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Beethoven all the Way from Istanbul to Bonn

Though not exactly a country you’d associate with Beethoven, Turkey is in the spotlight at the ongoing International Beethoven Festival in Bonn as its young orchestra enthralls listeners.


The Istanbul orchestra in its element in Bonn

It’s that time of year again when lovers of classical music and in particular Beethoven fans descend upon the legendary composer’s home city of Bonn on the banks of the Rhine in Germany.

For an entire month, the city and the neighbouring region sway to the lilt of famous sonatas and uplifting compositions by the maestro himself as well as compositions and interpretations of his music by both renowned contemporary musicians and their lesser-known counterparts from all over the world.

Beethoven Denkmal in Bonn

Beethoven statue in Bonn

The annual Beethoven Festival in Bonn is recognised as a platform for international talent to both display their skills and glimpse various interpretations of the great German composer, whose works have made for a lively heritage that continually inspire musicians.

Along these lines, this year’s International Beethoven festival which kicked off on September 6 – apart from numerous compositions by Beethoven – focuses on the premieres of works composed by five significant contemporary composers, who have immersed themselves in Beethoven’s works and spirit.

Among them are French composer Pascal Dusapin, German composers Jürg Baur and Manfred Trojahn and Spanish composer Mauricio Sotelo.

Beethoven resounds from unlikely regions

Apart from guest performances by acclaimed orchestras, solo acts by virtuoso artists and chamber music ensembles, a special highlight of the festival is the "Orchestra Campus" project organised by the Beethoven Festival together with Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle.

The aim of the project is to invite a talented young orchestra from a country that has no obvious link with Ludwig van Beethoven to present their interpretation of Beethoven’s works. In return, the predominantly-German audience gets to enjoy the interpretation skills and creative potential of young talent from foreign regions.

Though it’s difficult to think of Turkey as a centre for western classical music, few are aware that the majority Muslim country has dozens of music schools, conservatories and symphony orchestras based on European models.

Beethoven in der Türkei

The Turkish orchestra

This year 80 young talented musicians from the state conservatory of the University of Istanbul (photo) under the direction of Rmiz Malik Aslanov have made their way to their Rhine to show off their skills and get the chance to work with some prominent composers in Bonn.

Chance in a lifetime for Turkish musicians

Thomas Daniel Scheel, the Director of the Beethoven Festival is enthused about the Orchestra Campus project.

"Such projects form a special part of a music festival. The orchestra of the conservatory of the University of Istanbul - which is wonderfully prepared under maestro Malik Aslanov – will not just present a finished programme, but we want to use the presence of these young people to give them an impression of the Beethoven Festival and a few important interpretations that they can take back with them to their own country", he told DW-RADIO.

The young Turkish musicians, who gave a performance on Sunday evening, will also work together with prominent conductors such as Krysztof Penderecki, Helmuth Rilling and Peter Gülke who will take them through the paces in some of Beethoven’s works as well as other composers. The results of the co-operative efforts will be visible for all in the form of public workshop concerts.

Robust cultural exchange

The young musicians, who are staying with families in Bonn, attend concerts, make contacts, and generally contribute to the international flair of the festival by participating in a vigorous cultural exchange between the orient and the occident.

Naturally the young musicians from Istanbul are excited about playing in Germany and can hardly wait to meet up with the famous conductors.

Beste Karajedsin, who plays the clarinet said, "It’s very exciting for me to be together with such great personalities, to be allowed to work with them, to be in the same city, to move in the same spheres and to breathe the same air. It’s wonderful".

Beethoven as inspiration

An integral part of the Orchestra Campus project is the Deutsche Welle prize for best composer which is awarded to an outstanding composer from the guest country. This time Turkish composer Özkan Manav (photo) won the award for his work entitled "Portamento lento" which was performed by the orchestra of the conservatory of the University of Istanbul on Sunday evening.

Özkan Manav

Composer Özkan Manav

A thrilled Manav told DW-RADIO that he discovered how "close" he felt to Beethoven’s music when he began composing his award-wining work and how much it "motivated" and "moved" him.

"Even today as a composer and music teacher, I consider Beethoven one of the heroes of classical music. In that sense, it’s naturally wonderful to be in the same city that Beethoven was born in. And I’m really proud of the fact that my work was premiered in a hall that bears the name of Beethoven!", he said.

The International Beethoven Festival in Bonn will run through till October 6, 2002

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