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ClassicsOnline Home » INCE, K.: Symphony No. 3, "Siege of Vienna" / Symphony No. 4, "Sardis" (Prague Symphony, Ince)
‘That rare composer able to sound connected with modern music, and yet still seem exotic’ (Los Angeles Times)
Winner of the Prix de Rome and the Lili Boulanger Prize Kamran Ince was born in Montana to American/Turkish parents, but educated in Turkey before settling in the USA at the beginning of the 1980s. Much of his work continues to be inspired by his love for the country of his upbringing. Symphony No. 4 ‘Sardis’‚ is a depiction of a Bronze-age archeological site, complete with vivid images of dramatic Turkish landscapes. Ince describes his Symphony No. 3 ‘Siege of Vienna’‚ as ‘a synthesis of West and East ... a meeting of the characteristics of the two' portrayed through the battles between Ottoman East and Habsburg West in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Winner of the Prix de Rome and Lili Boulanger Prize,
Kamran Ince was born in Montana to American/Turkish
parents. Growing up in Turkey (1966-80), he trained at
the Ankara and Izmir State Conservatories (theory,
cello, piano), before returning to America to work with
Samuel Adler, David Burge, Christopher Rouse and
Joseph Schwantner at Oberlin and the Eastman School
of Music (gaining his doctorate). Formerly Composerin-
Residence with the California Symphony (1991-93),
he is Professor of Composition at the University of
Memphis, Co-Director of the Dr Erol Üçer Center for
Advanced Music Research (MIAM), Istanbul Technical
University, and Founder-Director of the Istanbul
Modern Music Ensemble.
Written mainly to commission, Kamran Ince’s
predominantly instrumental catalogue embraces
symphonies, concertos, chamber music and scores for
ballet and film. His music expresses the topography of a
country which stretches from the High Taurus to the
Caucasus, the Aegean to the Mediterranean and Black
Sea, ‘a fantastical jumble of mountains, deserts, plains
and ocean’, as one commentator has described Ince’s
muscular, primeval, neo-romantic style. But there is also
a quality about it that is very American, the untamed
America of the wild, open spaces of the Montana of the
first six years of his boyhood.
Principal inland trading-post on the road to the
Orient, Ferdinand and Leopold’s Vienna stood at the
frontier between Europe and the ‘Turkes’, Christianity
and Islam. The Ottomans laid siege to the Habsburgs
twice – under Süleyman the Magnificent in 1529 and
Mehmet IV in 1683. Against expectations neither
attempt succeeded. The lighter spoils of war, on the
other hand, did – ‘Turkish music’, coffee, croissants
symbolic of the ‘Great Flag of Mahommed’ – ensuring
the old lion from the East would never be forgotten. The
Third Symphony, Siege of Vienna (September 1994 -
March 1995) was commissioned by the Albany
Symphony Orchestra. The orchestral forces are notably
substantial, including an extensive percussion battery,
piano, synthesizer and electric bass guitar.
Exceptionally, there are passages also for a quartet of
Wagner tubas – which instruments, courtesy of the
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, we decided to retain in
the present recording, dispensing with the horns
otherwise indicated in the score. Using material, Ince
says, that is ‘a synthesis of West and East […] a meeting
of the characteristics of the two,’ the work falls ‘loosely’
into five movements subdivided into eight scenes,
played without a break.
I Long March [introduction] ‘King of all the
Inhabitants of the Earth, and of the Earthly Paradise […]
Lord of all the Emperours of the World, from the rising
of the Sun to the going down thereof, King of all Kings,
Lord of the Tree of Life […] I will make my self your
Master, pursue you from East to West, and extend my
Majesty to the end of the Earth’ (The Great Turks
Declaration of War Against the Emperour of Germany,
20th February 1683).
II City under Siege [second movement, A]. The
thrust and parry of attack … raining fire … scattered
lives in prayer … the pounding percussion and shrill,
braying timbres of Turkish battle music.
III War of the Walls [second movement, B].
