Review - Black Earth

Artist: Fazil Say


The polyglot existence that is our modern world has typically been clumsily acknowledged by classical musicians and composers. Recently, though, the intertwining threads of the global village have been knotted together more tightly, resulting in truly pan-ethnic performances beholden to multiple musical traditions. 34-year-old pianist/composer Fazil Say is one of the most exciting of these new composers. Though known primarily to American classical audiences as a virtuoso pianist well-versed in decidedly traditional work (Gershwin, Mozart ... Art Tatum), Say is also an impressive composer, and on "Black Earth" he brings to bear all of the disparate elements of his musical background to create a truly stunning work. Although the compositions span the course of a decade, Say and the various orchestras and soloists that accompany him maintain a consistent vision. From the dark insistence of the title piece through classicist fare like his "Sonata for Violin and Piano" and the lighthearted "Dervish in Manhattan" (half jazz, half gypsy) each piece is possessed of a breathless worldliness that's incredibly impressive. When those tendencies are made explicit -- as on "Concerto 'Silk Road'" -- it's dizzyingly apparent that Say is a true 21st century talent of reckoning.