In the troubadour tradition, travelling musicians carried news and culture from one region to the other. For those of us not lucky enough to catch modern troubadour Mesut Özgen’s multi-sensory performances, his first solo release lets us in on the news. Özgen is widely known for making classical guitar accessible to a wide-range of music lovers. Troubadour is no exception, offering compositions inspired by Spanish, Turkish, American, Hungarian, Argentinean and Indian folk musics. Featuring compositions by Carlo Domeniconi, Anthony Newman, and the prolific Christopher Pratorius.

Mesut Özgen


Genre: Classical.


1. Variations on an Anatolian Folk Song
by Carlo Domeniconi, (“Uzun ince bir yoldayim” by Asik Veysel)
2. Gigue (from Suite for Guitar)
by Anthony Newman
3. Shenandoah
by Robert Beaser
4. Misionera
by Fernando Bustamante, Arranged by Jorge Morel
5. Fantaisie Hongroise op.65, no.1
by Johann Kaspar Mertz
6. Sonata: Ondas do Mar de Vigo – Introducción y Danza
by Christopher Pratorius
Introducción y Danza (Sonata 1st movement)
7. Sonata: Ondas do Mar de Vigo – Canto
by Christopher Pratorius
Canto (Sonata 2nd movement)
8. Sonata: Ondas do Mar de Vigo – Estudio
by Christopher Pratorius
Estudio (Sonata 3rd movement)
Total Time: 53:42


Recorded between 2001-2003 at UCSC Music Center Recital Hall and Electronic Music Studios, Santa Cruz, California.
Shenandoah was recorded by Hakan Gürdöl at Fuat Güner Studios in Istanbul.
Recorded, edited, and mixed by Mesut Özgen.
Thanks to Bill Coulter, Peter Elsea, and Joe Weed’s help and guidance.
Mastered by Joe Weed at Highland Studios, Los Gatos, CA
Photographs by Paul Schraub
Produced by Mesut Özgen and Ates Temeltas
Artwork by Siir Özbilge

Mesut Özgen

Mesut Özgen has performed and taught master classes throughout the United States, Spain, and Turkey and has been on the guitar faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz since 1998. He was the first guitarist to be awarded the "Dean's Prize," which is the highest honorary prize of the Yale School of Music. He began playing guitar in 1981 while pursuing his study at the School of Medicine. During his seven years of medical practice, as a self-taught guitarist, he also played concerts and taught guitar in his native Turkey. After his two performances in the International Paco Peña Guitar Festival in Cordoba, Spain in 1989 and 1990, he was invited to the U.S. by Benjamin Verdery to study with him at Yale University, School of Music. Özgen completed both his Master of Music degree and Artist Diploma at Yale. Later, Özgen studied with Professor Frank Koonce in the doctoral program at Arizona State University and worked as his teaching assistant between 1994 and 1998. He performed in master classes for many notable guitarists, such as John Williams, David Russell, Manuel Barrueco, and Leo Brouwer. He has also studied early music on guitar, lute, and Baroque guitar with Jaap Schroeder, Rosalyn Tureck, John Metz, and Robert Spencer. 

In addition to being a prizewinner in the International Portland Guitar Competition, he has performed as featured soloist in the International Paco Peña Guitar Festival in Cordoba, Spain and Santa Cruz Baroque Festival, and premiered new music for guitar at the Yale Guitar Festival and April in Santa Cruz: Contemporary Music Festival. Besides teaching, Özgen has been giving solo recitals regularly, writing solo, duo, and ensemble music for guitar and other instruments based on or influenced by traditional Turkish music.

Frequently collaborating with other composers, Özgen has long been a strong advocate of new music for guitar. Composers who have written solo, concerto, and various ensemble music for Özgen include Pablo Ortiz, Benjamin Verdery, Deepak Ram, Christopher Pratorius, Robert Strizich, Charles Nichols, Paul Nauert, Yalç¦n Tura, and David Cope. 

Özgen has also a long-standing interest in bringing classical guitar music to a larger audience. His staged performances include “Folkie Classical Guitar,” presenting classical music based on American, Spanish, Turkish, Greek, and Argentinean folk cultures, with special stage design and costumes, as well as “Pick and Roll” for guitar ensemble by Ben Verdery, featuring a basketball player in dialogue with the ensemble and utilizing spatial elements in the hall. Since 2002, Özgen has been collaborating with a multidisciplinary artistic team from the film and digital media, theatre, and music departments at University of California Santa Cruz: Gustavo Vasquez, video, David Cuthbert, lighting, and Peter Elsea, computer. The team prepares visual accompaniments for each musical composition, comprising video, interactive computer images, lighting design, and stage choreography.


Variations on an Anatolian Folk Song by Carlo Domeniconi (b. 1947)
This is one of Carlo Domeniconi’s most successful works based on Turkish folk music. The theme employed is a famous folk song written by Asik Veysel (1894-1973), an influential Turkish folk musician. Domeniconi’s variations reflect the quasi-improvisatory character of this kind of music very well, especially in the final section of the piece. Asik Veysel is one of the most renowned representatives of the “as¦k” tradition in the 20th century, which dates back to the 15th century in Anatolia. The Asik (a kind of troubadour), singing poetry (mostly their own) and playing the saz , has become the voice of common people, expressing their relationship with their land; their loves, inner conflicts, and expectations--generally depicting all aspects of rural life. Veysel's poetry is metrical, using predominantly 8- and 11-syllable meters. His melodic patterns, trills, and particular emphases result in a unique musical character.
Mesut Özgen
Gigue by Anthony Newman (b. 1941)
The Gigue is part of a larger suite, neo-baroque in style [commissioned by luthier Thomas Humphrey and written for Benjamin Verdery]. My system of harmony is to use older background harmonic motions and then fill them in with added notes, which either spice the harmony, or all right replace them. This is how music gradually progressed through Brahms and Wagner, and later Stravinsky. Besides the “spiked” harmonies, rhythmic substitutes abound, much more so than in the works of Bach, they are more like raga substitutes.
Anthony Newman

