s talent was – asked his pupil to first improvise every day on everyday themes before engaging in the necessary piano exercises and studies. It was in this engagement with free creative processes and forms that the origin was laid for the enormous improvisational talent and aesthetic outlook that forms the core of pianist and composer Fazıl Say’s self-image. As a composer, Fazıl Say has been commissioned by Boston Symphony Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the BBC, Salzburger Festspiele, WDR, Münchner Philharmoniker, Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Wiener Konzerthaus, Dresdner Philharmonie, Fondation Louis Vuitton, among others. His Oeuvre includes five symphonies, two oratorios, various solo concertos and numerous piano and chamber music works.

Fazıl Say received his fine-tuning as a classical pianist from 1987 onwards with David Levine, first at the Musikhochschule “Robert Schumann” in Düsseldorf, and later in Berlin. In addition, he regularly attended master classes with Menahem Pressler. Moreover, his outstanding technique soon enabled him to master the so-called war horses of world literature with astonishing aplomb, and it was precisely this mixture of subtlety in Haydn, Bach and Mozart, and virtuoso brilliance in the works of Liszt, Mussorgsky or Beethoven that finally led to his victory at the International “Young Concert Artists” Competition in New York in 1994. Fazıl Say has subsequently performed with all the renowned American and European orchestras and numerous great conductors, developing a diverse repertoire ranging from compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach to the “classics” Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, as well as Romantic and contemporary music, including his own compositions for piano.

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