Music and Vision homepage

Ahmet Adnan Saygun

The Turkish composer, musicologist and teacher Ahmet Adnan Saygun was born in Izmir on 7 September 1907. By the age of fourteen he had decided he wanted to write music. He took music lessons at school and privately, but was largely self-taught.

After teaching music in Izmir for a couple of years, the Turkish state funded his composition studies at the Schola Cantorum in Paris with Vincent d'Indy. Three years later, with an award for and a performance of his first large orchestral work, Divertimento, he returned to Turkey and taught at a new music teacher training college founded by Kemal Atatürk.

In 1934 he was appointed conductor of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, and was approached by Atatürk to write the first Turkish opera, Özsoy, about the history of Turkey after World War I. Following the work's success, Saygun wrote a second opera, Tasbebek.

By this time he had become Turkey's musical hero, and he moved to Istanbul to teach at the State Conservatory of Music. Bartók visited Turkey to collect and research the folk music, and the two composers became friends and travelled together.

Saygun soon formed his own organisation to promote Western classical music in Turkey, and in 1946 his oratorio Yunus Emre put him on the international map, with a performance in New York under Stokowski. He soon wrote three more operas, two symphonies, a piano concerto and lots of chamber music.

He became very influential on the western musical scene in Turkey, serving on various boards and committees, then retiring in 1972 but continuing to teach composition and musicology at Istanbul's State Conservatory until his death in Istanbul on 6 January 1991.

Saygun has become known as a member of the so-called Turkish Five - a group of composer pioneers of western classical music. The other members of the group were Ulvi Cemal Erkin, Cemal Resit Rey, Hasan Ferit Alnar and Necil Kazım Akses.

A selection of M&V articles about Ahmet Adnan Saygun

Ensemble. Poise and Grace - Bill Newman listens to Emre Engin and Alison Rhind

Masks - Jennifer Paull continues her investigation of musical and theatrical masks

Masks - Jennifer Paull investigates a layering of musical and theatrical masks, with the omnipresent eerie reminder of the gas mask

CD Spotlight. Eminently Agreeable - Piano music by Ahmet Adnan Saygun, recommended by Howard Smith. '... unfailing rhythmic clarity and beautifully controlled dynamics ...'

-------

 << Music & Vision home                Classical music news >>