Concert by Ferhan and Ferzan Önder and Martin Grubinger

Friday 11 January 2019 - Auditorium

8.30 p.m.
Concert by Ferhan and Ferzan Önder and Martin Grubinger



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 homag

The artists

Fazil Say

Composing is always a form of improvisation: with ideas, with musical particles, with imaginary shapes. And it is in this spirit that the artistic itinerary and world-view of the Turkish composer and pianist Fazil Say should be understood. For it was from the free forms with which he became familiar in the course of his piano lessons with the Cortot pupil Mithat Fenmen that he developed an aesthetic outlook that constitutes the core of his self-conception as a composer. 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 organised classical music world. Concerts given by this artist are something different. They are more direct, more open, more exciting; in short, they go straight to the heart and the same may be said of his compositions.


Fazil Say wrote his first piece – a piano sonata – in 1984, at the early age of fourteen, when he was a student at the conservatoire in his hometown of Ankara. It was followed, in this early phase of his development, by several chamber works without an opus number, including Black Hymns for violin and piano, as well as a guitar concerto. He subsequently designated as his opus 1 a work that he had played during the concert that won him the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York: the Four Dances of Nasreddin Hodja. This work already displayed the essence of his personal style: a rhapsodic, fantasia-like basic structure; a variable rhythm, often dance-like, though formed through syncopation; a continuous, vital driving pulse; and a wealth of melodic ideas that may often be traced back to themes from the folk music of Turkey and its neighbours. In these respects, Fazıl Say is somewhat following in the tradition of composers such as Béla Bartók, George Enescu, and György Ligeti, who also drew on the rich musical folklore of their countries. He attracted international attention with the piano piece Black Earth (1997), in which he employs techniques familiar to us from John Cage and his Works for prepared piano.


After this, Say increasingly turned to the large orchestral forms. Taking his inspiration from the poetry and biographies of the writers Nâzim Hikmet and Metin Altiok, he composed works for soloists, chorus and orchestra, which, especially in the case of the oratorio Nâzim, were clearly in the tradition of composers such as Carl Orff. In addition to modern European instrumentation, Say also makes frequent and deliberate use of instruments from his native Turkey, including kudüm and darbuka drums and the ney reed flute. This gives the music a colouring that sets it apart from many comparable creations in this genre.

In the year 2008 he aroused international interest with his violin concerto 1001 Nights in the Harem (premiered by Patricia Kopatchinskaja), which is based on the celebrated tales of the same name, but that deals specifically with the fate of seven women from a harem.


Fazil Say scored a further great success with his first symphony, the Istanbul Symphony, which premiered in 2010 at the conclusion of his five-year residency at the Konzerthaus Dortmund. Jointly commissioned by the WDR and the Konzerthaus Dortmund in the framework of RUHR.2010, the work constitutes a vibrant and poetic tribute to the metropolis on the Bosporus and its millions of inhabitants. The same year saw the composition, among other pieces, of his Divorce String Quartet (based on atonal principles), and commissioned works, such as the Piano Concerto Nirvana Burning for the Salzburg Festival and a Trumpet Concerto for the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, premiered by Gábor Boldoczki. In response to a commission from the 2011 Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Say has also written a Clarinet Concerto for Sabine Meyer that refers to the life and work of the Persian poet Omar Khayyam. In 2013 and 2014 he composed a trilogy named “Gezi Park” (Gezi Park 1 for two pianos and orchestra, Gezi Park 2 for piano solo and Gezi Park 3 – Ballad for mezzo-soprano, piano and string orchestra). In 2014 Sait Faik (commissioned by IKSV Istanbul Music Festival) and Hermiyas (commissioned by D-Marin International Turgutreis Festival of Classical Music) were premiered in Turkey, and Overture 1914 (commissioned by the National Orchestra of Belgium / Andrey Boreyko to commemorate the centenary of the First World War) in Brussels. In 2015, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra commissioned and premiered Fazıl Say’s Chamber Symphony in the Carnegie Hall, New York, and the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet with the Bruckner Orchester Linz / Dennis Russell Davies performed the world premiere of his Preludes.


In 2012 the French label naïve released the albums Istanbul Symphony and Hezarfen, and in 2013 his symphonies Mesopotamia and Universe. In autumn 2014, Fazıl Say’s piano works were published on the album “Say plays Say”.


Fazıl Say’s works are issued worldwide by the renowned music publishers Schott Music, based in Mainz, Germany.

Ferhan et Ferzan Önder

Piano duo


“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]


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.

The essential

Friday 11 January 2019
8.30 p.m. - Auditorium


  • - Full price €40.00
  • - Member price €25.00




Quartet for two pianos and two vibraphones



"Winter morning in Istanbul" for piano four hands



Variations for two pianos and percussions


---- interval ----



Sonata for two pianos

World premiere, commissioned by the Fondation Louis Vuitton



"Gezi Park 1"

Transcription for two pianos and percussion by Martin Grubinger

(French premiere)

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