Concert by Ferhan and Ferzan Önder and Martin Grubinger

Music 11 January 2019 – 8:30pm

© Fondation Louis Vuitton / Gaël Cornier



The Fondation Louis Vuitton is delighted to welcome the pianist and composer Fazil Say in January.

On 11 January, the pianists Ferhan and Ferzan Önder, accompanied on percussion by the Martin Grubinger Trio, will perform a programme of Say’s works, including the world premiere of his Sonata for two pianos, commissioned by the Fondation.

The following day, on 12 January, Fazil Say will be at the piano for a recital of works by Mozart, Chopin and Say himself.

The worlds of Fazil Say

The son of Turkish intellectuals, composer Fazil Say grew up in Ankara. He is one of a number of artists who embody the renewal of Turkish culture within a difficult political context.

On the night of 30 to 31 May 2013, police intervened at a series of peaceful demonstrations in Gezi Park in Istanbul, leaving six dead and thousands wounded. Say, opposed to police violence and in favour of a peaceful Turkey, dedicated a trilogy of works for chamber musicians and soloists to the Gezi Park events. One of these works, Gezi Park I, a concerto for two pianos and orchestra, has been transcribed by Martin Grubinger senior for two pianos and percussion. In the tradition of 20th century protest music, Say describes in music the gradual build-up of tension, evoking the street scenes with jazz-inspired rhythms, the police brutality with violent chords and virtuoso outbursts.

At the same time, Say does not reject any aspect of his Turkish identity. His first symphony, simply entitled Istanbul (2009), pays tribute to the city where he has lived for many years. In 2012 he completed Winter Morning in Istanbul for piano (four hands). Its defiantly post-romantic lyricism reflects his love for the ancient city.

Say dedicated his Variations for two pianos and percussion (2013) to friends. It is a tender evocation of a day in the life of the young son of two of his close friends: the pianist Ferzan Önder and the percussionist Martin Grubinger. The instrumental rhythms reflect different times of day: first the child thinks about how he will spend his day, then his changing moods annoy his parents, and finally he goes to bed to the sound of a lullaby.

Composed for the pianists Ferhan & Ferzan Önder, Variations for two pianos takes one of Say’s favourite forms, the constant reworking of motifs, themes and lines. Like Steve Reich, Say focuses on the tightly woven pattern of his musical cloth. With the Sonata for two pianos, a world premiere of a piece commissioned by the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the composer returns to his two favourite performers, Ferhan and Ferzan Önder, celebrating their musical complicity and their family bond in a moving fraternal homage.

The artists

Fazil Say

With his extraordinary pianistic talents, Fazil Say has been touching audiences and critics alike for more than twenty-five years, in a way that has become rare in the increasingly materialistic and elaborately organized classical music world. Concerts with this artist are something different. They are more direct, more open, more exciting; in short, they go straight to the heart. Which is exactly what the composer Aribert Reimann thought in 1986 when, during a visit to Ankara, he had the opportunity, more or less by chance, to appreciate the playing of the sixteen-year-old pianist. He immediately asked the American pianist David Levine, who was accompanying him on the trip, to come to the city’s conservatory, using the now much-quoted words: "You absolutely must hear him, this boy plays like a devil."

Fazil Say had his first piano lessons from Mithat Fenmen, who had himself studied with Alfred Cortot in Paris. Perhaps sensing just how talented his pupil was, Fenmen asked the boy to improvise every day on themes to do with his daily life before going on to complete his essential piano exercises and studies.


This contact with free creative processes and forms is seen as the source of the immense improvisatory talent and the aesthetic outlook that make Fazıl Say the pianist and composer he is today. He has been commissioned to write music for, among others, the Salzburg Festival, the WDR and the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival, the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Dresden Philharmonic, the Louis Vuitton Foundation, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the BBC. His oeuvre includes four symphonies, two oratorios, various solo concertos and numerous works for piano and chamber music.


From 1987 onwards, Fazıl Say fine-tuned his skills as a classical pianist with David Levine, first at the Musikhochschule Robert Schumann in Düsseldorf and later in Berlin. In addition, he regularly attended master classes with Menahem Pressler. His outstanding technique very quickly enabled him to master the so-called warhorses of the repertoire with masterful ease. It is precisely this blend of refinement (in Bach, Haydn, and Mozart) and virtuoso brilliance in the works of Liszt, Mussorgsky and Beethoven that gained him victory at the Young Concert Artists international competition in New York in 1994. Since then he has played with all of the renowned American and European orchestras and numerous leading conductors, building up a multifaceted repertoire ranging from Bach, through the Viennese Classics (Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven) and the Romantics, right up to contemporary music, including his own piano compositions.


