Beginning around the 1820s, the refinement of the piano mechanism increased the expressiveness of the instrument’s sonority and further attracted the composers’ attention and curiosity about the instrument. Concentration on piano music became a trend for composers between the mid to late nineteenth century. During this period, the massive output of music for piano and extremely developed keyboard techniques resulted in classical composers searching for fresh ideas. Starting in the twentieth century, composers became increasingly interested in music outside the classical world and new interpretations of meter, harmony, and form. As early as the 1910s, composers included tone clusters generated at keyboard and soon afterwards, began “playing” the internal components of the piano including strings. Concurrently, they blended different styles within a piece according to their cultural and educational background. A prime example of this compositional trend is the classically-trained Turkish pianist-composer Fazil Say (b. 1970). His ability as a pianist reflects his strong classical training as well as a stylistic freedom partly derived from jazz. Say’s inspiration is also drawn from his Turkish heritage, as traditional folk elements have helped to shape his compositions. Representing Say’s education, passion, and ethnic background, the three elements of classical, jazz, and folk music have become his primary devices within his solo piano compositions.
This brief investigation of Say’s life to date and his piano works offers an insight into the correlation between the multi-cultural environments in which he has lived and the formation of his styles. Chapter one, the summary of his life and educational background, illustrates the fact that the three facets within his piano compositions are strongly rooted in his exposure to different environments. The second chapter presents a clear overview of the development of Say’s compositional idiom and a deeper look at selected piano compositions: his transcription of J. S. Bach’s Passacaglia in C Minor, BWV 582, Three Ballads, Black Earth, Alla Turca Jazz, and Paganini Jazz. The goal is to provide current and future pianists with insight into the expressive performance of one composer’s extremely successful hybridization of classical, jazz, and Turkish folk music.