Symphony No. 5 Galatasaray is commissioned by Muzikotek for the Centenary of Galatasaray sports club. It depicts the story of Galatasaray from its very humble, innocent beginnings in 1905 to its glorious “world club” days of winning the UEFA Cup and the World Super Cup in 2000. It begins with the club’s birth from within the elite Galatasaray high school in Istanbul with a courageous start through spiritual and epic passages. Shows the coping with dark times during the last days of the Ottoman Empire and the flourishment of hope within the young Turkish republic. Clubs’ growth and various turmoils lead us up to its big “major club” status to finally its glorious and victorious days with winning major international cups at the beginning of the new millennium. The passion of its fans (their feverous sounds) and the hearts of its players are depicted. Club’s intellectual sensibility coming from the backing of the Galatasaray high school, one of the most elite high schools in Turkey, is told. The music culminates in to an epic, huge celebration with a victorious end.
Kamran Ince (b.1960), born in Montana and raised in Turkey, is probably the only composer to have written a symphony for and about a soccer team (or, as Naxos phrases it, keeping the non-American audience in mind, a “football club”). Galatasaray, founded more than a century ago, is a kind of religion to many of the Turkish people, I gather, so why not write a Galatasaray symphony? The question then becomes, what can this music possibly mean to those of us who are not Turkish, and who might not even be all that excited about soccer? Well, it’s pretty exciting stuff—imagine if John Adams (not John Luther Adams, but the John Adams of Nixon in China fame) had rewritten Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, and you’ll have an idea about what’s going on here. There’s a lengthy Turkish text, fortunately translated into English in Naxos’s booklet. Here’s an example: “Speak. Tell me. / Where does this love come from? / Tell me. Reveal the secret. / What’s the reason for this pride, this passion?” Yes, these people love their soccer, and don’t you dare get in between the two. If you don’t know a word of Turkish—and you probably don’t—and you don’t read the text, you might well guess that you’re listening to a patriotic oratorio. The appearance of a boy soprano clinches it. And you know what? You’ll probably like this poster-sized, heroic, and appropriately populist music immensely, even if you dislike soccer, or even sports in general. It certainly impressed me.