Guest appearances have taken Fazıl Say to countless countries on all five continents; the French newspaper Le Figaro called him ‘a genius’. He also performs chamber music regularly: for many years he was part of a fantastic duo with the violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja. Other notable collaborators include Maxim Vengerov, the Minetti Quartet, Nicolas Altstaedt and Marianne Crebassa.


From 2005 to 2010, he was artist in residence at the Dortmund Konzerthaus; during the 2010/11 season he held the same position at the Berlin Konzerthaus. Fazıl Say was also a focal point of the programme of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in the summer of 2011. There have been further residencies and Fazıl Say festivals in Paris, Tokyo, Meran, Hamburg, and Istanbul. During the 2012/13 season Fazıl Say was the artist in residence at the Hessischer Rundfunk in Frankfurt am Main and at the Rheingau Musik Festival 2013, where he was honoured with the Rheingau Musik Preis. In April 2015 Fazıl Say gave a successful concert with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, New York, that was followed by a tour with concerts all over Europe. In 2014 he was the artist in residence at the Bodenseefestival, where he played 14 concerts. During their 2015/2016 season the Alte Oper Frankfurt and the Zürcher Kammerorchester invited him to be their artist in residence, he spent three seasons as the Artist in Residence at the Festival der Nationen in Bad Wörishofen and is currently Composer in Residence at the Philharmonie Dresden.


In December 2016, Fazıl Say was awarded the International Beethoven Prize for Human Rights, Peace, Freedom, Poverty Reduction and Inclusion, in Bonn. In the autumn of 2017, he was awarded the Music Prize of the city of Duisburg.


His recordings of works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin and Stravinsky have been highly praised by critics and won several prizes, including three ECHO Klassik Awards. In 2014, his recording of Beethoven’s piano concerto No. 3 (with hr-Sinfonieorchester / Gianandrea Noseda) and Beethoven’s sonatas op. 111 and op. 27/2 Moonlight was released, as well as the CD ‘Say plays Say’, featuring his compositions for piano. Since 2016 Fazıl Say is an exclusive Warner Classics artist. In the autumn of 2016, his recording of all of Mozart sonatas was released on that label, for which, in 2017, Fazıl Say received his fourth ECHO KLASSIK award. Together with Nicolas Altstaedt, he recorded the album "4 Cities" (2017). In autumn 2017 Warner Classics released the Nocturnes Frédéric Chopins and the album "Secrets" with French songs, which he recorded together with Marianne Crebassa and which won the Gramophone Classical Music Award in 2018. His recently released album is dedicated to Debussy and Satie.

Ferhan et Ferzan Önder

Piano duo

There is always a special bond between twins – and Ferhan & Ferzan Önder bring that bond onto the concert platform. They are two individual artists but together they create a new musical identity. Though this might at first seem no more than a cliché, with these sisters it is the key to their activity and the essential characteristic of their expressive intensity, which becomes fully apparent in the way they play, completing each other’s artistic personality.

Born in Tokat (Turkey), they moved to Ankara at the age of seven, following their brother who was already studying at the Conservatory. When they were still only ten, Ferhan & Ferzan Önder began playing the piano. Just four years later, they won the ‘Jury Special Award’ at the Concorso Pianistico Internazionale Alessandro Casagrande in Terni (Italy). After a series of further prizes, Ferhan & Ferzan Önder won First Prize at the International Piano Duo Competition in Hamburg.


Their great talent, combined with a high degree of discipline and support from their family, soon bore fruit. After Ferhan won first prize in a competition in Istanbul that led to a concert in Vienna, the twins decided to move to Austria in 1985. They studied at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna with Noel Flores and Paul Badura-Skoda. Shortly before their final exams they met Alfons Kontarsky, who became their mentor and a close friend until his death.  


Ferhan & Ferzan Önder both describe their Turkish roots as of crucial importance for their trenchantly rhythmic playing style, since they have been familiar with the irregular rhythms of traditional music from their earliest childhood. But they say the fact that they are continuing a tradition of Turkish piano duos is merely a coincidence. Among the pianists who have been important for them and influenced them artistically are Vladimir Horowitz, Grigori Sokolov, Glenn Gould, Friedrich Gulda, and Katia and Marielle Labèque.


Extensive concert tours have taken the pianists throughout Europe, the Far East and America. They have performed among others at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Wigmore Hall in London, the Semperoper in Dresden, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and the Vienna Musikverein and Konzerthaus, as well as in Zurich, Barcelona, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Taipei, Belgrade, Montpellier and Salzburg.


