Kaf Müzik 8697408 900425
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Gurbet Türküsü is 63 dense minutes of highly virtuoso Turkish chamber music in classical quartet form. Headlining are qanun maestro Göksel Baktagir who enjoys four prior releases on the Kaf Müzik label and genre-crossing violin wizard Nedim Nalbantoglu who has previously appeared with accordeonist Robert de Brasov in Grappelli-esque Roma/Jazz numbers and with Bulgarian wedding music aces in the unhinged Balkan Messengers formation. Baktagir and Nalbantoglu are accompanied by Urdal Tokcan on oud and Izzet Kızıl on Vurmaı frame drum. On one especially spirited Balkan romp and a few other numbers, Serkan Çalgi sits in on clarinet.

Not Arabo-Andalus Sufi but Ottoman Diwan style, this elegant, intricately embellished music transports the listener straight back in time to Süleyman and his famous court musicians. It's thus appropriate to think of Gurbet Türküsü as late Beethoven string quartets or European Baroque music which was likewise performed for and appreciated by cultured royalty. This link was explored in Hughes de Courson and Ahmed al Maghreby's landmark album Mozart l'Égyptien [Virgin Classics 7243 4 71727 24] whose visionaries arranged Mozart scores for Oriental musicians, including setting a piano concerto Adagio for solo oud and turning portions of the Requiem into a Sufi Zikr.

As is arguably true for much European classical music which suffers endlessly dwindling support from younger audiences who've never been taught to relate to music more complex than computer-generated 3-minute Pop drivel, one imagines that Gurbet Türküsü might not be what contemporary Turkish youth listens to these days either. To sustain traditions with living and breathing champions now becomes the sacred duty of the committed artist. He may perform popular music in the clubs to make a living only to sit in on specialty gigs for far smaller audiences who appreciate the older traditional styles and revel in their serpentine byways.

It is against such ruminations that Gurbet Türküsü can spin in any CD player on this globe, finding its audience in the most unexpected but deeply appreciated places. Yehudi Menuhin was one of Nalbantoglu's instructors at the Sorbonne during the 80s. That's the level the musicians of Gurbet Türküsü play to. I am very fortunate that a benefactor in Turkey elected to send me this CD. It's my time capsule into an era my frontal lobes know nothing about save for a few dry historical factoids. Yet listening to this music pulls back the veils on the imaginary powers of the brain to reveal exotic vistas of times gone by. Such is the force of the very best music. This goblet of traditional courtly delights from the Ottoman Empire has the magic in deep gulps.