The Istanbul Music Festival is hosting its 45 year of classical concerts this year from May 29–June 21. Marking a high point in the city’s cultural calendar, the festival continues to bring world-class names to Istanbul as well as showcase the finest performers from Turkey. The theme of this year’s festival is “Unusual”, an apt adjective for this year’s venues: from the old Bomonti brewery to an Armenian church, the Galata Mevlevihane to the Süreyya Opera House, and Hagia Eirene Museum to Sait Halim Paşa Mansion. Here are some of the extraordinary artists that will be filling those venues with the sound of their music.
Mikhail Rudy – The Sound of Colours: Kandinsky & Chagall
Considered one of the top pianists worldwide, Mikhail Rudy has worked with renowned conductors such as Herbert von Karajan and Lorin Maazel. As well as producing over 30 recordings that have won many international awards, Rudy also engages with the visual arts in his music. His film based on the Kandinsky staging of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition has been screened around the world, and he has collaborated with stop-motion filmmakers the Quay Brothers. His Istanbul Music Festival concert features his multimedia performances with animation and music combining into a synesthetic whole.
London Chamber Orchestra & Alina Pogostkina
In this concert at Hagia Eirene Museum, Britain’s oldest professional chamber orchestra meets a young Russian violin star. Alina Pogostkina won the Sibelius Competition in 2005, and has previously performed with the BBC Philharmonic. The London Chamber Orchestra has an impressive list of premieres to its name from Stravinsky to Prokofiev. Together, the orchestra and the soloist will be performing an entire concert of Beethoven.
This concert in the garden of the Galata Mevlevihane is a meeting of a kemençe and a kemanche, the Istanbul type and the Persian type, respectively. Derya Türkan and Sokratis Sinopoulos represent Istanbul while Kayhan Kalhor and Ali Bahrami Fard represent Iran. Each of these musicians is a master in their own right, making this congregation a thrilling event for lovers of Turkish and Persian classical musics.
From 9am–5pm, guests at this event will go on a journey through time, space, and sound in Yeniköy, a picturesque neighborhood on the European Bosphorus shore. The day begins with a talk by historian Mert Taner on Yeniköy’s churches and the iconic Sait Halim Paşa Mansion. Then throughout the day, different concerts take place at an Armenian church, Sait Halim Paşa Mansion, two Greek churches, and the Austrian Cultural Center.
Şimdi Ensemble – Eternal Love
Şimdi Ensemble is a group of virtuoso musicians who give contemporary interpretations to Sufi music and hymns and also compose their own songs inspired by this tradition. Turkish harpist Şirin Pancaroğlu and Roma darbuka maestro Hamdi Akatay are two of the stars of this ensemble, which will be playing in the atmospheric setting of the Grand Bazaar.
Philip Glass – 11th Symphony premiere
The festival co-commissioned leading contemporary composer Philip Glass’ 11th Symphony, which premiered at New York’s Carnegie Hall. This symphony has an emphasis on percussion as well as large parts for the tuba, and continues the composer’s work with tonal music.
Vienna Chamber Orchestra & Fazıl Say
The festival’s closing concert pairs celebrated Turkish pianist Fazıl Say with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, which has hosted Yehudi Menuhin as a guest conductor. The concert program draws on three icons of classical music: Beethoven, Mozart, and Mendelssohn.