Ferhan & Ferzan Önder have been invited to perform at such renowned festivals as the Rheingau Musik Festival, Salzburger Festspiele, Beethovenfest Bonn, Wiener Festwochen, Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, Istanbul Festival, Sommets Musicaux de Gstaad, Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Musikfest Bremen and Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival. They appear regularly with major orchestras like the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, the Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg and the Stuttgarter Philharmoniker under such conductors as John Axelrod, Hans Graf, Howard Griffiths, Max Pommer, Hubert Soudant, Stefan Vladar and Hugh Wolff. In 2003, they performed with Sir Peter Ustinov at the Voestival in Linz. Similar musical/literary projects have led to collaborations with Cornelia Froboess, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Friedrich von Thun, Günther Jauch and Roger Willemsen. In 2016, their latest project was premiered: “Anonymous Was a Woman”, a literal-musical performance that focuses on women’s rights. Six female composers – among them Rachel Grimes, Anna Drubich and Amritha Vaz – contributed compositions to the project. During the performance, their music and texts of female authors alternate.


After releasing several CDs on small labels, they made a breakthrough with their CD “Vivaldi Reflections”, which was released on EMI in 2001. This disc also won the coveted ECHO KLASSIK Prize of the German record Academy. Their next CD was “1001 Nights” (EMI, 2003) with arrangements of works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Balakirev and Mozart. In 2011 Sony issued a live recording of their concert of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana for choir, soloists, two pianos and percussion at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.


In recent seasons, Ferhan & Ferzan Önder have played works for two pianos and orchestra by Bach, Mozart and Poulenc, and premiered works by Fazıl Say. In the current season they’ll again impress international audiences in performances of music by Bartók, Reich, Say, and Tan Dun with the Austrian multi-percussionist Martin Grubinger. Among their other chamber music partners are Benjamin Schmid, Cyprien Katsaris, Janis Vakarelis and Clemens Hagen.


Ferhan & Ferzan Önder live with their families in Austria. Since 2003 they have been “Goodwill Ambassadors” of UNICEF committed to projects with children.

Martin Grubinger


Dubbed by critics as "A wizard of percussion", Austrian multi-percussionist Martin Grubinger has achieved the extraordinary feat of turning solo percussion into the highlight of the classical concert world. A regular guest at many of the top orchestras and the world's most prestigious venues, Grubinger’s repertoire is unusually broad and ranges from solo works and chamber music, with partners including his own Percussive Planet Ensemble and pianists Ferhan and Ferzan Önder, to percussion concertos.

Amongst the growing number of works especially written for Grubinger are Avner Dorman’s “Frozen in Time” (2007) and Friedrich Cerha’s Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra (2008), performed and recorded with the Wiener Philharmoniker under the baton of Peter Eötvös on Kairos, as well as Tan Dun’s concerto, “Tears of Nature” (2012). Spring 2014 saw the world premiere of „Speaking Drums“ with Mahler Chamber Orchestra under the baton of its composer Peter Eötvös. His well known percussion projects “The Percussive Planet” and the recently premiered “Caribbean Showdown” are further examples of his versatility.

Martin was named Artist in Residence at the 2008/09 Leipzig Gewandhaus, followed by residences with the Camerata Salzburg, at the Philharmonie Köln, Philharmonie München and Wiener Konzerthaus. He has also appeared with NHK Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg, Münchner, Hamburger and Dresdner Philharmoniker, Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León, Wiener Philarmoniker, Bamberger Symphoniker and BBC Philharmonic. He also guests regularly with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Pittsburgh Symphony orchestras or National Symphony Orchestra Washington.

Regular guest appearances have led him to the Rheingau and Schleswig-Holstein Music festivals, Bregenz Festival, Beethoven Festival in Bonn and Salzburg Festival, Baden-Baden Festspielhaus, the Brass & Percussion Festival in Tokyo’s famous Suntory Hall and the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago. In 2013 he was ‘artiste étoile’ at Lucerne Festival.


Winner of multiple prizes, Martin Grubinger is recipient of the Bernstein Award by the Schleswig Holstein Musik Festival and the prestigious Jeunesses Musicales’ Würth Prize. Grubinger’s first CD, 'Drums‘n’Chant' was soon followed by a live recording of 'The Percussive Planet' on DVD, both for Deutsche Grammophon. He has since recorded a number of projects for various labels.


Born in Salzburg, Martin Grubinger studied at the Bruckner Conservatory in Linz and at the Salzburg Mozarteum. He had already garnered attention in his youth, having appeared at several international competitions, amongst others at the second World Marimbaphone Competition held in Okaya, Japan, and at the EBU Competition in Norway.

“Their subtle, searching ensemble playing, their temperament and their virtuoso dexterity are proof of the extraordinary pianistic qualities of the Önders. This is truly fiery music making!”

Michael Stenger / Fono Forum

The programme

Steve Reich
Quartet for two pianos and two vibraphones
Fazil Say
"Winter morning in Istanbul" for piano four hands
Fazil Say
Variations for two pianos and percussions
Fazil Say
Sonata for two pianos World premiere, commissioned by the Fondation Louis Vuitton
Fazil Say
"Gezi Park 1" Transcription for two pianos and percussion by Martin Grubinger (French premiere)