Arcis Saxophone Quartet and Ferhan & Ferzan Önder

Dances of Russia

Dates upon request
Dances of Russia

Sergei Rachmaninov: From "Symphonic Dances" op. 45: 1. Non allegro (arr. Miha Ferk)
Sergei Prokofiev: Suite from ballet "Romeo and Julia" (arr. Miha Ferk)
Aleksey Igudesman: Russian Dance Suite for saxophone quartet and piano duo

Setting: Quartet plus piano at four hands

Ferhan & Ferzan Önder piano duo (in collaboration with Käch Artists & Promotion)

“Their subtle, searching ensemble playing, their temperament and their virtuoso dexterity are proof of the extraordinary pianistic qualities of the Önders. This is truly fiery music making!”

[Michael Stenger/Fono Forum]

There is always a special bond between twins – and Ferhan & Ferzan Önder bring that bond onto the concert platform. They are two individual artists but together they create a new musical identity. Though this might at first seem no more than a cliché, with these sisters it is the key to their activity and the essential characteristic of their expressive intensity, which becomes fully apparent in the way they play, completing each other’s artistic personality.

Ferhan & Ferzan Önder both describe their Turkish roots as of crucial importance for their trenchantly rhythmic playing style, since they have been familiar with the irregular rhythms of traditional music from their earliest childhood. But they say the fact that they are continuing a tradition of Turkish piano duos is merely a coincidence.

Extensive concert tours have taken the pianists throughout Europe, the Far East and America. They have performed among others at the Guggenheim Museum New York, Wigmore Hall London,  Semperoper Dresden, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Vienna Musikverein and Vienna Konzerthaus, as well as in Zurich, Barcelona, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Taipei, Belgrade, Montpellier and Salzburg.

Ferhan & Ferzan Önder have been invited to perform at such renowned festivals as the Rheingau Musik Festival, Salzburger Festspiele, Beethovenfest Bonn, Wiener Festwochen, Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, Istanbul Festival, Sommets Musicaux de Gstaad, Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Musikfest Bremen and Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival. They appear regularly with major orchestras such as Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg and Stuttgart Philharmonic under conductors as John Axelrod, Hans Graf, Howard Griffiths, Max Pommer, Hubert Soudant, Stefan Vladar and Hugh Wolff. In 2003, they performed with Sir Peter Ustinov at the Voestival in Linz. Similar musical/literary projects have led to collaborations with Cornelia Froboess, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Friedrich von Thun, Günther Jauch and Roger Willemsen. In 2016, their latest project was premiered: “Anonymous Was a Woman”, a literal-musical performance that focuses on women’s rights. Six female composers – among them Rachel Grimes, Anna Drubich and Amritha Vaz – contributed compositions to the project. During the performance, their music and texts of female authors alternate.

After releasing several CDs on small labels, they made a breakthrough with their CD “Vivaldi Reflections”, which was released on EMI in 2001. This disc also won the coveted ECHO KLASSIK Prize of the German record Academy. Their next CD was “1001 Nights” (EMI, 2003) with arrangements of works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Balakirev and Mozart. In 2011 Sony issued a live recording of their concert of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana for choir, soloists, two pianos and percussion at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival.

In recent seasons, Ferhan & Ferzan Önder have played works for two pianos and orchestra by Bach, Mozart and Poulenc, and premiered works by Fazıl Say. In the current season they’ll again impress international audiences in performances of music by Bartók, Reich, Say, and Tan Dun with the Austrian multi-percussionist Martin Grubinger. Among their other chamber music partners are Benjamin Schmid, Cyprien Katsaris, Janis Vakarelis and Clemens Hagen.

Born in Tokat (Turkey), they moved to Ankara at the age of seven, following their brother who was already studying at the Conservatory. When they were still only ten, Ferhan & Ferzan Önder began playing the piano. Just four years later, they won the ‘Jury Special Award’ at the Concorso Pianistico Internazionale Alessandro Casagrande in Terni (Italy). After a series of further prizes, Ferhan & Ferzan Önder won First Prize at the International Piano Duo Competition in Hamburg.

Their great talent, combined with a high degree of discipline and support from their family, soon bore fruit. After Ferhan won first prize in a competition in Istanbul that led to a concert in Vienna, the twins decided to move to Austria in 1985. They studied at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna with Noel Flores and Paul Badura-Skoda. Shortly before their final exams they met Alfons Kontarsky, who became their mentor and a close friend until his death.

Ferhan & Ferzan Önder live with their families in Austria. Since 2003 they have been “Goodwill Ambassadors” of UNICEF committed to projects with children.

Season 2019/20

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Programme information:

What can be expected, if a Turkish piano duo meets a German saxophone quartet bringing Russian dances with them? It’s going to be a performance with romantic melodies, Russian-expressive harmony and dramatic depth, which shows that classical-Russian dance music is a universal subject which inspires musicians and the audience worldwide.

The opulent sonority and energetic-rhythmical complexity à la Sacre du printemps in Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances has its counterpart in the ballet suite Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev. No surprise, the premieres took place almost simultaneously in the 20th century. Aleksey Igudesman – himself born in St. Petersburg - joins the ranks in this tradition with his work specially composed for this ensemble, this takes the audience on a journey through the whole of Russia showing the full range of Russian-folkloristic dance music.

In the intimacy and subtlety of chamber music up to the illusion of the richness of tone of a late romantic orchestra, the six musicians  merge the sound of the saxophones with the rich sound of a piano duo and bringing the nostalgia of “Old Russia” into the concert hall, which inspired the composer in the turn to Modern Age.

The saxophone with its special colour is part of the original orchestration in both of the first works of the evening. A symbol of freedom, which the composers of the former Soviet Union yearned for: The saxophone was the proscribed instrument of the liberal western world.


  • Arcis Saxophone Quartet in Munich

    In the slow second movement of Dvorak's "American" quartet, the saxophone vocals of the four enchanted. This was also successful with Samuel Barber's Adagio for strings. The two suites from Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story" and George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" showed all the qualities of this brilliant quartet: Vitality, interplay of chamber music, contagious playfulness and a virtuoso and tonal elegance of interplaying that turns four individual players into a first-class formation. Huge applause!

    Süddeutsche Zeitung, Harald Eggebrecht, 18.03.2018

    Süddeutsche Zeitung, Harald Eggebrecht, 18.03.2018

  • New CD: J.S. Bach/George Gershwin/Franco Donatoni

    The ensemble sound is surprisingly homogenous and alto saxophonist Ricarda Fuss and soprano saxophonist Claus Hierluksch succeed in adding soft sound colors and dosing the overtone content. While the four spectacular facets of their expression can be seen in Gershwin's sparkling suite, they point out a haunting stream especially in the middle part with an Andante in almost impressionistic sound colors.

    MDR Kultur, Jan Kubon und Michael Kuhlmann, 26.06.2017

    The fact that the four musicians of the Arcis Saxophon Quartet master their instruments is understandable. But it is more powerful that they use these skills innovatively.(…) Clarity in the arrangement and tonal perfection with immaculate approach are the means of the Arcis Quartet on their new album. Bach's melodic stringency and the compellingly flowing variation fill the four saxophones with almost casual elegance, without losing even a second of tension.(…) In the Arcis interpretation of Gershwin's "Porgy And Bess" suite, the dizzying technical brilliance prevails. A ballet on the musical high rope, grounded by the baritone parts of Jure Knez.

    Spiegel Online, Werner Theurich, 23.04.2017