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The Mehter Turkish Army Band, wearing traditional Ottoman Era costumes, in a 1957 photo. (Getty Images)

Marches Madness: 'Turkish' Mozart, Jazzed By An Expert

Mar 27, 2013

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It's Marches Madness! Throughout this month, we're posting some of our favorite marches — from the concert hall, opera stage and parade ground. Got one we should hear? Played any yourself? Let us know in the comments section.

In the late 18th century, composers loved experimenting with new sounds. And some of the most exciting sounds and ideas then new to Western Europe were from the Ottoman Empire — particularly the bright bells, pinging wind instruments and sharp snare drums of the Turkish military bands, and the Orientalist fantasies that went along with them. Mozart was one of the composers who turned again and again to that palette, from the "Turkish" section of his Fifth Violin Concerto to his Turquerie opera Abduction from the Seraglio.

Maybe the most popular example of Mozart's Turkish fantasies is the last movement of his Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, K. 331, now widely known as the "Turkish March." Here, it's tweaked and refracted by the very smart and musically brilliant pianist and composer Fazil Say — himself a Turk — who takes those jaunty janissary motions and juices them into jazz.

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