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ClassicsOnline Home » INCE, K.: Symphony No. 5, "Galatasaray" / Requiem Without Words / Hot, Red, Cold, Vibrant / Before Infrared (Bilkent Symphony, Ince)
The driving energy of Turkish/American composer Kamran Ince’s Hot, Red, Cold, Vibrant recalls the motoric rhythms of John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine with some unexpected jolts added. Written for soloists, chorus and large orchestra in 2005, the rousing Symphony No. 5 celebrates the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of Galatasaray, Turkey’s most successful football club. Requiem Without Words mourns the Muslims, Christians and Jews killed in the 2003 terrorist bombings in Istanbul, while Before Infrared creates a sense of a great mass of sound hurtling towards a bright and shimmering Shangri-la.
By Stephen Eddins
By Raymond Tuttle
By Graham Rickson
The Arts Desk
Kamran Ince (b. 1960)
Hot, Red, Cold, Vibrant • Symphony No. 5 ‘Galatasaray’ Requiem Without Words • Before Infrared
Kamran Ince earned his reputation for audacity with such pieces as Hot, Red, Cold, Vibrant, written in 1992 for the California Symphony. His explicit intent was to capture the driving energy of rock on his own terms. This he did, in a juggernaut of a piece that bulls ahead on brawny ostinato figures in the low brasses and low strings and shrieking, gestural, intermittent bits of melody in the high woodwinds. The locomotive rhythm and the substantial amount of repetition in Hot, Red, Cold, Vibrant bring Minimalism to mind, but forget about easing into a Minimalist trance. Ince’s locomotive frequently jumps the tracks by skipping or adding beats or by crashing to a sudden halt. Fearsome, unpredictable whacks on the bass drum jolt the ear and throw off the expected accents. This wild, bumpy ride of a piece clamours for 9 minutes and 32 seconds of undivided attention.
Compared with Hot, Red, Ince’s Symphony No. 5 ‘Galatasaray’ is smooth sailing. He composed this symphony in 2005, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the founding of Galatasaray, Turkey’s most storied and successful football club, under a commission from Muzikotek. It is for orchestra, choir, female and male solo voices and boy soprano. The composer conducted the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra as the piece had its first performance in Istanbul, in December 2005. The Fifth Symphony is an epic occasional piece and among Ince’s most conservative works, in terms of harmony and consistency of tone. As always, Ince selects chords for the quality of their sonorities and eschews functional tonality, but this symphony is generally more consonant and perhaps less raucous than the typical Kamran Ince work. Both İzzeddin Çalışlar’s text and Ince’s score celebrate the glories of the Galatasaray club without irony. The grand, official poetry matches the musical language, which leans toward a post-modernist take on hymns and solemn marches. In the third movement, a swaggering advance in 3/4 time underpins building pre-match excitement, anticipated in sung dialogue between tenor and boy soprano. They are passing down traditions of Galatasaray fandom that date to 1905. With its soloists and chorus and reverent and rousing words and music, the Symphony No. 5 is like an oratorio devoted to a football team.
Requiem Without Words was commissioned by the Istanbul International Music Festival. It mourns the Muslims, Christians and Jews killed in the 2003 terror bombings in Istanbul. It had its première in 2005 during the festival, in Hagia Sophia, the ancient Byzantine church, later mosque, and current state museum and monument to modern, secular Turkey, by the Istanbul Modern Music Ensemble.
An ‘ethnic singer’ opens with a microtonally-inflected wail of a melody, very raw and instantly recognizable in any culture on earth as a cry of grief. Words would be superfluous. A mournful chorus sustains emotional impetus until cut off by a pounding, brutal instrumental passage driven by an implacable bass drum. That sound, punctuated by grief-stricken outcries, speaks of the cruelty and danger in the world. Later, Ince adds a choral Babel of nonsense syllables to simulate the panic and confusion in the aftermath of an attack. At another point, a clarinet calls out a repeated rhythm on a single note; it could be an emergency vehicle’s siren. None of this is literal; the music has no narrative or programme. But no aware citizen of the modern world could miss its meaning. When the noise finally stops, a melody drifts down gentle and pure as a snowflake. Even in a violent world, beauty remains possible. At the very end of the Requiem, a long choral sigh, a free-form impression of a Byzantine chant, descends as if from heaven. Even in a hateful, violent world, final peace is not only possible but inevitable—for all of us. Requiescat in pacem.
Ince wrote Before Infrared (1986) as a companion piece to Infrared Only (1985). Before Infrared also stands complete on its own as a twelve-minute journey. It opens with a heaving, low groaning suggestive of a great iron beast awakening from slumber. A pulse rises so gradually from the orchestra that you barely realize that the music is moving until the train has left the station. This is travelling music not of the airy, gliding sort. The music brightens but does not lighten. The groaning weight heard at the outset persists with the stepped-up velocity. The music creates a sense of great mass hurtling through a vast space. Trumpets call out rapid alarms in the night. Intense, deep drumbeats pound at intervals. Day breaks in a chiming melody of hocketing, overlapping brasses nine minutes into the trip. The pace relaxes, the music lightens ever so gradually and we arrive at our final destination, a bright and shimmering aural Shangri-la.
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