Piano Duos - Booklet

Arzu and Gamze Kırtıl have attracted wide praise for their exciting and innovative performances, proving themselves as one of the most accomplished piano duos of their generation. They have collaborated with many world-class musicians in both cham­ber and orchestral works, including an ensemble for four pianos. Their repertoire ranges from Baroque and Classical works, to those of twentieth-century and contemporary composers.

Born in Istanbul, twin sisters Arzu and Gamze began their studies at the Ankara State Conservatory with Professor Tulga Cetiz, and continued with Tatiana Pikaizen and Aysegül Sarıca. After receiving their Masters degrees, the sisters won a scholarship to study in Perpignan, France, with Marie-Christine Guichot, graduating with the Médaille d’Or. Receiving a further scholarship from the French Government, they progressed to the École Normale de Musique de Paris to study under Germaine Mounier, one of the most acclaimed teachers of her time. They graduated with a Diplôme Supérieur de Concertiste with the commendation of the jury.

The sisters gave their first concert as a duo in 1993, under Hikmet Şimşek, playing Mozart’s Concerto in E flat Major with the Ankara State Conservatory Orchestra. It was during their studies in Paris that they decided to establish their career as a piano duo, taking advantage of their innate rapport.

The duo won first prize at the 6th Medoc-Aquitaine Piano Competition in Bordeaux and were further rewarded at the 10th International Young Pianists Competition in Rome. They have since performed asa duo in France, Italy, Russia, United Kingdom, Lux­embourg, Austria and Turkey. Keen to support new music, Arzu and Gamze have had several pieces spe­cifically written for and dedicated to them, including Maria Lord’s Three Pictures for Two Pianos, presented here in its premiere recording. During the 2010 Istan­bul City of Culture celebrations, the duo presented the world premiere of Teamwork I for four pianos by Wolfgang Gangkofner, a work dedicated to the duo.

Notable performances by Duo Kırtıl include St John’s Smith Square, London; Smolny Cathedral, St Petersburg; Aya Irini, Istanbul; Philharmonie de Luxembourg; Wiener Saal, Salzburg; and Salle Cortot, Paris. They have performed with numerous orchestras, including Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, Bursa State Symphony Or­chestra, Presidential Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Britannica and CNR Perpignan Orchestra. They have collaborated with acclaimed conductors Tadeusz Strugala, Juosaz Domarkas, Peter Fender, Daniel Tosi, Erol Erdinç and Işın Metin among others.

Dividing their time between Luxembourg and Ankara, the sisters maintain a busy per­forming schedule, creating exciting new projects for festivals and special events. In addi­tion to their stage appearances, Arzu and Gamze Kırtıl are sought-after teachers, holding regular master-classes and touring regional music schools in Turkey.


Frédéric Chopin Rondo in C Major, Op. 73

This work by one of the most famous of all composers for piano, Frédéric Chopin (1810-49), was the only piece he wrote for two pianos. Although it carries the late (and posthumous) opus number 73, it was in fact written during the first part of Chopin’s life while he was still a student at the Warsaw Conservatoire. He had begun his studies there in 1826 and by 1828, the year in which he composed his Rondo in C Major for Two Pianos, he had begun to grow in confidence and as well as beginning to produce his first compositions for orchestra, he had summoned up the courage to send his first works to publishers in the hope that they would be put into print. Chopin spent the summer of 1828 working on the Rondo whilst staying in a large house in the Polish countryside, and some of this youthful, summer feeling spills over into the work. The piece is written in a loose rondo form comprising a light, tripping theme, arpeggiated triplets and long semiquaver passages requiring deft fingerwork. These all repeat before virtuosic runs and arpeggios bring the work to an abrupt conclusion.


Maurice Ravel Rapsodie espagnole

Between the years 1895 and 1897 the young composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) wrote two works for four-hands, collectively entitled Sites auriculaires. One of these was Habanera, which was to make a reappearance some ten years later, in 1907–8, as part of the orchestral suite Rapsodie espagnole. While this work is better known in its orches­trated version, Ravel originally composed it for two pianos. Ravel was born in the Basque town of Ciboure near the Spanish border and his early exposure to that country camethrough his mother, who had been brought up in Madrid. He held a life-long fascination with the country, remarked upon by Manuel de Falla who described it as a ‘subtly genu­ine Spanishness’. The four movements of Rapsodie espagnole begin with an evocation of the sounds and sensation of nightfall, and it is tempting to speculate that this may have prompted de Falla to begin work on his Noches en los jardines de España the following year. This is followed by the Spanish dance rhythms of the Malagueña and Habanera, the latter being a form Ravel was particularly fond of, and finishing with a rumbustious depic­tion of a celebratory Feria.


