With his extraordinary pianistic talents, Fazıl Say has been touching audiences and critics alike for more twenty-five years in a way that has become rare in the increasingly materialistic and elaborately organised classical music world. Concerts with this artist are something else. They are more direct, more open, more exciting; in short, they go straight to the heart. Which is exactly what the composer Aribert Reimann thought in 1987 when, during a visit to Ankara, he had the opportunity, more or less by chance, to appreciate the playing of the seventeen-year-old pianist. He immediately asked the American pianist David Levine, who was accompanying him on the trip, to come to the city’s conservatory, using the now much-quoted words: ‘You absolutely must hear him, this boy plays like a devil.’
Fazıl Say had his first piano lessons from Mithat Fenmen, who had himself studied with Alfred Cortot in Paris. Perhaps sensing just how talented his pupil was, Fenmen asked the boy to improvise every day on themes to do with his daily life before he went on to the essential piano exercises and studies. This contact with free creative processes and forms was the source of the immense improvisatory talent and the aesthetic outlook that make Fazıl Say the pianist and composer he is today. He has been commissioned to write music for the Salzburg Festival, the WDR, the Dortmund Konzerthaus, the Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern festivals and the Munich Biennale, among others. His output includes compositions for solo Keyboard and chamber music as well as solo concertos and large-scale orchestral works.
From 1987 onwards, Fazıl Say fine-tuned his skills as a classical pianist with David Levine, first at the Musikhochschule Robert Schumann in Düsseldorf and later in Berlin; this formed the aesthetic basis for his Mozart and Schubert interpretations in particular. His outstanding technique very quickly enabled him to master the so-called warhorses of the repertoire with sovereign ease. And it is precisely this blend of refinement (in Bach, Haydn, and Mozart) and virtuoso brilliance in the works of Liszt, Mussorgsky and Beethoven that gained him victory at the Young Concert Artists international competition in New York in 1994. Since then he has played with all the famous American and European orchestras and numerous leading conductors and has built up a multifaceted repertoire ranging from Bach, through the Viennese Classics (Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven) and the Romantics, right up to contemporary music, including his own piano compositions.
Guest appearances have taken Fazıl Say to countless countries on all five continents; the French newspaper Le Figaro called him ‘a genius’. In addition, he also appears regularly in chamber music: for many years he formed a fantastic duo with the violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, and among his other notable partners are the Argentinian cellist Sol Gabetta, the Borusan Quartet of Istanbul, and other Turkish instrumental soloists. …/.
From 2005 to 2010 he was an exclusive artist at the Dortmund Konzerthaus; during the 2010/11 season he was artist in residence at the Berlin Konzerthaus; and he was a focal point of the programme of the Schleswig-Holstein Festival in the summer of 2011. There have been further residencies and Fazıl Say festivals in Paris, Tokyo, Meran, Hamburg, and Istanbul. During the 2012/13 season Fazil Say is artist in residence at the Hessischer Rundfunk in Frankfurt/ Main.
His recordings of works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin and Stravinsky have been highly praised by the critics and won several prizes. Since 2003 Fazıl Say has been under exclusive contract to the Naive label. He lives in Istanbul and has a daughter.