Here Comes the Istanbul Music Festival


A marathon full of music and Shakespeare is about to start. The 44th Istanbul Music Festival, organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) will take place between June 1 – 24, 2016. The festival will present music lovers with an impressive programme built around this year’s theme inspired by Shakespeare’s verse, “If Music be the Food of Love, Play On”. I will cut to the chase and introduce the highlights of the festival.

The 44th Istanbul Music Festival will host close to 600 local and international artists, including names like İdil Biret, Murray Perahia, Gautier Capuçon, Angel Blue, Gérard Caussé, Herbert Schuch, Patricia Petibon, Alice Sara Ott, Maria João Pires, Antonio Meneses, Maxim Vengerov, Richard Galliano, and Sylvain Luc, as well as some of the world’s leading ensembles, such as Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Venice Baroque Orchestra, Orchestra of the Swan, Artemis Quartet, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and Beethoven Academy Orchestra.

Hosting two world premieres and one Turkey premiere, this year’s festival will feature 26 concerts, comprising symphony and chamber orchestras, recitals, and special projects, and will take place across 17 different venues.

One of the new additions to the festival this year, Music Route concert series will take festival followers on an excursion full of music and history across 5 churches in Beyoğlu: Surp Yerrortutyun Church, Church of Panayia Isodion, Sent Antuan Lower Church, Palais de Hollande Chapel, and Crimea Memorial Church, which will all be used as concert venues for the first time.

The Weekend Classics series, the free festival event that has already become a tradition, will take place at the Garden of Austrian Culture Forum, Fenerbahçe Park, and the Garden of Sakıp Sabancı Museum.

Orchestra Of The Swan “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Building its programme around different themes since 2011, the Istanbul Music Festival is inspired by Shakespeare’s famous verse, “If Music be the Food of Love, Play On” in this year’s edition.

The theme of the 44th Istanbul Music Festival will commemorate the great bard on the 400th year of his passing away with a special project. Composed by Mendelssohn for one of Shakespeare’s most colourful plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream will bring Orchestra of the Swan based in Stratford-upon-Avon together with soprano Ayşe Şenogul, the recipient of the 2015 Leyla Gencer Voice Competition Audience Award, and stage actress Tilbe Saran. Young British violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen will be the soloist in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, the composer’s final large orchestral work. The concert will be held at the Hagia Eirene Museum on Friday, 3 June.


Alexei Volodin “If Music Be The Food Of Love, Play On”

Another concert inspired by the festival theme is also named after it: “If Music be the Food of Love, Play On”. Taking place at Sent Antuan Lower Church on 10 June, the concert draws its strength from Shakespeare’s ageless works, combined with Alexei Volodin’s musical sensitivity and the powerful acting of Mert Fırat and Tilbe Saran. The night, which will open with the eternal love of Romeo and Juliet, two characters who have been an inspiration to many composers, will also feature Mendelssohn’s incidental music A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Medtner’s Fairy Tale No.4 inspired by King Lear. The works will be presented along with scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, once again brought to life by the masterful actress of Turkey’s theatre, Tilbe Saran and a talented actor of the younger generation, Mert Fırat.


Festival Encounter Trio Arte & Gérard Caussé

The Istanbul Music Festival, which has been contributing to the expansion of contemporary music repertoire for the past six years by commissioning composers, will host the world premiere of its commission to Özkan Manav. As part of the Istanbul Music Festival’s Festival Encounter series, Trio Arte will come together with famous cellist Gérard Caussé for a special concert. The Trio Arte ensemble comprises violinist Veriko Tchumburidze, cellist Dorukhan Doruk, and pianist Yunus Tuncalı, all three of whom have achieved great success at a young age and have received support from Güher-Süher Pekinel’s “Young Musicians on World Stages” project, and they will perform the world premiere of Özkan Manav’s Ludus Modalis at Sent Antuan Lower Church on Wednesday, 15 June.


A piano marathon by İdil Biret

The festival will present music lovers with a piano marathon by the great virtuoso İdil Biret, who has left her mark on classical music as an interpreter since the second half of the 20th century and celebrating her 75th birthday this year. İdil Biret will meet the festival audience at Boğaziçi University Albert Long Hall on 2 June, the Süreyya Opera House on 5 June, and the Hagia Eirene Museum on 8 June, performing a marathon featuring a wide repertoire, ranging from the baroque period to 20th century music.


Total music theatre based on Yaşar Kemal’s novel The Sea-Crossed Fisherman

The world premiere of Michael Ellison’s total music theatre based on Yaşar Kemal’s 1978 novel, The Sea-Crossed Fisherman, will take place at the Istanbul Music Festival. Michael Ellison’s work, with
Simon Jones’ libretto and stage direction, Zeynep Tanbay’s choreography, and NohLab’s video scenography, promises to be a complete musical and visual feast, depicting a dramatic, and at times surreal interaction between lyricism and idealism and the most basic human longings and darker truths. The Sea-Crossed Fisherman will have its world premiere in two sessions, as a matinee and soiree at the Süreyya Opera House on 11 June, following Cevat Çapan’s speech on Yaşar Kemal and his novel The Sea-Crossed Fisherman at 19:00, as part of the Pre-concert Talks.



A musical fairy tale for children at the festival: The Witch and the Maestro

This year, the 44th Istanbul Music Festival programme will also feature a special project for children. Written by British conductor Howard Griffiths and composed by Fabian Künzli, the musical fairy tale of the Witch and the Maestro presents classical music to children in an entertaining way. Along with the Brandenburg State Orchestra and the narration of Bergüzar Korel, who has received several Best Actress awards for her performances in film and television, the Witch and the Maestro will take place in two sessions at Uniq Hall Istanbul on 12 June.



Songs to the Full Moon

The Istanbul Music Festival starts a new series with the Tekfen Philharmonic Orchestra and takes classical music out under the moonlight. Held on a night lit by the full moon, amongst the greenery of Boğaziçi University, the soloists of Songs to the Full Moon, soprano Teona Dvali and tenor Andrej Dunaev will perform a selection ranging from Dvorák´s Aria to the Moon to Puccini’s tender O mio babbino caro, while the Tekfen Philharmonic Orchestra will perform a rendition of the Carmen Suites, under the baton of Uzbekistani maestro Aziz Shokhakimov.


Good news for the students! Students in the music and vocal departments of conservatories attend the Istanbul Music Festival concerts free-of-charge. They will need to receive reservation approval by sending an e-mail to including their name and student certificates one day prior to the concert that they would like to attend. Reservations will be approved on the basis of available capacity.

Let’s celebrate the music!