The Basel Symphony Orchestra is one of the oldest and most important orchestras in Switzerland. It is rooted in the north-west of Switzerland and at the same time enjoys a more than regional as well as international radiance. The Basel Symphony Orchestra is always again demonstrating anew its excellent quality, whether it be in its own concert tiers, in the Theater Basel or in guest concerts at home or abroad. Since 2009, the principal conductor has been the renowned American conductor and pianist Dennis Russell Davies.
Among the conductors with whom the Basel Symphony Orchestra has been or is closely bound are to be found names such as Mario Venzago, Valery Gergiev or Pierre Boulez, as well as Nello Santi, Otto Klemperer, Horst Stein, Armin Jordan, Walter Weller, Gary Bertini, Antal Dorati, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Gustav Mahler, Felix Weingartner or Johannes Brahms. The Basel Symphony Orchestra has had world premieres for a whole range of the most important works of the twentieth century, among others those of Béla Bartók, Arthur Honegger and Bohuslav Martinu.
Numerous CD productions, some of which received international acclaim and awards, give record of the orchestra’s work. Since a few years ago the Basel Symphony Orchestra has been demonstrating an increasing international presence. In 2010, for example, the orchestra toured around China. It has also played two much accredited for concerts in St. Petersburg and Moscow in fall 2012 and has recently toured around England in spring 2014.
Dennis Russell Davies’ activities as an opera and concert conductor, and as a pianist and chamber musician, are characterized by an extensive repertoire from Baroque to modern music. Widely considered to be one of the most innovative conductors in the classical music world, Dennis Russell Davies has successfully challenged and inspired audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. He is noted for his exciting and well-structured concert programmes and for close working relationships with many composers, such as William Bolcom, John Cage, Manfred Trojahn, Philip Glass, Heinz Winbeck, Hans Werner Henze etc.
After first appointments as Musical Director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Chief Conductor of the American Composers Orchestra in New York, Davies moved to Europe. He held positions as Music Director of the Staatsoper Stuttgart, Chief Conductor of the Beethovenhalle Orchestra and Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Music Director of the Bonn Opera and the International Beethoven Festival. In Austria, he was appointed Chief Conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and entrusted with a conducting professorship at the Salzburg Mozarteum in 1997. In 2002 Davies became Chief Conductor of the Bruckner Orchestra Linz as well as Opera Director at the Landestheater Linz. Since August 2009 he assumed responsibility as Chief Conductor of the Basel Symphony Orchestra, Switzerland.
In Europe he has worked with Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala di Milano, Munich and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras, Concertgebouw Amsterdam and so on. After his début at the Bayreuth Festival 1978-1980 his operatic work has included conducting at Salzburg Festival, Lincoln Center Festival New York, Houston Grand Opera, Hamburg and the Bavarian State Operas, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Metropolitan Opera New York and Opéra National de Paris.
Dennis Russell Davies was born in Toledo (Ohio) in 1944 and studied piano and conducting at the Juilliard School, New York. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Fazil Say wrote his first piece – a piano sonata – as early as 1984, at the age of fourteen, when he was a student at the Conservatory of his home town Ankara. It was followed, in this early phase of his development, by several chamber works without an opus number, including Schwarze Hymnen for violin and piano and a guitar concerto. He subsequently designated as his opus 1 one of the works that he had played in the concert that won him the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York: the Four Dances of Nasreddin Hodja. This work already displays in essence the significant features of his personal style: a rhapsodic, fantasia-like basic structure; a variable rhythm, often dance-like, though formed through syncopation; a continuous, vital driving pulse; and a wealth of melodic ideas that may often be traced back to themes from the folk music of Turkey and its neighbours. In these respects, Fazil Say stands to some extent in the tradition of composers like Béla Bartók, George Enescu, and György Ligeti, who also drew on the rich musical folklore of their countries. He attracted international attention with the piano piece Black Earth (1997), in which he employs techniques familiar to us from John Cage and his works for prepared piano. After this, Say increasingly turned to the large orchestral forms. Taking his inspiration from the poetry (and the biographies) of the writers Nâzim Hikmet and Metin Altiok, he composed works for soloists, chorus and orchestra which, especially in the case of the oratorio Nâzim, clearly take up the tradition of composers such as Carl Orff.
In addition to the modern European instrumentarium, Say also makes frequent and deliberate use in these compositions of instruments from his native Turkey, including kudüm and darbuka drums and the ney reed flute. This gives the music a colouring that sets it apart from many comparable creations in this genre. In the year 2007 he aroused international interest with his Violin Concerto 1001 Nights in the Harem, which is based on the celebrated tales of the same name, but deals specifically with the fate of seven women from a harem. Since its world premiere by Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the piece has already received further performances in many international concert halls. Fazil Say scored a further great success with his first symphony, the Istanbul Symphony, premiered in 2010 at the conclusion of his five-year residency at the Konzerthaus Dortmund. Jointly commissioned by the WDR and the Konzerthaus Dortmund in the framework of Ruhr.2010, the work constitutes a vibrant and poetic tribute to the metropolis on the Bosporus and its millions of inhabitants. The same year saw the composition, among other pieces, of his Divorce String Quartet (based on atonal principles), and commissioned works like the Piano Concerto Nirvana Burning for the Salzburg Festival and a Trumpet Concerto for the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival, premiered by Gábor Boldoczki.
In response to a commission from the 2011 Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Say has also written a Clarinet Concerto for Sabine Meyer that refers to the life and work of the Persian poet Omar Khayyam. Fazil Say’s works are issued worldwide by the renowned music publishers Schott of Mainz.
Symphony No. 32 in G major, KV 318--W.A. Mozart
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, Op. 37--L.v. Beethoven