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  • Cantemir: Music in Istanbul and Ottoman Europe around 1700
  • John Morgan O'Connell (bio)
Cantemir: Music in Istanbul and Ottoman Europe around 1700. Golden Horn Records CD GHP 019-2, featuring Linda Burman-Hall, İhsan Özgen, and Lux Musica. Thirty tracks divided into four sections. Liner notes and photos by Linda Burman-Hall.

In recent years there has been considerable interest among ethnomusicologists in the writings of Demetrius Cantemir (1673–1723). In particular, a number of scholars have provided authoritative studies on the musical compositions and the musical writings of this Moldavian prince,1 an Ottoman dignitary who was resident (for the most part) in Istanbul between about 1687 and 1710. While these studies provide important insights into the musical life at the Ottoman court, they do not attempt to recreate the musical practices of that world. In this respect, the release of a recording in honor of Cantemir by Golden Horn Records represents an interesting contribution to the extant academic literature. Performed by the musical ensemble Lux Musica, under the direction [End Page 153] of Linda Burman-Hall, the recording represents one of a number of cross-cultural musical performances made by this group, bringing traditional and non-traditional performers together to produce a hybrid selection of musical styles with a significant bias towards early music. In this recording, the renowned Turkish artist, İhsan Özgen, joins the ensemble, offering a distinctive program that transcends established temporal, cultural, and musical boundaries. Divided into four sections, the recording explores different aspects of Cantemir's musical world by combining Turkish and non-Turkish genres and by reproducing historic European renditions of Ottoman music. Further, it presents a number of compositions and improvisations reflective of Cantemir's musical legacy, performances that are often experimental, finding new ways of reframing a monophonic tradition in a polyphonic setting.2

The recording provides an interesting locus for examining Cantemir's life. Featuring musical genres from different parts of the Ottoman empire, the program articulates in sound the remarkable career of the prince: the Moldavian dances (such as syrba and zhok de nante) indicative of Cantemir's national origins and the Turkish pieces (such as peşrev and saz semaisi) representative of Cantemir's residence in Istanbul. Referencing extant sources in Romanian and Turkish anthologies, the recording shows the significance of Cantemir's musical legacy as a theorist and as a composer, providing examples both of his instrumental improvisations and instrumental compositions drawn from his famous treatise, Edvâr.

Further, the album includes a selection of contemporary representations of Ottoman music in European sources, reflecting the presence of non-Turkish residents in Istanbul and demonstrating the significance of a distinctive Turkish style in Baroque music. However, Lux Musica does not include here a musical example representative of Cantemir's exile in Russia (1711–23), where he was involved musically in documenting the Orthodox liturgy. The ensemble instead chooses to perform a number of new pieces in his honor. In particular, the group presents a composition by Yalçın Tura (the Andante from his Concertino [2000] titled 'In Honour of Kantemiroğlu'), a light-classical work that is beautifully arranged for Baroque instruments and sensitively adapted to Turkish art music.

The recording provides a distinctive medium for interpreting Cantemir's world. Employing a representative set of Western period instruments (including viols, lutes, keyboards, and flutes), the ensemble adapts a number of Turkish instruments (such as kemençe, tanbur and kudüm) to suit the musical requirements of this production. However, it is not clear why the group does not employ Western instruments (such as the viola d'amore) and non-Western instruments (such as the ney) that were used in Istanbul during the eighteenth [End Page 154] century and that are still performed today. Perhaps, the ensemble is guided by İhsan Özgen, who performs here both on the modern kemençe (a new classical instrument not used by Cantemir) and the tanbur (an old classical instrument favored by Cantemir). In this respect, the recording reflects the musical sensibilities of its Turkish director. Demonstrating an effective integration of Turkish and non-Turkish genres, the program is sensitive toward shared modal structures in distinctive musical traditions and is...


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