Fanfare, November / December / 2001
AKSES Violin Concerto
Cihat Aşkın (vn); Rengim Gökmen, cond;
NDR Radio-PO *Cpo 999 799-2 (45:13)
Necil Kâzım Akses was a Turkish composer, born in İstanbul in 1908. He studied with Cemal Reşid Rey, later to become the head of the group known as the Turkish Five, of which Akses himself was a member. At the age of 16 he was sent to study in Vienna, where his teachers were Kleinecke and Marx, and from there he went to Prague to sit at the feet of Josef Suk and Alois Haba.
Akses's work list includes six symphonies (the last unfinished at his death in 1999), a Concerto for Orchestra and numerous other orchestral pieces, concertos for violin and for viola, and four string quartets, chamber and piano music, and two one-act operas. His Violin Concerto was begun in 1967 and finished two years later. The helpful notes with this CD-which, strangely enough, are anonymous-suggest that the work "can be looked on as a symphony with an obligate [sic] solo violin." It's a large-scale, ambitious work in 45 minutes, with the opening Allegro itself taking no fewer than 26 minutes. The language is bold-tonal, but freely dissonant, and with clear, strong basses that remind me a little of Havergal Brian, as, indeed, does the sense of the soloist struggling against an overweaning orchestra. Akses likes Grand, angular, angry, almost dismissive gestures in his orchestra, against which the soloist must maintain his way as best he can. The memory of Shostakovich hangs perceptibly over the Concerto, both in style and in the tendency to prefer the extremes of the orchestra in the scoring; you might also find some similarity with the language of Allan Pettersson, not least in its general darkness. After several listenings I'm stil not sure how much the work hangs together, but it's undeniably impressive, and, if you respond to any of the composers I've invoked, you'll very probably enjoy this CD.
Given that the Akses Concerto is such a hell of a slog for the soloist (it needs an Ysaye, not a Milstein), and that this is a live recording, Cihat Aşkın acquits himself very well: His intonation hardly ever slips, and he maintains his concentration right to the end. Rengim Gökmen gets what sounds to me like idiomatic playing from his Hanoverian musicians, and the sound is fine. The CD is a little on the short side at just over three-quarters of an hour, but I suppose it was that or nothing. Anyway, it's well worth the exercise of your curiosity.