Mehmet Okonsar, pianist, composer, conductor and musicologist is the First Prize Winner at the International Young Virtuosos Competition, Antwerp, Belgium, 1982 and laureate of other prestigious international piano competitions such as the Gina Bachauer, Sixth Prize, Salt Lake City-UT, 1991 and J. S. Bach, Second Prize, Paris, France 1989.
He is graduated from the Brussels Royal Conservatory of Music on piano, composition and orchestration. He studied with Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden and Madame Jacqueline Fontyn. He has been a pupil of Alexis Weissenberg.
Mehmet Okonsar performed in major concert halls in Europe, North America and Japan both solo and orchestral. He was special guest judge for the National Piano Competition of Japan (1999) P.T.N.A. (To-On). His researches in music related technologies were broadcast in a series of documentaries presented by the artist on the National Broadcast of Turkey (TRT).
Mr. Okonsar is a prolific composer of orchestral, chamber, choral and piano music. His composing line is highly avant-garde and complex. Also a musicologist, writer and lecturer, Mr. Okonsar's writings are published in English and French and he is lecturing on music, composing and related technology.
His recital programs are usually highly eclectic and often thematic mixing works by A. Webern, A. Berg, I. Stravinsky, K. Stockhausen, P. Boulez and L. Berio with the more traditional piano repertoire.
"Surprise", in the music of Joseph Haydn, is not just the nickname of his G major symphony No. 94 (Hoboken 1/94). The unexpected is everywhere. Bewildering harmonic progressions, astonishing dynamic shifts, stunning rhythmic elaborations.
His novelties in instrumentation, widely acknowledged in his symphonies, specially the "London" symphonies, are no less apparent in the piano. The "open pedal" effect which appears twice, by his own terms, in the autograph score of his Sonata in C major Hob.XVI:50, first movement, track 4 of this recording, flagrantly mixes various dissonant harmonies. Here may be an antecedent for a similar effect in his student Beethoven's Sonata No.17, "Tempest" op.31 n.2.
Contrast is also carried to the extreme throughout his works. Heterogeneity in all aspect of a music: durations (very) long and short; dynamics (very) strong and soft; pitch ranges (very) high and low.
His achievements as a composer but also performer in mid 1700s promulgated him as a court composer for the Hungarian Esterhazy family in 1761. Haydn was providing compositions for all occasions at the Esterhazy palaces in Vienna. Simultaneously the growing music publishing industry in Vienna contributed to the dissemination of his fame.
In the 1780s his music could be heard in most major cities including London, Paris but also Boston, Philadelphia. As the eighteenth century came to an end, Joseph Haydn was among the most famous and influential composers in Europe.
Rohrau, in the lower Austria, is the birthplace of Joseph Haydn in 1732. Haydn died in Vienna in 1809. He was of modest origins, yet from a musically inclined family.
His musical education began as a choir boy at the St. Stephen Cathedral of Vienna. But the turning point in his musical education was the encounter with Porpora who taught him singing and musical composition.
In 1757, Haydn composed his first quartets, op.1 and op.2. Those early works established his fame within the Viennese aristocracy. His first steady job was offered by Count Morzin in 1758. In 1761 he was hired by the Esterhazy family as musical director at the palaces of Eisenstadt and Eszterhaza, palaces known as "little Versailles". Both having two theaters. He remained in that position up to 1790. Haydn composed for the Esterhazy all his operas, many symphonies and a large quantity of chamber music.
Joseph Haydn met with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart during the winter of 1781-1782. A profound friendship, full of mutual admiration will bound the two composers. In 1791, the year of passing of Mozart, Haydn, free from his engagements at the Esterhazy court, travels to London. He had a triumphal welcome. He composed the first series of his "London Symphonies" (n.93 to 98). A second stay in London, 1794-1795, again with a big success saw the publication and performance of six new "London" symphonies (n.99 to 104).
Back to Vienna in 1795, Haydn composes a series of six Masses, a number of string quartets, and most importantly, his two big Oratorios: "The Creation" and "The Seasons". His last public appearance took place in 1808 on a performance of his "Creation", this is an apotheosis. He will pass away the following year.
