Ihsan Özgen (kemenche),
Mercan Dede (percussions: tracks 2, 7 & 11)
Producers: Ates M. Temeltas & Arkin Ilicali


track title time
1 Opening Taksim 7:48
2 Segâh Peshrev (Neyzen Yusuf Pasha 1820-1884) 4:28
3 Beyond Makams, Master's Selection 3:46
4 Shehnaz Peshrev (Ali Aga 1770-1830)
Ey Büt-i Nev-edâ, Hicaz Semai Sharki
(Hammâmî-zâde Ísmail Dede 1778-1846)
Hicaz Hümayun Peshrev (Veli Dede 1808?-1860?)
6:38
5 Yegâh Taksim 3:36
6 Evc Saz Semai
(Sedat Öztoprak 1890-1942)
Taksim on makam Evc
4:45
7 Bayati Peshrev (Neyzen Emin Efendi 1883-1945)
Hicaz Hümayun Peshrev (Veli Dede 1808?-1860?)
11:26
8 Taksim on makam Shevk-efza
Acemashirân Peshrev
(Neyzen Sâlih Dede Efendi 1823-1886)
Taksim on makam Acemashirân
5:11
9 Variations on a zeybek 5:02
10 Taksim on makam Shehnaz 1:44
11 Variations on a piece
in Rast Naksh Beste
(Hace Abdülkâdir Merâgi 1350?-1435?)
4:28
12 Özgen - a short monologue 1:07
total   60:46

My first meeting with Ihsan Özgen was in November 1998 in Montreal. I still remember the excitement of greeting him at the airport. By then, I had long known and been enchanted by Özgen's music. His recordings of classical music as well as his work with experimental musicians were strong inducements to both know the man better and to work with him. He emerged from behind sliding doors with his kemenche case, smiling at me as if we have known each other for many years. Our initial meeting marked the beginning of an association in which I hoped I would be able to present many sides of this master musician's music.

That November, Íhsan Özgen, Mercan Dede and I spent a week traveling around Eastern Canada in a car. I did not want to reach our destinations, just drive, converse and listen to music. We had many conversations covering many topics, naturally music was the most prominent. When spending time with a master musician, each and every moment becomes an experience in learning, in gaining a deeper understanding of music and people. Appreciation for music expands, not just for the music of Özgen or a particular genre, but for all music. For example, Özgen is very fond of western classical music, especially of Bach. Or when Özgen talks about his peers and his teachers, he introduces you to generations of music makers and your technical understanding of music and composers is enhanced. One of the great aspects of Özgen's character is his dedication to teaching. As such, if you ask him a question, you will always get a full and clear answer. He senses the root of your question and his answer seeks to fulfill your curiosity.

In many ways, this is an unusual recording. To begin with, this album is totally dedicated to Özgen's kemenche playing though Mercan Dede plays percussion on a few tracks to provide a base for Özgen's playing. This album was recorded without any preparations - we simply and spontaneously recorded Özgen in studio, aiming to capture the essence of the kemenche. None of the pieces were rehearsed, all are first takes. There was no list of pieces to play, Özgen simply played what came to mind. The pieces were spontaneously selected, instantaneously remembered, by Özgen. He played these pieces by Ottoman composers as if he was trying to recall how they were composed. This characteristic of the recordings led to the title of the album, "Remembrances of Ottoman Composers". At that moment, all I wanted was to collect and capture Íhsan Özgen's kemenche playing. The idea of turning this into a finished recording only arose towards the end of the sessions. Now, we have an album where a person interested in kemenche can hear the best practitioner of it alive today.

Another unique aspect of this recording is that when Özgen plays compositions, he does not play them in full. Instead he ties them in with his improvisations and adds to these compositions from his own. Íhsan Özgen has been playing traditional music for several decades. Over the years, he played this music in its traditional format as complete full length compositions with taksims in-between which are based on the specific makams of the pieces involved. As an artist who is constantly searching and experimenting, his performances have become freer in their nature. He takes a piece where ever his emotions lead him, taking risks to add to the music and to bring in fresh concepts and new ways of playing. His is a search to find a musical language to make us feel, to enjoy, and to better understand this music. He reaches out to us, and as a listener we have to become actively involved in the music to truly appreciate it. Without this, one is missing music's very essence. "Remembrances of Ottoman Composers" features Mercan Dede playing percussion on several tracks. Bendir is no stranger to traditional music, however I know of no other recording where an udu drum has been used in such a context. Íhsan Özgen first saw this instrument in the studio in Montreal. When Mercan Dede picked it up and played it for a few minutes, it was clear that Özgen was intrigued and he asked Mercan Dede to play on some of the pieces. This album also includes the bash taksim (opening improvisation) from a concert in Boston on November 21st, 1998. I recall listening to the recording for the first time in the car on a road between Toronto and Ottawa with Íhsan Özgen, Fred Stubbs and Mercan Dede. After listening to the bash taksim intently and quietly, Özgen simply said, "this is a very good taksim". And so, we have included this beautiful taksim as part of this collection of studio recordings.

Ates M. Temeltas

Review by
Rootsworld