Dmitri Shostakovich Concertino for Two Pianos in A minor, Op. 94

Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-75) wrote this piece in 1953, the same year that he completed his 10th Symphony, although it inhabits a quite different sphere from the shattering orchestral writing of the latter work. Plainly diatonic in style, the Concertino eschews the complexity of his earlier Preludes and Fugues (1950–51, op.87) and sticks to a fairly conventional sonata form in A minor. A slow introduction alternates powerful dotted rhythms with subdued chorales, leading to the allegretto that character­ises the playful nature of the rest of the piece. The work leads through to a reiteration of the chorale passages before building again to the allegretto and rushing to an exciting conclusion. Reportedly, Shostakovich intended both the Concertino and his slightly later Second Piano Concerto (1957, op.102) to appeal to young pianists, albeit ones who have already acquired a considerable technique. Some have pointed to this lightness of spirit in the two works as a consequence of Stalin’s death in 1953, though it is equally likely that it was also a desire to provide pieces for his son Maxim, to whom both the Concertinoand the Second Piano Concerto are dedicated.


Fazıl Say Wintermorgen in Istanbul

Like Arzu and Gamze Kırtıl, Fazıl Say (b. 1970) is an alumnus of the conservatory in his home town of Ankara. As well as being an internationally renowned pianist, he is increas­ingly attracting attention as a composer, writing works for a wide range of ensembles as well as commissions for the Schleswig-Holstein and Salzburg festivals. Characteristic of his music is the inclusion of elements of the traditional musics of Turkey, whether in­strumentation or, as here, the use of traditional melody. Wintermorgen in Istanbul (2012) for four-hands, recorded here for the first time, begins with a technique borrowed from his piece Black Earth (1997) where the players use their left hand to damp the piano strings in order to imitate the sound of a Turkish plucked lute (either saz or ud). The main melody is more flowing and accompanied by rising and falling arpeggios, combining with the Black Earth technique before the calm of the Istanbul morning is broken by loud octaves and seconds interspersed with cantabile sections. A reiteration of the opening brings about a conclusion with a sparse, quiet coda.


Witold Lutoslawski Wariacje na temat Paganiniego (Variations on a Theme by Paganini for Two Pianos)

This is an early work by the Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski (1913-94), quite dif­ferent from his later, perhaps more famous, compositions characterised by the use of aleatoric counterpoint and 12-tone harmonies. This piece dates from 1941, at the veryend of the composer’s pre-war folk-music period. With the Polish capital Warsaw under German occupation, musical life in the city was extremely curtailed and surviving as a composer next to impossible. Lutoslawski formed a piano duo with fellow composer Andrzej Panufnik, holding café-concerts where they presented arrangements and com­positions written by themselves. The almost complete destruction of Warsaw at the end of the war also saw these pieces disappear, the Variations on a Theme by Paganini being the only work to survive. The familiar theme, from Paganini’s 24 capricci op.1, is rec­ognisable throughout the two-piano variations, but it becomes increasingly fragmented before re-emerging for an impressive restatement at the close of the work. Even though it pre-dates Lutoslawski’s more radical experiments from the 1950s onward, it is possible to discern some of these later preoccupations in the juxtapositions of chromaticism, preference for certain intervallic structures and texture.


Maria Lord Three Pictures for Two Pianos

Vienna-based composer Maria Lord (b. 1969) comes originally from England and studied in Leeds and London before moving to Austria. This is the premiere recording of Three Pictures for Two Pianos (2011), a piece written especially for Arzu and Gamze Kırtıl. As the title suggests, each movement of the work is meant to evoke a picture in the listener’s mind but any specific labels have been held back by the composer, leaving the audience to decide for themselves what might best fit the music. The piece opens with a loud tremolando, interspersed with heavy block chords and arpeggiated passages before a bell-like section leads to a long, quiet coda. Picture II is characterised by trills and deco­rations, set against long melodic lines, while the lively third movement juxtaposes running semiquaver passages against splashes of colour that lead into the final frenetic waltz that brings the work to an end.


Camille Kerger Ausklänge

Born in Luxembourg in 1957, Camille Kerger first studied trombone, singing and com­position in Luxembourg and Metz, before undertaking further training in voice at the music schools of Mannheim and Düsseldorf. As well as working as a trombonist with a number of different orchestras, he has also performed as a tenor in both concerts and opera houses in Luxembourg and abroad. He is the current director of INECC (Euro­pean Institute of Choral Singing, but is perhaps best known for his compositions, which range from operas and stage works to chamber music and lieder. The title of this work for four-hands, Ausklänge (1988), carries the suggestion of conclusions or endings, and things dying away (ausklingen), particularly of the ringing of bells. This idea is carried out through the piece, starting off with loud, crescendo quaver and semiquaver passages that lead to sections marked lasciare vibrare (‘let ring’) that build up delicate clusters of sound. The quaver and semiquaver passages then return before the bell-like passages again sink into an almost indiscernible ending.


© Copyright 2014. Arzu & Gamze Kirtil