American-born composer Kamran Ince has turned to subjects from Turkey for many of his most familiar works, which combine elements of minimalism, neo-Romanticism, rock, and Middle Eastern folk traditions in a distinctive synthesis. Ince's music is vividly and idiosyncratically orchestrated and his best work is unconventionally imaginative. Two of the pieces recorded here, his Fifth Symphony and Requiem Without Words, have specifically Turkish subject matter, and the shorter works, Hot, Red, Cold, Vibrant and Before Infrared are more abstract.
It probably would not be going out on much of a limb to posit that Ince's Fifth Symphony, "Galatasaray," is the most substantial piece of music ever written in celebration of a soccer club. Lasting over 30 minutes, the four-movement symphony uses soloists and chorus and features texts by poet Izzeddin Çalislar praising the Turkish team. The notes describe it as "an epic occasional piece," and if one did not know the subject matter, one might guess that its topic was a grand national saga. What's missing is any sense of playfulness or fun. Most movements are dominated by darkly minor tonalities, and when a major key does break through, it is soberly grandiose; the listener is left with the impression that soccer is a matter of life and death, not an activity from which anyone might actually derive pleasure. The other pieces are more effective. In Requiem Without Words, an anguished, deeply felt memorial to victims of the 2003 Istanbul terrorist attacks, the grim tone is entirely appropriate. The two shorter works occasionally call to mind the music of John Adams, but they are colorful, spirited, and evocative, and they don't wear out their welcome. The composer conducts the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra and the Turkish Ministry of Culture Choir in committed performances.