BIOGRAPHY German version | Portrait by Ateş Orga


Ateş Orga profiles


Ezgi Saydam first crossed my path in 2000 – Friday September 8th to be precise – at the Dr Erol Üçer Center for Advanced Music Research, İstanbul Technical University (MİAM). The world she invited me to share defined her place in my awareness. From one born practically of the culture, here was a girl who lived and breathed lieder - every phrase of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms or Mahler visibly moving and affecting her from smiles to tears.

Arian daughter of the veteran pianist and Wührer disciple Ergican Saydam, Ezgi studied singing at the Mimar Sinan University State Conservatory with Yıldız Dağdelen and Güzin Gürel, continuing her postgraduate work in Austria – firstly at the Salzburg Mozarteum (with the mezzo-soprano Hanna Ludwig, famous for her post-war Bayreuth Parsifals under Knappertsbusch), and then in Vienna (Carol Byers, James Pearson). Subsequently she joined my Music Administration Studies master’s programme at MIAM (graduating in October 2002). In recent years her international appearances have taken her around German-speaking Europe, Belgium, Switzerland, and Egypt. And she’s had some notable successes in England - in April 2001 recreating and recording some of her favourite Beethoven folk-songs for Emre Aracı’s War and Peace St John’s concert in London [watch]; and in September 2004 returning for a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth at the Ripon International Festival, with the Leeds Festival Chorus and Manchester Camerata under the direction of the Polish conductor Janusz Piotrowicz (Ripon Cathedral).

While she was at MİAM I got to know her style and musical tastes. We’d spend weekends going through the mezzo repertory. Occasionally I’d accompany, more often I’d coach or discuss. From the first Viennese school we travelled across the 19th century. By the late spring of 2001 we were rehearsing the minimalistic modernity of Kamran İnce’s In White. Since then she’s taken up Hasan Uçarsu, besides developing the American and pre-war German and Spanish scene, from Barber, Ned Rorem and Bernstein to Falla and Kurt Weill – music to which her voice, linguistics and aristocratic theatricality respond naturally.

Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben (A Woman’s Life and Love), dating from 1840, the year of the composer’s marriage to Clara Wieck, is a song-cycle with which she identifies profoundly - personally, emotionally, musically. She's programmed it often, including at the 2006 Istanbul International Music Festival, as well as recording it with Kamerhan Turan. ‘Since I first saw him I feel blind to all else’. ‘The finest of all men, tender and kind, handsome to behold, noble in mind and heart. He shines in my heaven like a star, glorious and remote’. ‘It must have been in a dream that I heard him say “I am yours forever”’. ‘Dear little golden ring on my finger’. ‘When I lay in my beloved’s arms, he would call with impatient heart for this wedding day’. ‘Sweet friend, you look at me wonderingly and cannot understand why there are tears in my eyes: they are pearls of joy […] Here beside my bed there is room for a cradle and from it, when my dream comes true, your eyes will smile up for me. Your eyes!’ ‘At my heart, at my breast, my child, my joy. Happiness is love, love is happiness’. ‘Now for the first time you have hurt me, but it is a hurt not to be borne. You sleep, hard pitiless man, the sleep of death. Left all alone I stare at an empty world. I have lived and loved and now no life is left in me. Numbed, I withdraw into my innermost soul; the veil falls, there I have you and my last happiness, you my whole world’.

One sunny lunch in March 2001 or thereabouts, leafing through Ezgi’s press cuttings in a favourite restaurant in Nişantısı (or was it afternoon tea at the Çirağan Palace?), a random smattering of words got my imagination going, ‘Golden Siren of the Ottoman Bosphorus’ tumbling out of the kaleidoscope. The label remains. Calling-card of a proud lady of European fragrance and Rumelian allure with a nostalgia for old times and the waterside summers of generations past.

© Ateş Orga 2006