Kamran Ince is a Turkish-American composer who has kept one foot planted firmly on each side of the hyphen. He divides his time between the Center for Advanced Research in Music in Istanbul and the University of Memphis in Tennessee. Both the man and his music are friendly and expansive and brimming with ideas. He is the composer of numerous large-scale works, many of which have been premiered and championed by David Alan Miller and the Albany Symphony.
That Ince has written relatively few small scale works makes it’s a nasreddin a unique and valuable addition to the repertoire for horn in chamber music. The title refers to Nasreddin Hodja, a thirteenth-century philosopher remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes. Similar to Aesop’s fables, Nasreddin stories are noted for exhibiting subtle humor with an instructive twist.
Ince’s composition, scored for piano and woodwind quintet, is comprised of nine movements (played continuously) that total about seventeen minutes. Each movement corresponds to one of Nasreddin’s famous tales. This format is perfect for Ince’s disjunct style that shifts abruptly between ridiculous pointillistic shrieks and bumps and calm undulating quasi-tonal textures. Ince’s musical ideas grab listeners by the throat.
The horn part is as expansive as the composition. In one of the more imaginative uses of the instrument, fff glissandos flutter-tongue up to high-C, but the angry gesture transforms into an anguished sob in the final measure. In another passage, the horn intones pedal A’s under a kaleidoscopic series of murmuring changes. In general, the writing for woodwind quintet eschews cliche combinations of the instruments and finds blends that sparkle with wit or weep pathos. Perhaps most unusual is the way the piece ends, with smacking sounds on the oboe and bassoon reeds and then literally an ensemble guffaw.
The sheet music is available in hard-copy or download format from the publisher’s website.