Mehmet’s adviser, Evliya Çelebi, visiting in 1665,
considered Vienna’s ramparts ‘a menacing fortress […]
as strong as Alexander’s castles’. In the summer of 1683
the Ottomans, taking no prisoners, were a mere 450
paces away, the sultan’s elite Janissary corps even
IV Forgotten Souls [third movement]. A Homeric
requiem for the forsaken, lamenting ‘the bloody
business of the day’. The third and fifth sections focus
on a harmonically static cloud of 86 briskly rising and
falling Aeolian scales, combined with a varied version
of the opening section’s scale melody – scene-painting
suggestive of the ‘Prayers and Tears of a Cast-down and
Mournful People,’ the ‘Fire Works’ of Islam racing the
horizon like zephyrs across the sky.
V Calls [fourth movement, A]. War Signal. Call to
Prayer – ‘like imams calling in close but different
locations,’ imagines Ince, ‘all a little out of sync’.
VI Final Assault [fourth movement, B]. Sunday
12th September 1683. Sunrise, ‘hot Skirmishes’.
Afternoon, ‘fierce heat’. Fighting ‘from ridge to valley
[…] valley to ridge’. Charge of Sobieski’s Polish
cavalry from the heights of Kahlenberg.
VII Victorious City [fourth movement, C]. No bells
but raucous, triumphant Lydian ‘Polish’ whoops
alternating with falling ‘Teuton’ bass fourths as the
enemy is put to flight, ‘leaving the Plunder of their
Camp behind them’.
VIII The Great Retreat [finale]. What vanquished
men on the Danube-Balkans road ‘must have felt
marching back to Constantinople’ and winter.
Domes (February - April 1993), for flute/piccolo,
clarinet, bass clarinet/E flat clarinet, bassoon, two horns,
trumpet, bass trombone, harp, piano and strings, was
commissioned by the California Symphony. An
organically inter-related nocturne of dipping
suspension-bridge design, the mood throughout, Ince
writes, is of ‘spiritual obsessiveness, ever descending
lines searching for something, trying to feel what they
are searching for, to seek out what they are feeling -
rather like Whirling Sufi Dervishes’.
Calling for an orchestra including three percussionists,
piano, mandolin, electric guitar and bass guitar, Ince’s
Fourth Symphony, Sardis (July 1999-July 2000) was
commissioned by Crawford H Greenewalt Jr, Director
of Excavations at the Sardis site north-east of Ephesus
(Harvard-Cornell Expedition). Commanding the
corridor to the Anatolian Plateau, Sardis (present-day
Sart) dates from the Bronze Age. Capital of Lydia in the
first millennium BC, it was besieged and plundered by
the Persians c546 BC, becoming subsequently the
western terminus of the ‘Royal Road’ to Susa. Later it
surrendered to Alexander the Great. Important as a
pulpit of early Christianity (one of the ‘Seven Churches
of Asia’ addressed in Revelation), sheltering a privileged
Jewish community, it came under the Arabs in 716
before passing into Turkish hands around the eleventh
I Hermus River. Palaeolithic man walked here, the
Hittites too. Ince gives us slow, circular, ‘very free’,
dynamically rising and falling modal music, the string
players murmuring as they bow their notes.
II Necropol. More than a thousand rock-cut Lydian
tombs are found in the valley hills of the gold-bearing
Pactolus overlooking the twin-standing columns of the
Temple of Artemis, mother goddess of Hellenistic Asia
III Acropol. A craggy, weathered peak defining the
city’s high outline. The movement includes two largescale
incursions - the second using ritualistic repetitions
and thunderous, flaying bass-drum double-attacks to
create an enveloping sense of the mightily wheeling
‘chariots and armoured footmen of Lydia’ recalled by
IV Thousand Hills. To the north lies the royal burial
ground of the Lydian kings – a ‘strange lunar landscape
[…] where a hundred earthen cones [tumuli], simulating
nature’s hills, commemorate human vanity’ (Greenewalt
V Tmolus Mountain. ‘Holy Tmolus’ was sacred to
Cybele, goddess of Sardis. Twice Ince tackles the massif
– jagged, stabbing tutti chords edged in the dissonances
of storm lightning. Twice an oboe returns – ‘an idée fixe
representing the mountain’s grandness and eternity’.
The faster central section, a long dynamic ascent with
recessed solo violin, is an Ivesian tumult. In the coda the
high repeated As of the final clause remember Necropol
to the call of cicadas beneath the last star of dawn.
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INCE, K.: Symphony No. 3, "Siege of Vienna" / Symp...