Necil Kâzım Akses is a member of the The "Turkish Five" group, the pioneer and founding generation of composers of contemporary Turkish music.
Son of Mehmet Kazım, director in communication services at the Ministry of War and Emine Hanım, professor of literature and Directress at Kandilli Girls’ High School (İstanbul), Necil Kâzım Akses began to play the violin in his primary school years and at the age of fourteen became a student of cello, his instructors being Mesud Cemil and Sezai Asal. In the final years of his education at the İstanbul Lycée, he attended the classes (harmony) at the İstanbul Municipal Conservatory (Darülelhan) of Cemal Reşid Rey, who later was to become the senior member of the Turkish Five" group. After graduating from high school in 1926, Akses was sent by his parents to Vienna to study music. In the Vienna Music Academy, he became a student of Joseph Marx in composition and of Walther Kleinecke in cello. A year later, he gained a scholarship offered by the Turkish Government. He received his masters degree from this Academy and continued his musical studies at the Prague State Conservatory, from where he obtained his advanced degrees. At the Prague Conservatory, masters such as Josef Suk and Alois Haba were his teachers.
Akses returned home in 1934. The same year, he was appointed professor and Deputy Director in the School of Music Instructors in Ankara. In the following two years, he assisted German composer Paul Hindemith, who was invited to Turkey by the Ministry of Education for the establishment of the Ankara State Conservatory. He was appointed teacher of composition in 1936 to this newly established institution. The same year, he joined a research expedition carried out in Osmaniye, a borough of Adana, together with Bela Bartok, Adnan Saygun and Ulvi Cemal Erkin. In the various stages of his career, Akses also rendered his services as administrator to some important cultural and artistic institutions in Turkey: in 1948, he was appointed director of the Conservatory and in 1949 became the Director General of the Fine Arts of the Ministry of National Education. He acted as a Cultural Attaché in Bern in 1954 and in Bonn between 1955 and 1957. Between 1958 – 1960, he was the Director General of The State Opera and Ballet. In 1971, he undertook the same position again until his retirement in 1972.
In 1971, Necil Kâzım Akses was elected as the founding member of the board of directors as well as Acting President of Centre Mediterranéen de Musique Comparée et de Danse". Throughout his career he became the recipient of many honours: First class service medal of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1957; Italian government’s service medals, the rank of Cavaliére Ufficiale" in 1963 and Commendatore" in 1972; Bourgiba Art and Culture medal of Tunisia in 1973, the title of State Artist of Turkish Republic in 1971; Atatürk Art Award in 1981; honorary doctorate" degree of the İstanbul University in 1998.
Amongst some of his works performed abroad are: Ankara Kalesi (Citadel of Ankara), was performed by the Berlin State Orchestra under the baton of Fritz Zaun, and was recorded by Polydor company in 1943. Ballad, being the most frequently performed work of the composer abroad starting from 1950, was performed in London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Münster, Paris, Teplice, Cluj, Brussels, Vienna, Bucharest, Tunisia, Prague and Moscow. His Poem was performed by the RAI Symphony Orcestra in Rome in 1949 with conductor Franco Caraccioto and Antonio Saldarelli being the solo cellist. Itri’nin Neva Kâr’ı Üzerine Scherzo (Scherzo on Neva Kâr by Itri) was performed in Sofia, Moscow, Cairo and Budapest. First Symphony was performed by the Vienna Tonkünstler Symphony Orchestra with conductor G. E. Lessing in 1968, and was again performed in 1972, together with the Violin Concerto under the baton of Niyazi Tagizade with Azerbeijan State Symphony Orchestra in Baku. His Second Symphony was performed in Turkmenistan by Orkestra Saz" under the direction of Muhammed Nazar Mommadov in 1997. Violin Concerto was performed by the NDR – Radio Philarmonie Orchestra with conductor Rengim Gökmen and violinist Cihat Aşkın, together with other Turkish symphonic works in EXPO 2000 Hannover World Fair. In the 1990’s, his String Quartets (No.s 1 and 4) were played in such European cities as Dusseldorf, Prague, Bratislava, Budapest, Pecs and Helsinki.
Necil Kâzım Akses is mostly known as a composer of large scale symphonic forms. His compositions could be viewed in various evolving stages. From the 1929 to the late 30’s, Akses composed such works as Preludes and Fugues" for Piano, Sonata for Piano, Flute-Piano Sonata, Allegro Feroce" and upon return to his homeland, another one-act opera entitled Bayönder (The Leader). The period covering these years can be characterised as a quest and search for creating an individual atonal style. As it was the case with other composers of his generation, in Akses’ early works, the influences of traditional Turkish music and folk music can be traced. However Akses, did not use these elements directly but rather stylized them. By the 1940s, he entered a new period in which, specifically in his symphonic works, an Akses style" started to emerge and this style became more evident. This style is linked on the one hand to Turkish modes melodically, and on the other to the concept of a-modality" harmonically. Large scale works such as Ankara Kalesi (Citadel of Ankara), Ballade, First Symphony, Violin Concerto, Scherzo On Itri’s Nevakâr, Ten Piano Pieces can be cited as the compositions of this period. His orchestration was gradually became denser. Starting with Bir Divandan Gazel in 1976 Akses started his last composing period. In this advanced mature period, Akses also produced works for soloists, chorus and large orchestra. In his writing, which became even denser, he used many of the techniques of the 20th century, most notably aleatory music. With all these features, among the members of the Turkish Five", Akses, is rightly, considered as an artist most open to new ideas and innovations.
In 1985, he started composing his Sixth Symphony entitled Immortal Heroes" for bariton solo, chorus and orchestra. He dedicated this work to Çanakkale(Dardanelles) martyrs. This symphony remained unfinished.
Necil Kâzım Akses taught in the Ankara State Conservatory until the end of his life. At the time he died, he was teaching composition also at the Bilkent University Faculty of Music and Performing Arts.
Besides being a composer, Necil Kâzım Akses, is also distinguished and respected as the tutor of many composers of younger generations.
Akses died on the morning of February 16, 1999 at age 91.
Copyrights of his works are held by SACEM.