Although there is a brilliant coda, Gigue basically is a binary work, with the second half twice as long as the first half. The piece is written in Newman’s system of substitute harmonies, and features series of short rhythmic cells that when put together give the effect of a Hindu raga (certain material recurs out of order in the second section).
Benjamin Verdery
Shenandoah by Robert Beaser (b. 1954)
The original tune “Shenandoah” was popular on American sailing vessels in early New England. Later the regular cavalry carried the song west. Shenandoah is the name of an Indian chief who lived along the Missouri River. The singer portrays a man who has fallen in love with the chief’s daughter. It is thought that the song originated with the loggers or rivermen who taught it to sailors in port. The sailors took the song to sea and used it as a shanty, or work song, while loading cargo.

Beaser’s work is not a set of variations, but comprises various sections in an arch-like form: beginning quietly, building up the tension gradually, and ending softly. This arch-like emotional process is thus the composer’s main request of the performer, reflecting the musical equivalent of the song’s story from his point of view. The original tune can be heard sometimes in part, and sometimes complete, in arpeggio, chord, and tremolo sections on the trebles or bass, and sometimes disguised in a contrapuntal texture. When I worked with Beaser in preparation for the premiere performance, he played all transitions from section to section on the piano for me in order to demonstrate the overall structure. He also gave me a lot of room not only to discover the most effective fingering, timbre, and idiomatic positions, but also to explore various textures, especially in chordal sections, by providing as many as ten notes and allowing me to choose the ones that I felt most appropriate to the particular context. During the several months of work, Eliott Fisk provided many valuable fingering suggestions and added beautiful harmonics in the lyrical sections. 
Mesut Özgen   
Fantaisie Hongroise op.65, no.1 by Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-1856)
Although a large part of Mertz’s compositional output comprises works based on operatic airs, Fantaisie Hongroise (Hungarian Fantasy) from 3 Morceaux is one of his original works, which, together with Bardenlänge (Bard Sounds) op.13, reflects the renewed interest in troubadour tradition in the early part of the nineteenth century. The Fantasy begins with a series of short sections in different moods and tempos from majestic, passionate, brilliant to sad, melancholic, and ends with a Hungarian gypsy dance-like finale. Because Mertz used an eight-string guitar, I had to transpose several bass notes an octave higher to fit them into the range of my six-string guitar.
Mesut Özgen 
Misionera by Fernando Bustamante
Bustamante’s Misionera in the style of polca Litoraleña (Paraguaya) is a typical example of música popular, which refers traditionally to music of the people, including folk and traditional music as well as urban music. This solo guitar arrangement from the piano, voice, and guitar version by Argentine guitarist and composer Jorge Morel reflects Morel’s excellent idiomatic writing for guitar.
Mesut Özgen

"Misionera" refers to a female from the district of Misiones (where Augustin Barrios was born) in southern Paraguay/northern Argentina. It is a standard work for Paraguayan harpists. Jorge Morel’s arrangement in a minor is based on an earlier arrangement by his teacher, Pablo Escobar, a Paraguayan classical guitarist who lived in Buenos Aires and founded a music conservatory.
Rico Stover
Sonata: Ondas do Mar de Vigo by Christopher Pratorius (b. 1974)
Sonata: Ondas do Mar de Vigo is my first large guitar piece. It is based on a Spanish song by the medieval troubadour Martin Codax, from Portugal. The song is classified as a Cantiga de Amigo or “friendship song.” The genre is characterized by the longing of a young woman for a lover who has gone. Typically, the "friend" is supposed to meet her by the sea and never arrives. The title of the song used as the basis for this piece is “Waves of the Sea of Vigo.” I began with an in depth analysis of both the poetry and the melody. It is a strophic song, with four verses. I decided to mirror that structure with four movements. In one movement, the structure of the whole poem, with its subtle repetitions and variations, was the basis. In another, the structure of the melody was used. The other movements were freely composed, but still work within the context of the larger form. My idea was to do a set of structural variations that takes into account every aspect of the original, not to reproduce similar but slightly different copies, but to project the structure of the original song in a way that would be quite unexpected. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Mesut, not only for encouraging me to write this piece, but also for being a genuine partner. He tackled a difficult piece, analyzed it for hours so he could understand my musical logic, brought passion and artistry to it, and also contributed many original ideas to the project. The most obvious contribution is an arpeggiation pattern that he suggested for the last movement, which has added a great deal of excitement to the only hearing of the original melody. Thank you, Mesut!
Christopher Pratorius


“Özgen’s playing is stunningly versatile and expressive throughout.”, Acoustic Guitar Magazine Complete Review 

“Özgen displayed his dazzling classical guitar playing...Crystalline notes glistened in "Variations on an Anatolian Folk Song” by Carlo Domeniconi. Here, sensitive phrasing delineated various treatments of the haunting tune...", Santa Cruz Sentinel, Phyllis Rosenblum: Classical Beat Complete Review

Folker Magazine's Review of Troubadour (in German) 

Mesut Özgen’in Klasik Gitarla Görsel Söleni – Bahadir Inözü – Hürriyet – 24 Ocak 2006 (in Turkish)