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Nicolas Altstaedt, Cello
Fazil Say, Piano

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 7:30 PM Weill Recital Hall
Cellist Nicolas Altstaedt, called “compelling” (The New York Times) and praised for his “muscular playing” (The Guardian), partners with Fazil Say, one of the most notable pianist-composers of our day. Two 20th-century cello sonatas are featured. Debussy’s is brief but beautiful, while Shostakovich’s has one of his trademark sardonic scherzos, a melancholy Largo, and impish finale. There’s also colorful music by Janáček inspired by a Russo-Turkish fairy tale, and Say’s evocative portrait of the cities on the Anatolian peninsula of his native Turkey.


Nicolas Altstaedt, Cello
Fazil Say, Piano


DEBUSSY Cello Sonata

FAZIL SAY Dört Şehir (Four Cities)

JANÁČEK Pohádka (Fairy Tale)



FAZIL SAY "Bodrum" from Dört Şehir (Four Cities)

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.

Distinctive Debuts is supported by endowment gifts from The Lizabeth and Frank Newman Charitable Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

At a Glance

CLAUDE DEBUSSY  Cello Sonata in D Minor

One of Debussy’s last works, the Cello Sonata was part of an ambitious project to recapture the clarity and balance that the quintessentially Gallic composer associated with France’s musical patrimony. The music is by turns lyrical and fantastical, rambunctious and refined.  


FAZIL SAY  Dört Şehir (Four Cities)

A virtuoso pianist, Turkish composer Fazil Say displays a flair for drama and musical depiction. In this four-part musical travelogue, he takes the listener on a tour of his native land. Laced with allusions to Turkish culture, the four movements reflect the contrasting characters of the eponymous cities.


LEOŠ JANÁČEK  Pohádka (Fairy Tale)

In this wordless dialogue between two lovers, inspired by a Slavic folk legend, the cello plays the part of an ardent tsar and the piano plays the part of the coquettish princess he is pursuing. Janáček’s Pohádka deserves to be heard more often; it represents the Czech composer at the top of his form.    


DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH  Cello Sonata in D Minor, Op. 40

Like much of Shostakovich’s music, the 1934 Cello Sonata veers from one stylistic and emotional extreme to another. In harmonizing these diverse and often discordant elements, the Russian composer created a highly personal musical language of extraordinary power and beauty.


Nicolas Altstaedt

Renowned worldwide for his musical integrity and effortless virtuosity, German-French cellist Nicolas Altstaedt is one of the most sought-after and versatile artists today. Following his ...

Renowned worldwide for his musical integrity and effortless virtuosity, German-French cellist Nicolas Altstaedt is one of the most sought-after and versatile artists today. Following his debut with Gustavo Dudamel and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra as a recipient of the 2010 Credit Suisse Young Artist Award, Mr. Altstaedt has enthralled audiences with repertoire that spans music of the Baroque era to contemporary works.

At the beginning at the 2017–2018 season, Mr. Altstaedt performed the highly acclaimed Finnish premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Cello Concerto under the baton of the composer at the Helsinki Festival. He is currently an Artist in Spotlight at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and will perform with Krzysztof Urbanski, Hannu Lintu, and Christoph Eschenbach at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie. Mr. Altstaedt also will tour major European venues with the SWR Symphonieorchester and Teodor Currentzis, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Thomas Dausgaard, Orchestre national de France and Emmanuel Krivine, and Amsterdam Sinfonietta.

Additional engagements include debut performances with Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre National de Belgique, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, Konzerthausorchester Berlin with Juraj Valčuha, and Les Violons du Roy. As a conductor, Mr. Altstaedt appears with the English and Scottish chamber orchestras this season.

Mr. Altstaedt was chosen by Gidon Kremer to become his successor as the new artistic director of the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival in 2012. In 2014, Ádám Fischer asked Mr. Altstaedt to follow in his footsteps as artistic director of the Haydn Philharmonie, with whom he regularly performs at Vienna’s Konzerthaus and the Esterházy String Quartet Festival, and with whom he tours to both China and Japan next season.

Mr. Altstaedt’s recent recording of C. P. E. Bach’s concertos on Hyperion with Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo received the 2017 BBC Music Magazine Concerto Award. Previous recordings of cello concertos by Haydn, Schumann, Ligeti, Shostakovich, and Weinberg have been acclaimed worldwide. Mr. Altstaedt is the recipient of the 2009 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship and was a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist from 2010 to 2012.
He plays a 1760 Giulio Cesare Gigli cello from Rome.

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Fazil Say

With his extraordinary pianistic talents, Fazil Say has been touching audiences and critics alike for more than 25 years. As a composer, Mr. Say has been commissioned to write music for the  ...

With his extraordinary pianistic talents, Fazil Say has been touching audiences and critics alike for more than 25 years. As a composer, Mr. Say has been commissioned to write music for the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, Konzerthaus Dortmund, Salzburg Festival, Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, and Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, among others. His body of work includes chamber music and compositions for solo piano, as well as solo concertos and large-scale orchestral works.

Mr. Say fine-tuned his skills as a classical pianist with David Levine at Düsseldorf’s Robert Schumann Hochschule and later in Berlin, and also attended master classes with Menahem Pressler. Mr. Say’s outstanding technique and blend of refinement and virtuoso brilliance earned him a victory at the 1994 Young Concert Artists International Competition in New York. He has since played with all of the renowned American and European orchestras and numerous leading conductors, building up a multifaceted repertoire that ranges from Bach to contemporary music, including his own compositions.

Guest appearances have taken Mr. Say to countries on five continents, and he also performs chamber music regularly. For many years he was part of a duo with violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja. Other notable collaborators include Nicolas Altstaedt, Maxim Vengerov, Marianne Crebassa, and the Minetti Quartett.Mr. Say has been an artist-in-residence at the Konzerthaus Dortmund, Konzerthaus Berlin, Bodenseefestival, Hessischer Rundfunk, and Rheingau Musik Festival, where he was honored with the Rheingau Musik Preis. He has held additional residencies at festivals in Paris, Tokyo, Merano, Hamburg, and Istanbul. During their 2015–2016 season, both the Alte Oper Frankfurt and Zurich Chamber Orchestra invited Mr. Say to be their artist-in-residence, and he is currently spending three seasons as the artist-in-residence at the Festival der Nationen in Bad Wörishofen.

Mr. Say was awarded Bonn’s 2016 International Beethoven Prize for Human Rights, Peace, Freedom, Poverty Reduction, and Inclusion. He was also awarded the 2017 Duisburger Musikpreis. Mr. Say has been an exclusive Warner Classics artist since 2016. His recordings of works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin, and Stravinsky have been highly praised by critics and have won several prizes, including four ECHO Klassik awards, the most recent of which was for his 2016 recording of Mozart’s complete piano sonatas. Mr. Say recently released the album 4 Cities with Mr. Altstaedt in 2017.

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