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Biography

Born in 1970 in Ankara, Turkey, Fazil Say studied piano and composition at the Ankara State Conservatory. At the age of seventeen he was awarded a scholarship that enabled him to study for five years with David Levine at the Robert Schumann Institute in Düsseldorf. From 1992 to 1995 he continued his studies at the Berlin Conservatory. In 1994 he was the winner of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, which gave a rapid start to his international career.

Fazil Say is a regular guest with the New York Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, the Baltimore Symphony, the St Petersburg Philharmonic , the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, the Vienna Symphny Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, the Orchestre National de France and other leading orchestras across the globe. He has appeared at the Lucerne Festival, the Salzburg Festival, the Ruhr Piano Festival, the Rheingau Music Festival , the Verbier Festival, the Montpellier Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival, Roque d’Antheron, the Beethoven Festival Bonn, and in all the world’s leading concert halls, including the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Berlin Philharmonie, the Vienna Musikverein and Konzerthaus, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall in New York, and many others. In the 2003/04 season he made debuts at the Salzburg Festival, Lincoln Center Festival in New York, Harrod’s Piano Series in London and the World Piano Series in Tokyo . In 2004 he made a major tour of Europe and the USA with Maxim Vengerov, appearing at such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Vienna Musikverein, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Barbican Centre in London, and the Salzburg Festival. In 2006 he formed a duo with outstanding Moldavian violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja.

Say’s passion for jazz and improvisation led him to found a ‘Worldjazz’ quartet with the Turkish ney virtuoso Kudsi Ergüner. During the summer of 2000 the quartet performed to a triumphal reception in St. Denis, Paris, Montpellier, at the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Istanbul Jazz Festival and the Juan-les-Pins Festival. In 2005 and 2007 he made return visits to Montreux for a concert and workshop, appearing with Bobby McFerrin among others , 2008 , as in 2007, he headed as president the Montreux Piano Competition among playing concerts there

Fazil Say is just as much a composer as he is a pianist. He wrote the work Black Hymns at the age of sixteen. In 1991 he premiered his Concerto for Piano and Violin with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, and in 1996 his second piano concerto Silk Road was given its first performance in Boston. Fazil Say played the latter work more than a dozen times in the course of the 2003/04 season and it is maybe the most performed contemporary Piano concerto. His oratorio Nazim, based on poems by the famous Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet and commissioned by the Turkish Ministry of Culture, was premiered in Ankara in 2001 in the presence of Turkey’s President. Say gave the world premiere of his Piano Concerto no. 3 (commissioned by Radio France and Kurt Masur) in Paris with the Orchestre National de France under Eliahu Inbal in January 2002, to great public and critical acclaim. His oratorio Requiem for Metin Altiok was premiered in 2003 at the Istanbul Festival before an audience of 5000. In May 2005 he gave the premiere of his Fourth Piano Concerto, commissioned by ETH Zürich, in Lucerne. He has composed highly virtuosic adaptations for piano and orchestra of such works as Mozart’s Rondo alla turca and Paganini Jazz. The city of Vienna has commissioned a ballet for Mozart Year, which has been given its first performance there on February 1st, 2006. He has also written a new solo piece for the 2006 Salzburg Festival, "Inside Serail". In February 2008, his violin concerto "1001 Nights in the Harem" was premiered in Lucerne by Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the Lucerne Symphony under John Axelrod. It was taped for CD, Radio and TV broadcast and 1 hour later on ‚youtube’.

Fazil Say’s first recording, a Mozart disc released in 1998, garnered rave reviews from the press. His discography includes Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and I Got Rhythm Variations with the New York Philharmonic and Kurt Masur, a Bach recital, and Stravinsky’s own arrangement of Le Sacre du Printemps for four hands (in which Say plays both parts). He has received numerous international awards for this recording, including the 2001 Echo-Preis Klassik and the 2001 German Music Critics’ Best Recording of the Year Award. He has performed the work live to ovations in concert halls around the world. Another of his recordings couples Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no.1 (with the St Petersburg Philharmonic under Yuri Temirkanov) and Franz Liszt’s Piano Sonata.

His first recording under a new contract with Naïve, exclusively devoted to his own works, attracted international attention. The second, acclaimed worldwide as a significant Mozart release, presents three of that composer’s concertos with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra under Howard Griffiths. Fall 2005 a new CD was released with sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven, followed in Spring 2007 by a CD with Haydn sonatas. In fall 2008 his new violin concerto was released as well as a recital CD with Patricia Kopatchinskaja, which was awarded with the prestigious German Record Award „Echo“ in 2009.

Highlights of his schedule for 2005/6 included appearances at the Salzburg, Verbier, and Lucerne Festivals and at Mozart Festivals in Vienna, Zurich, and Warsaw, as well as tours of the USA, Germany, Japan, Israel, Italy (including appearances with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra), South Africa and many other countries.

In May 2005 he composed his first soundtrack, for the film Ultima Thule by the Swiss director Hans-Ulrich Schlumpf (who made Congress of Penguins). Other Soundtracks for Turkish and Japanese films followed in 2006/07.

Fall 2006 Fazil Say signed an exclusive and unlimited contract with Schott Music Publishers Mainz.

In the summer of 2005 the Franco-German television channel Arte shot a full-length portrait of Fazil Say in Istanbul, Aspendos, Munich, and other places, which was broadcasted in early 2006 and will appeared on Arthaus as DVD. In 2005 a DVD production of his work for chorus and orchestra Nazim was filmed in Aspendos, which has been released in Fall 2006.

2008 Say was invited to play at the 60th Anniversary Celebrations of Israel. He played at the Festivals in Edinburgh, Athens,Prague Summer,Cannes , Montpellier, Verbier, Montreux as well as in Wigmore Hall London, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Konzerthaus Vienna, Tonhalle Zürich, Suntory Hall Tokyo, Chatelet Paris, Herodes Atticus Theatre Athens and many others. End of 2008 Say embarked on a 3 ½ weeks tour through Japan with the climax of a 5-days Fazil Say Tokyo Festival.

2008 he was appointed, together with Paul Cuelho among others, Ambassador of Intercultural Dialogue.

March 2010 ends his 5 year Residency at the Konzerthaus Dortmund with a 4 days Festival and with the World Premiere of his First Symphony, „Istanbul“ Symphony, commissioned by Konzerthaus Dortmund and WDR Cologne in connection with Ruhr 2010. May 2010 Elbphilharmonie Hamburg will host Say as Artist-in-Residence with a 1 week Festival, preceded by a Residency at the Chatelet in Paris in March 2010. Fall 2010 will be Meran hosting a 4 days Festival before Say starts his 2010/11 Residency at the Konzerthaus Berlin with not less than 12 concerts in one season.

2010 he will be again guest at the Salzburg Festival with 4 concerts, will play the festivals at Rheingau, Baden-Baden, the Benedetti Michelangeli Festival in Italy, the Menuhin Festival in Gstaad, the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival, Orange Festival, Athens Festival, the Abu Dhabi Classics and many others. He will tour worldwide, among others 3 weeks through China and Japan, France and Spain. At the Baden-Baden Festival he will play in February 2010 a Fazil Say Night with 4 piano concertos by Ravel, Mozart, Gershwin and Say, accompanied by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
This biography was most recently edited by...
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