This is a slightly updated version of my original article for The New Music Connoisseur from 2001. I include the original sources and recordings. In the past decade, however, there have been numerous additions to the study of Saygun: Emre Araci's biography of Saygun (in Turkish), Selim Giray's study of Turkish music for violin and piano, and my own article in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Numerous recordings have also been produced, including CPO's complete cycle of Saygun's major orchestral works, my recording of Saygun's solo piano music for Albany Records, and Zeynep Uçbsaran's recording also of solo piano works for Naxos.
Blog excerpt: "From works such as Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio and Beethoven’s The Ruins of Athens many music listeners are familiar with the practice of evoking the sound of Turkish music, specifically music of the Janissary corps, within European works of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. What is less known in the West is that shortly after the alla turca style had reached its peak in Europe, Western music also made its way to Turkey, as a substitute, in fact, for the Janissary music that Europeans had come to associate with the Ottoman Empire. This turn of events was the result of Sultan Mahmud II’s decision in 1826 to abolish the Janissary corps after decades of previous attempts by his predecessors at reforming the Ottoman army with little success. Mahmud’s goal was to form a new army along European lines and this included forming a European military band to replace the music of the Janissary corps."
Read on for more about the music of Leyla Saz, Dikran Cuhaciyan, Ahmed Adnan Saygun, Muammer Sun and Hasan Uçarsu.