Life and works of Ahmed Adnan Saygun
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Ahmed Adnan Saygun (1907-1991) was one of Turkey's most prominent composers, described in The Times obituary as "the grand old man of Turkish music, who was to his country what Sibelius is to Finland, what de Falla is to Spain and what Bartók is to Hungary" (15 January 1991). Yet so far Saygun's life and works have never been the subject of a critical study in or outside Turkey. This thesis aims to create a comprehensible picture of his life and music for the first time. Divided into three parts, Part I of the thesis presents an annotated biography, preceded by a short introductory survey on the state of European music within the Ottoman Empire, which was significant in Saygun's upbringing. Taking as source material scattered newspaper articles, interviews and hitherto unpublished letters and a diary belonging to the composer, Part I focuses on Saygun's musical upbringing in Izmir and his subsequent education in Paris under Vincent d'Indy at the Schola Cantorum between 1928 and 1931. Also amongst the issues that are addressed here is the important role Saygun played in the musical life of the country on his return to Turkey from Paris, which was being rapidly transformed under Kemal Atatürk's reform movement; his enthusiasm for Turkish folk-music which led to a collaboration with Bela Bartók that finally culminated in the latter's celebrated field-trip to Anatolia in 1936 and his friendship with Michael Tippett, drawn from Tippett's original unpublished letters. The thesis shows that Saygun was not only responsible for training future musicians of Turkey in Western compositional techniques, but also himself wrote works in line with the country's modem music policy which took the principles of European polyphonic music as a model. As a prolific composer Saygun's output comprised five operas, five symphonies, three string quartets, five concertos and a wide range of chamber and choral music. Taking selective works, Part II looks at his developing style, beginning with the influence of the Schola Cantorum education and the effects of the music policy of the early republican years on his output and establishes him as the national composer of Turkey. Works discussed include the oratorio Yunus Emre (1942), his most celebrated work, which immediately became a symbol of the music reforms and was subsequently conducted by Leopold Stokowski in New York in 1958, the first two string quartets, the first two symphonies and the two piano concertos. Part III is a catalogue raisonné which has been compiled through evaluating existing lists of works and going through all the autograph manuscript scores of the composer that are housed at the Bilkent University Adnan Saygun Archives in Ankara. Since Saygun's works have never been systematically catalogued before, the information given here includes dates of composition, instrumentation, duration, dedication, location of manuscripts, publication and recording details, as well as translations of hitherto unpublished analytical notes on certain works written by the composer.