The title reflects not just the city itself, but also the way the festival will present some of its performances, as festival director, Yeşim Gürer Oymak, explained. “Art production and its consumption cannot be independent of the conditions of the digital age we are living in, where we have infinite access to all art forms. We stream music and download concert performances and scores, anything! We have digital halls and opera houses in our living rooms. On the other hand, classical music audience is ageing everywhere in the world. So we have to think in new ways, to attract new audiences and present them with a new and fresh experience in new venues. A ‘usual’ presentation of classical music is not enough. We have to think more about interdisciplinary arts forms, to make connections between music, literature and other forms of arts. So we wanted to present a more flexible, varied concert programme with “unusual” connections which are nonetheless in tune with the context”.
These interdisciplinary connections can be found across the festival. Pianist Mikhail Rudy illustrates his recital on 31 May with art by Kandinsky and Chagall; Ensemble Soqqadro Italiano presents Vivaldi with visuals on 5 June, and on 20 June the Debussy Quartet teams up with the circus-ballet group Circa Ensemble for a programme of Shostakovich. Making unusual connections within music, David Greilsammer and jazz pianist Yaron Herman lead the Geneva Camerata through an eclectic and exciting encounter between Baroque and jazz on 12 June, which includes Rameau with Herman’s jazz improvisations and his arrangements of Purcell and Marais.
These unusual performances aside, most of the festival is made up of “western classical” music, offering audiences major international artists and emerging Turkish talent. Matthias Goerne performing Schubert Lieder with Quatuor Ébène stand out as particularly notable visitors. Yeşim Gürer Oymak expressed her pleasure that pianist Fazil Say returns home again, saying “We have a great collaboration with him not only as a performer but also as a composer. We have a mutual trust which leads to create exciting projects together.” Say gives a recital presenting Chopin and Debussy alongside works by Ulvi Cemal Erkin and Ahmet Adnan Saygun, two members of the pioneering “Turkish Five”, on 15 June and plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 12 in A major K.414 with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra to close the Festival on 21 June.
As well as established Turkish artists such as as Say, the festival is looking to the future and since 2012 it has developed a young soloist project to nurture the next generation of Turkish musicians, focussing on a different instrument every year. Yeşim Gürer Oymak explained that this has become a great way to present young soloists to the festival audience as well as bringing them to the attention of the music industry. The musicians themselves are motivated by the challenge and opportunity that appearing in the festival in this way presents to them, and greatly value the experience. Following from the violin, cello, piano, and flute in previous years, this year it’s the turn of the viola, and the winner performs with the Dokuz Eylül University Symphony Orchestra on 17 June.
Summing up the Istanbul Music Festival, Yeşim Gürer Oymak told us: “The festival was founded in 1973 as basically a festival for classical western music, and its programme has always been based on this idea, but since its inception we have also included the best examples of Eastern music, and we aim to present more original examples of Ottoman Classical Music at the festival in the future”.
Article sponsored by Istanbul Music Festival.