I was sitting there simply mesmerized by this coloratura soprano, who showed an incredible endurance-both physically and pschologically-during her recital in the early 90's in Istanbul. Half of the recently inaugurated hall , which unfortunately is not necessarily very appropriate for voice recitals, was empty. I couldn’t clap but I was waiting for the encore. And there she comes, the magnificent June Anderson, accompanied by another magnificent artist Jeff Cohen , once again on stage. She started to sing Juliette’s aria from Gounod’s Romeo&Juliette and as the crucial ascending line came, I didn’t know where she was heading! She stopped Cohen with her hand, apologized from the audience by saying she hadn’t sang it for quite a while. The warm laughters and applause in the audience gave her the time to tell Jeff Cohen where to cue up and she finished the aria with elegance and glamour. Well, we are all humans and certainly not machines, but I couldn’t stop myself thinking what would had been if this occured in Carnegie or Wigmore Hall.
One of my favorite Turkish pianists was, at least used to be Fazıl Say . I can’t have enough of his Bach recording. I listened to him alive in a program ending with the Prokoviev sonata no 7 in France a couple years ago. It was impressive: crystal clear, very nuanced and colourful. Interestingly I didn’t have the chance to hear the same performance level whenever he played in Turkey. This summer he offered quite a challenging program during the Istanbul Music Festival “Mozart Marathon With Fazıl Say”: the cycle of complete Mozart piano sonatas. When the program was announced, it certainly reminded me of Barenboim’s Beethoven cycle and Andras Schiff’s with his delicious lectures accompanying them. And lately, the one by Hüseyin Sermet, one of the best and finest Turkish pianists, who was awarded not only for the revival of the French composer Alkan in the late 80's but on different occassions for his excellent interpretations.
Well, the Mozart Marathon didn’t go as I’ve expected it to be. Say was not even mediocre. Yes, he showed us that he was a good sightreader, who was deciphering perfectly but certainly not playing! What is this? Why? The audience in Turkey might not be the most literate one, since the recital series has been claimed to be the “revival of Salzburg nights”. An artist certainly plays for the audience, but foremost for himself, for the wow he has given to himself: to cherish and respect the art by his act. In this case, it’s really very hard to understand the disgrace brought to Mozart by such an excellent pianist appearantly everywhere else than his homeland!