GIORGOS BATZANOS

Maqam Rast


Giorgos Batzanos' life and recordings exemplify the conflict, experimentation and creativity that are an inherent part of 20th-century Turkish classical music. Bacanos was a virtuoso udist and accomplished amateur pianist of mixed Greek origin, Gypsy descent. His instrumental compositions and takasim (improvisations) are among the foundational works of modern Turkish classicism, and this disc provides a fascinating, though ultimately frustrating glimpse into his work. Why "frustrating"? The answer lies partly in the sweeping social and cultural reforms instituted by Mustafa Kemal Atatόrk after the foundation of the secular Republic of Turkey in 1923. Ottoman-era music was banned from concert performance for many years; Western scales and compositional devices were politely but insistently forced on conservatories, and the language and landscape of Turkish culture were forever altered. And Bacanos, who worked as a lead musician for Turkish state radio, didn't seem to care all that much about recording contracts. The cuts on this important (though fragmentary) anthology were assembled from rare 78s, airchecks and what appear to be privately-made recordings. Bacanos began avidly experimenting with Western compositional devices and new playing techniques for the ud while still in his teens. This is evident on his recordings from the late 1920s, where near-Listzian chromatic runs and flamenco-style picking are balanced by his ability to recast classical and folkloric music in a highly individual vein. But his no-holds-barred playing on a 1940s quintet recording of "Kόrdilihicazkar peshrev" (by Ottoman-era composer Tatyos Efendi) reveals his great affinity for earlier classical music. Although Bacanos achieved a lasting reputation as one of the great innovators of modern ud playing by pushing the limits of the Turkish classical repertoire and playing technique to a previously undreamt-of degree, in many ways he was a traditionalist in revolutionary guise. I'd like to hear a more balanced anthology of his work - however, due to the scarcity of extant recordings, that may be a long time coming.