Academic journal article ARSC Journal

Leopold Stokowski's Rarest Recording: Saygun's Yunus Emre-United Nations 1958

Academic journal article ARSC Journal

Leopold Stokowski's Rarest Recording: Saygun's Yunus Emre-United Nations 1958

Article excerpt

Ahmed Adnan Saygun is generally considered to be Turkey's most important twentieth century composer. Saygun, a native of Izmir, received much of his formal musical education in Paris, where he studied from 1928 to 1931 on a State scholarship. Saygun was also a conductor and ethnomusicologist, and became a respected authority on Turkish folklore. His research led him to the writings of the thirteenth century Turkish mystical poet and philosopher Yunus Emre, which ultimately resulted in a one-hour oratorio bearing the poet's name. (Yener and Beken; Araci, p.13) Saygun freely adapted the verses used in Yunus Emre. In her article "Music Mediating Polities in Turkey: The Case of Ahmed Adnan Saygun," author/pianist Kathryn Woodard notes that "Saygun's oratorio can be seen as appropriation of the poetry with no consideration for the original context ... and with the intent of serving a political purpose, to propagate the value of secularization in Turkish society." (Woodard, p.559) After Yunus Emre established his prominence among Turkish composers, Saygun became the leading member of a group of composers who named themselves "The Turkish Five."

Yunus Emre was premiered in Ankara in 1946, and was given six additional public performances and two radio broadcasts, all with the composer conducting, (Araci, p.13) The work attracted significant interest outside of Turkey. Saygun went on to lead two performances in Paris in 1947, the first of which was attended hy Nadia Boulanger. Emre Araci, citing a Boulanger article published in Spectateur des arts, notes: "... she observed that Saygun made European audiences aware of the problems facing a musician with an Eastern tradition and a Western education, and concluded that he nevertheless knew what he was looking for and there was room to believe that he was not far from finding it." Araci also notes that the British composer Michael Tippett had hoped to perform it in London, hut that project never materialized. (Araci, p.14)

Helen M, Hosmer, Director of The Crane Department of Music at the State University Teachers College in Potsdam, NY (Fig. 1), and the founder and conductor of Crane Chorus, became interested in performing Yunus Emre early in 1955 after correspondence with Moritz Jagendorf, a dentist based in New York City who was a respected folklorist by avocation. ("Moritz Jagendorf," New York Times Obituary) Jagendorf was Vice President of the New York Folklore Society, and was serving as an agent or contact person for Saygun in the United States. Documents in the SUNY Potsdam College Archives indicate that Jagendorf had attended a number of concerts in Potsdam, and had developed a friendship with Hosmer and Dr. Frederick Crumb. President of the College. In a letter to Hosmer dated 6 February 1955, Jagendorf wrote; "The consensus of opinion of those who have heard the oratorio is that it is one of the great masterpieces which has been created in the field of music. I think it stands among the great works not only of today but of those that have been written during the last hundred years. I shall he intensely interested to know your criticism of it and I hope most sincerely that you think of it as I do." Jagendorf established contact between Hosmer and Wladimir Lakond of Southern Music Publishing Company, which had exclusive rights to Saygun's music in North America, so that negotiations for a Potsdam performance could begin. (SUNY Potsdam College Archives)

Helen Hosmer founded Crane Chorus in 1931, and during her thirty-five year tenure as its conductor, she maintained an interest in performing new choral works. In 1950 the Crane Department had commissioned A Psalm of David from the American composer Norman Dello-Joio. The world premiere, given by Crane Chorus and Crane Symphony Orchestra at the 1951 Spring Festival of the Arts with Hosmer conducting, attracted considerable interest, A recording of that performance was issued on a 10-inch LP by Concert Hall Society (CHS-1118), and later reissued on a limited edition 12-inch LP by The Record Hunter (Rarities Collection 403), In February 1952 she and the Crane forces performed the work in Carnegie Hall as part of Robert Shaw's Choral Masterworks Series. …

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