Fazil Say

Fazil Say Plays Haydn

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Fazil Say Plays Haydn Review

by James Manheim

This is a disc of music by Turkish-born pianist Fazil Say -- one can't really say by Haydn. It's hard to blame Say for his well-known antics, which most famously include humming along with something other than the melody. Modern marketing is all about filling niches, and the one once occupied by Glenn Gould is wide open. As with Gould, Say doubtless brings something important to music where he achieves a meeting of minds with the composer. But it doesn't happen with Haydn. The delicate balance of these earlier Haydn sonatas is shattered by Say's capricious shifts in tempo and accent and his far overwrought treatments of Haydn's deadpan, often neo-Baroque slow movements. It is not just a question of idiosyncratic interpretations here. Say's playing superficially resembles that of Mikhail Pletnev, but Pletnev, when he plays Mozart, never gives anything less than the impression of an individualistic mind making its way into fascinating music, even when he tries to draw the listener along paths that are difficult to follow. Say, by contrast, seems to use Haydn as a springboard merely for the structures he himself can impose on the music. Sample track 4, the first movement of the Sonata in A flat major, Hob. 16/43, with its drastic shifts in articulation (that wouldn't have been possible on an instrument Haydn used), and disagree if you will -- or agree that this is me-generation music-making.

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