Fahir Atakoglu

Fahir Atakoglu: East Side Story

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No booklet is included with this release, and even the few notes on the back cover don't enlighten the general listener much -- perhaps the CD was meant primarily as a souvenir release for those attending productions of the work. In one place it is said to be music for a production at the Istanbul National Ballet in Turkey, but elsewhere it is indicated that a novel called Agir Roman was adapted for the Istanbul National Opera and Ballet; there are short spoken passages in the music but not really any singing. Even if one goes searching on the Internet it is not easy to come up with a description of the action the music is meant to accompany. All of which is disappointing, because the music itself is quite exciting -- heavily percussive, with a mixture of Turkish and Western idioms. One can place world music for symphonic ensemble on a spectrum ranging from that which treats the Western orchestra simply as a stand-in or amplification for the music's traditional elements (Ravi Shankar's concertos for sitar and orchestra are good examples) to essentially Western music that uses indigenous sounds as exotic elements. What makes the music of Fahir Atakoglu exciting is that he draws on colors from several points along this spectrum, sometimes using the orchestral strings as a kind of giant saz or tar, but elsewhere using essentially melodic conceptions where the chief Turkish flavor is the mode. Various conceptions can be mixed within the course of each of the 18 short numbers that make up this album, and the opening percussion rhythms of many of them hold the attention even of the listener with little idea of what's going on. This disc, taken by itself, whets the interest for more of Atakoglu's music (he has also collaborated with Western jazz artists) or for a production of East Side Story, which has apparently been performed at several places in the U.S. as well as in Istanbul.

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