Joseph Haydn had a long, successful career, he was a noble artist with full of sense of humour. His abundant output has embraced almost all genres and types. Besides the amazing symphonic works and the two fantastic Oratorios one should not overlook the amazing chamber music works; 68 string quartets, numerous trios and "Divertimento"s. He also composed a number of religious works including the gorgeous "Last seven words of Christ on the Crucifixion", cantatas, lieds and operas.
The piano works by Joseph Haydn, which seemed somewhat neglected for a time, is now regaining favor among leading pianists. Artists like Wilhelm Backhaus, Lili Kraus and Glenn Gould have recorded number of sonatas and variations. Paul Badura-Skoda offers an "authentic" performance on a "pianoforte" of that epoch.
Within the sizable output of Joseph Haydn, works for the piano are only surpassed in quantity by symphonies and string-quartets. As compared with 106 symphonies and 68 quartets we have "only" about sixty sonatas for the piano. The earliest ones are clearly intended for the harpsichord.
One must add to the list those very important works that are: the variations, a "Capriccio", a "Fantaisie" and specially the 45 trios for piano, violin and violoncello where the piano has the best part.
Sure, Joseph Haydn did not invented the sonata form neither the symphony. But his extension and emancipation of those musical forms paved the way for all future composers. The structural frameworks created by Haydn are still alive. For this great composer, musical form was never a pre-set rigid mold.
The "Haydn-Sonata" has never been a spontaneous creation. The composer always mentioned his references to the "real" father of the sonata-form: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Since the years 1760 the style of C. Ph. E. Bach, typical with its "Empfindsamkeit" (sensitivity) and rapidly switching moods did impressed very much Haydn. However the Austrian master did infused in those emerging musical forms and styles a coherence, an equilibrium which was lacking in his illustrious Nordic predecessor.
One another strong influence is Domenico Scarlatti, although never mentioned expressly by Joseph Haydn. This is somewhat apparent in the melodic lines, yet Scarlatti did not follow the emancipation of the sonata form.
The "new" edition of Haydn's works, published in 1960 by Christa Landon, enumerates some 62 sonatas. Some of them can not be genuinely attributed to Joseph Haydn. The definitive catalog made by Anthony van Hoboken is based on the Breitkopf und Hartel publication and chronology. This Hoboken catalog is counting 52 sonatas for the piano.
One can subdivide the sonatas into four periods. The first group is the collection of 18 sonatas composed before or around 1765. Most of them are in the "divertimento" fashion, clearly intended for harpsichord and showing strong influence of D. Scarlatti. From 1766 to 1773 come sonatas numbers 19 to 33. This period is placed under the strong influence of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. A widening of the expressive possibilities of the musical form which became longer and more substantial. Sonatas from 34 to 50, composed from 1773 to 1784, show a more fluid pianistic style, the influence of Mozart can be noted. This is the apogee of the "style galant". Finally the stunning group of the last five sonatas, composed between 1789 to 1795. Here Haydn is in his apex of pianistic writing. Following the "Mozartian" grace of the number 59, the three "London Sonatas" from his second stay in Britain (1794-1795) display a "symphonic" and majestic style.
The Sonata in E-flat Major Hob.XVI:49 starts with a joyous Allegro in the typical Viennese style. The development section is, as typical with Haydn a string-quartet transcription-like. The "Adagio e cantabile" [7:39] presents a very "Beethoven-like" middle section. Minor arpeggios accompanying a long melody. May be the most striking movement is the Finale: Tempo di Minuet [4:19], it is rather unusual that a classical sonata ends with a Menuet.
The second of this set is the Sonata in C Major Hob.XVI:50. It is featuring a very brilliant Allegro [7:04]. The slow movement Adagio [5:46] features many string-quartet-like parts. The final movement Allegro molto [2:20] is harmonically striking
May be the most "humble" of the set is Sonata in D Major Hob.XVI:51 with its two-movement setting Andante [4:16] and Finale, Presto [1:42]. The Presto is noteworthy with its very interesting syncopated effects.
The classical piano virtuosity gets its apex with the Sonata in E-flat Major Hob.XVI:52. The rich Allegro [7:47] in typical French-Overture style displays extreme contrasts by alternating very short and very long note-values. The slow movement Adagio [5:58] is in the outrageously remote key of E major. It should have shocked the ears of the composer's contemporaries. Also a very brilliant movement with its "rocket-scales". The Finale, Presto [5:18] is virtuosity at its best.