For a month starting in mid-August, Istanbulites will be able to enjoy breathtakingly beautiful concerts in venues just as gorgeous, thanks to the 49th Istanbul Music Festival.
For Istanbulites starved for some entertainment and socialisation after being cooped up for more than a year, the 49th Istanbul Music Festival is just the right ticket. Taking place across town in beautiful outdoor venues from August 18 to September 16, 2021, the festival will aim to answer the question “Is another world possible?” through music.
The festival, which is organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) with the support of the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, will mark a first in its history by scheduling all its concerts in open-air venues. According to a news release by the foundation, the festival will welcome more than 30 soloists, ensembles and orchestras from Turkey and abroad.
Tickets for the festival go on sale for Tulip Card holders (loyalty cards for IKSV supporters) beginning June 22, while the general public will be able to purchase tickets at passo.com.tr and the IKSV box office in Beyoglu starting on June 25, 2021.
There are 21 concerts planned, featuring “ensembles such as Tekfen Philharmonic Orchestra, Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, Accademia Bizantina, Festival Orchestra, Modigliani and casalQuartet along with numerous stars including Fazil Say, Idil Biret, Khatia Buniatishvili, Anna Vinnitskaya, Alexander Rudin, Hande Kuden, Paul Meyer, Simon Ghraichy, Martynas Levickis and Ufuk-Bahar Dorduncu.”
The venues for the concerts are quite impressive, and they include Harbiye Cemil Topuzlu Open-Air Theatre, Sakıp Sabancı Museum Fistikli Teras, UNIQ Istanbul Open-Air Stage, Palais de France, Palazzo di Venezia, ARTER Backyard, Rahmi M. Koc Museum, Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus, and St. Benoit French High School Courtyard.
A great feature of the festival is the free weekend concerts to which everyone is invited, provided they comply with social distancing and other pandemic regulations. The free concerts will be held at Ataturk Urban Forest and Yildiz Park on the European side, and Fenerbahce Park on the Asian side. They will be held on August 28, September 5, with the chorus Chromas; and on September 12, with Aureum Saxophone Quartet.
The theme of the 49th Istanbul Music Festival is “Another World is Possible,” as the festival ponders the trying times we are going through, and offers a “musical journey to alternative worlds of peaceful coexistence of humanity with nature and the entire universe.”
With the hope that the negative effects of the pandemic are waning, and will be replaced by a time of “love, respect, hope, solidarity and trust,” the festival “explores new forms of music” and answers the question ‘Is another world possible?’ via the language of music.
The opening concert for the music festival will once again feature the Tekfen Philharmonic Orchestra (the festival’s opening concert orchestra from 2019 to 2022). The conductor will be Aziz Shokhakimov and the soloist will be pianist Anna Vinnitskaya. The concert is scheduled for August 18, 2021 at Harbiye Cemil Topuzlu Open-Air Theatre, on the European side. The international representative of the Turkish Violin School Cihat Askin will receive the festival’s Honorary Award during the opening ceremony.
As for the Lifelong Achievement Award, going this year to Peteris Vasks, it will be presented to the Latvian composer on September 6, 2021 –– before the Modigliani Quartet’s performance of the Turkey premiere of his latest work, “String Quartet No. 6,”commissioned by the festival.
In addition to the Turkey premiere of Vasks’ work, the 49th Istanbul Music Festival will feature the world premieres of four pieces. One such programme commemorates the 100th birthday of Turkish composer Ilhan Usmanbas. His Octet dated 1960 as well as a selection of his music for solo instruments will be performed on August 26, 2021 at ARTER Backyard as well as world premieres of works composed by his students Ahmet Altınel, Özkan Manav and Mehmet Nemutlu.
IKSV hasn’t forgotten UNESCO’s designation of 2021 as Yunus Emre year, and has come up with a project called “Yellow Flower” to honour the folk poet. Harpist Sirin Pancaroglu and classical Turkish music soloist Bora Uymaz will perform new compositions written for the festival and being debuted on September 13, 2021 at Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus.
Moreover, world-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say will be performing his works Mount Ida and The Walking Mansion, collaborating with violinist Friedemann Eichhorn on stage, as well as multi-award winning casalQuartett. This concert is scheduled to be at Harbiye Cemil Topuzlu Open-Air Theatre on August 19, 2021.
Famed pianist Idil Biret will celebrate her 80th birthday at the festival, performing with the Festival Orchestra conducted by Can Okan on August 24, 2021 at Harbiye Cemil Topuzlu Open-Air Theatre –– her actual birthday is in November, but like the rest of us, she has started celebrating early, and who can blame her? She will perform Bach and Chopin at the concert, which is sure to delight music lovers.
Now in its sixth year, the Music Route, a journey of music the Bosporus, will be held on September 11 at 11 am and 2 pm. Departing from and arriving back at Kabatas Pier, the Music Route, taking place on a musical boat, will feature three different concerts on each tour: violinist Orest Smovhz and double bass player Nazarii Stets; the Aureum Saxophone Quartet; and Cello Paradiso.
Cellist, conductor and harpsichordist Alexander Rudin will be receiving the Istanbul Music Festival Lifelong Achievement Award he was supposed to collect last year and was not able to, because of the pandemic. He will perform with pianist Iris Senturker and violinist Efdal Altun at Rahmi Koc Museum on August 20, 2021.
There will be three ‘BIPO Focus’ concerts at the Istanbul Music Festival: the first will feature Borusan Quartet and clarinettist Paul Meyer at Sakip Sabanci Museum (SSM) Fistikli Teras on August 25, 2021. The second will be on September 2, 2021 at UNIQ Istanbul Open-Air Stage with accordionist Martynas Levickis, accompanied by Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, called “Piazzolla's 100th Birthday”. And the third will be on September 14, 2021 at Harbiye Cemil Topuzlu Open-Air Theatre featuring the star pianist Khatia Buniatishvili, who will perform with the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra. BIPO, as festival-goers may recall, was the opening concert orchestra for the festival from 2003 to 2018.
There are more concerts to be heard throughout Istanbul during the month-long festival, and tickets usually sell fast. So make sure you get yours and enjoy the great outdoors in beautiful Istanbul days and nights!