Democratic Septet | Music | DW | 19.06.2012
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Democratic Septet

What can young musicians from Turkey and a German symphony orchestra learn from one another? A workshop in Istanbul tested the unifying power of music and showed how understanding is possible without words.

The first muffled tones can be heard from the stairwell. Whoever walks the wide marbled staircase of the University of Istanbul and opens the door to Mavi Salonu, a blue salon, finds himself in another world.

Gone are the congested streets of Istanbul, the stifling heat and the noise. Instead, the sound of violins resonates, murmurs of Turkish, English and German can be heard, all are interspersed with laughter. If you look between the brocade curtains through the wide windows, you will see trees, flower beds and - behind the university campus - the famous Sultan Ahmet Mosque.

On the wooden floor of the blue salon, a huge room with ornamental wall moldings and decorative wall paintings, sit seven musicians from Germany and Turkey. You can hear Beethoven's Septet, a challenging piece of chamber music. The seven musicians are taking part in a workshop in Istanbul as part of "Beethoven ile bulusma - Encounter with Beethoven," a collaboration of DW and the Beethoven Festival Bonn.

Musicians' workshop in an ornate setting at the University of Istanbul. Photo: Claire Horst

Musicians' workshop at the University of Istanbul

An extraordinary cooperation

At first glance, it's striking to see the age difference between the participants: the youngest of them are only 20 years old. They look like normal youths, wearing sneakers and singlet tops. What they do though, is much more exceptional. These 100 musicians, selected from conservatoriums all over Turkey, belong to the Turkish National Youth Philharmonic Orchestra (TNYPO). This week, some of them have the opportunity to receive intense training from the Polyphonia Ensemble, a brass and string ensemble from the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.

This is the first time the youth orchestra, founded in 2007, has participated in an international collaboration. Cem Mansur, principal conductor and founder, is delighted with the workshops results. "Unbelievably, these young people have incredible talent. You can't help but wonder why can't they perform like that every day? This is a question that the music system in Turkey continually struggles with. Unfortunately state orchestra musicians often lose their ambition. These young people are here to learn not to go about their work like civil servants do."

Interaction is of most importance

Chamber music doesn't have a long tradition in Turkey. For students like Cemil Abdullavev who moved from Azerbaijan to Turkey to study music, this is a unique opportunity. He is playing in a septet for the first time and participates mainly because of the good teachers in the workshop. Even 20-year-old clarinetist Ferec Akbarov, like Abdullayev, will play in a chamber music ensemble for the first time. It's a useful experience for him: "In a small group of seven to ten musicians it's extremely important to play together, to have the same intonation and to find the right balance."

Ismail Kaya on cello. Photo: Claire Horst

Ismail Kaya on cello

Achieving this interaction is Mansur's goal: "Young people should know that it's important to listen to one another. Music is a wonderful metaphor for democracy. Better than anything else, it conveys a culture of living together." There is also no ordinary teacher-student relationship at this workshop. Here professional musicians from Germany help the young musicians by offering explanations or playing the piece for them as it should sound. And the professionals learn from the students too: "That was good!" remarked one young musician excitedly to the German instrumentalist sitting next to him. "It's nice that the boundaries between teachers and students don't really exist here. Everyday I learn something new," said Mansur.

A challenge of the highest level

The challenge appeals to John Watzel, a violinist in the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester and member of the Polyphonia Ensemble. "These workshops done in collaboration with DW have taken place in places like the Middle East, the Balkans or South America. We go where western classical music isn't well known. Before we arrive, we don't know what level musicianship to expect. Sometimes it's not easy to get performance-standard results."

Johannes Watzel and Hamde Küden. Photo: Claire Horst

Johannes Watzel and Hamde Küden

The music performed by the TNYPO also pleases Watzel: "Here in Istanbul, it is sheer joy, because there are quite a few outstanding students taking part." Twenty-year-old violinist Hamde Küden, for example, is about to start studying at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin and has also been accepted into the Academy of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester.

The final concert

On Friday, the workshop will conclude with a concert at the German consulate. "I'm very excited,“ said Hamde Küden. "I'm sure it will work out really well, because we all work so well together." But, the collaboration between these two groups doesn't finish when the final note is played and the stage curtain closes on their performance. In the autumn of 2012 the entire TNYPO will tour Germany, Holland and Belgium and on September 19 will perform at DW's Campus Concert at the Beethoven Festival in Bonn.

Author: Claire Horst / jlw

Editor: Rick Fulker

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