Now in its 12th year, the Beethovenfest Orchestra Campus project brings a youth orchestra from around the world to play at the fall event. This year's guests: the Turkish National Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.
The sounds of Turkey's dizzying labyrinth of traffic will be transported to a concert hall in Bonn as part of the city's 2012 Beethovenfest - as will the Turkish National Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. They are this year's guests at the festival's Orchestra Campus project, co-sponsored by Deutsche Welle.
DW commissioned the work "Traffic" by 21-year-old Turkish composer Mehmet Erhan Tanman to be premiered by the 100 members of the Turkish National Youth PhilharmonicOrchestra on September 19 at the Beethovenfest. "Traffic" will be played alongside a classical program including works by Beethoven, Strauss, Ravel and Bartok.
Conductor Cem Mansur founded the Turkish National Youth Philharmonic Orchestra in 2007. Mansur speaks often of cultural integration in conjunction with the orchestra's engagement in Bonn. Germany has been home to a large community of Turkish immigrants starting with a guest worker program begun in the 1960s, and integration of the Turkish community in Germany is a frequent source of political debate.
Questions about national allegiance and identity are reflected in music, too, Mansur stressed.
"Strangely, the second and third - not to mention the first - generations of the Turkish community in Germany have this feeling that if you listen to Beethoven, you will somehow end up less Turkish. It's such nonsense that people are made to feel an allegiance to one identity and to defend that against all odds," the conductor commented.
'Affirming our humanity'
The Orchestra Campus project has taken place annually at the Beethovenfest since 2001, and this year marks the second time DW and festival organizers welcome Turkey as the project's partner country.
"This is a cultural project but certainly also a social project - and a way to draw in young people who otherwise might not feel that the festival speaks to them," said Beethovenfest Director Ilona Schmiel at a press conference for the Orchestra Campus event.
This year's Orchestra Campus features an expanded range of programs that aim to bring Germany and Turkey into dialogue. Workshops for young cultural journalists from Turkey are complemented by workshops hosted by leading German musicians for the members of the Turkish National Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. While here, the young performers will view German culture through a personal lens by living with host families during their stay in Bonn.
Like the festival director, Mansur also hopes his group's performance at the Beethovenfest will draw in parts of the Turkish community that might otherwise have nothing to do with the event.
"I think it will be very interesting for them to hear young people from their forefathers' land come and play the music of the city they live in, and to make people think, 'Why are they doing that? There must be a deeper reason,'" Mansur said, adding, "We're not just pretending to be Germans by playing Beethoven; we're affirming our humanity."
Listening, not hearing
If some may have doubts about music's power to effect social change or address thorny integration problems, Mansur is not among them. He believes the universal appeal of music - especially that of the great symphonic literature - is a key element to helping people understand one another better.
"It's the greatest medium for people to learn about coexistence, about when to lead and when to follow, about taking responsibility and about our interdependence upon one another as a society. It's a great metaphor for people to learn the difference between listening and hearing," the conductor said.
The Turkish National Youth Philharmonic Orchestra's Beethovenfest performance will offer a chance to call those lessons to mind. But if the classical program fails to reach a broader audience, the Beethovenfest has a back-up plan: namely, a club night organized in conjunction with Cologne's c/o pop festival that will feature a select group of Turkish DJs performing in Bonn.
Author: Greg Wiser
Editor: Rick Fulker