Istanbul Music Festival

Istanbul Music Festival to Meet Music Lovers Virtually in 2020

The 48th Istanbul Music Festival will meet music lovers virtually between 18 September and 5 October 2020.

Curated around this year’s theme, The Enlightened World of Beethoven, the festival concerts filmed at historical venues in Istanbul, Ankara, and various cities of Europe.

Organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) with the support of the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the 48th Istanbul Music Festival will be available for streaming on for audiences to enjoy on their screens.

The online festival will kick off with the Opening Concert to be streamed online for free on and İKSV’s YouTube channel on 18 September. All concerts from the festival programme will be available for audiences both in Turkey and around the world with stunning image and sound quality, and accessible ticket prices.

Concert tickets will go on sale at a single ticket price of 20 TRY. The audiences will also be able to purchase a bundle ticket that is valid for all the concerts for 250 TRY. As part of the festival, a new concert will be open to stream every day as of 18 September, and the concerts will be accessible for 30 days. Viewers will be able to stream the concerts for 7 days after they start watching.

Concert recordings at historical venues

The 48th Istanbul Music Festival concerts were filmed by professional crews at historical venues in Istanbul, Ankara and various cities of Europe, with ensembles such as the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, Tekfen Philharmonic Orchestra, Wiener Akademie, Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, Kheops Ensemble, Philharmonix, Beethoven Trio Berlin, Borusan Quartet, Semplice Quartet and with soloists like Thomas Hampson, Víkingur Ólafsson, Benjamin Schmid, Anna Tifu, Bülent Evcil, Derya Türkan, Yurdal Tokcan, Gökhan Aybulus, Ezgi Karakaya, and Pelin Halkacı Akın.

The concert venues include the Theodosius Cistern, Palace of the Porphyrogenitus, Khedive Palace, Tophane-i Amire Culture and Art Centre, Harbiye Saint Esprit Cathedral, Surp Ohan Vosgeperan Armenian Catholic Church, Süreyya Opera House in Istanbul, and the Abbaye de Stavelot, Wonderfeel Festival Site, Schubertkirche in Belgium, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands.

Festival celebrates the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth

In 2020, the 48th Istanbul Music Festival, centred on the theme The Enlightened World of Beethoven celebrates the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, along with the rest of the world. The festival will feature iconic works of the composer, as well as new commissions and projects inspired by his music.

The Istanbul Music Festival programme evokes the essential aspects of the composer’s music such as the ‘love of nature’, ‘love of humanity’ and ‘innovative and visionary music language’. With his bold musical language, Beethoven defied the boundaries of musical genres of his time and set new standards that still influence the music world and manifest in most of the festival performances.

Free festival events on İKSV’s YouTube channel

Besides the Opening Concert of the 48th Istanbul Music Festival that will be accessible for free at and İKSV’s YouTube channel, the festival will present a series of talks on art history and music, pre-concert talks and children’s workshops on İKSV YouTube channel, to be held in Turkish.

Opening Concert by Tekfen Philharmonic Orchestra and violinist Emre Engin

The 48th Istanbul Music Festival opens on 18 September at 20.00 on and İKSV’s YouTube channel with the Tekfen Philharmonic Orchestra, the festival’s 2019-2022 Opening Concert Orchestra. The concert under the baton of Aziz Shokhakimov, with violinist Emre Engin as the soloist, features works by Beethoven, Mozart, Prokofiev, and Bartok. Filmed at the Boğaziçi University South Campus in July, the concert was attended by a limited number of İKSV’s Tulip Card members in line with the COVID-19 measures. The online concert will be preceded by the opening speech of the Chairman of İKSV Bülent Eczacıbaşı and introductions of this year’s festival award recipients.

Festival’s Honorary Award goes to Ahmet Say

The 48th Istanbul Music Festival’s Honorary Award will be presented to musicologist and music writer Ahmet Say.

Born in Istanbul in 1935, Ahmet Say began taking piano lessons at a young age. In 1946, invited by Ferdi Statzer, he entered the Istanbul Municipal Conservatory, where he studied theory and solfege with Demirhan Altuğ, piano with Verda Ün, and harmony with Raşit Abed. He left the Conservatory in 1950 and went to Germany where he studied media and press. During this time, under the guidance of musicologist Kurt Kohler, he got interested in musicology. Upon his return to Turkey he worked as a public educator in Bingöl. Here he collected folk songs, laments, fairytales and legends, and founded children’s and youth choirs as well as folk dance ensembles. Putting his experiences to use in the field of literature, he wrote award-winning novels and short stories (TRT Award, Sabahattin Ali Award, Antalya Film Festival Award, Milliyet Newspaper Novel Competition Award). In 1964 he settled in Ankara, where he worked for various newspapers and magazines. He published a monthly literary magazine, Turkish Writers. He turned to music education and music publications in 1974 and to this day, he has been directing the Müzik Ansiklopedisi Yayınları (Music Encyclopaedia Publications) that he founded, as well as writing music reviews and books on music.

Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Alexander Rudin

One of the leading representatives of Russian school of music; cellist, conductor, pianist, harpsichordist, and professor Alexander Rudin will be the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Alexander Rudin will be presented the Lifetime Achievement Award at the next year’s festival.

Alexander Rudin’s artistic approach derives its strength from his natural interpretation with a careful and sensitive relationship with musical text. Despite having received education in traditional academic style, Rudin, who has focused on the authentic interpretations in early music, performs the Romantic period works in traditional style, while performing historically informed interpretations of the Baroque and Classical periods. With his vast repertoire covering four centuries, he has been performing the world and Russian premieres of contemporary composers’ works. Rudin has conducted many orchestras including London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vienna Symphony, the Bavarian State Opera, the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Russian National Orchestra. As of 1988, Alexander Rudin is the Artistic Director and principal conductor of Musica Viva Chamber Orchestra, as well as the Artistic Director of the Dedication International Music Festival in Moscow.

The Aydın Gün Encouragement Award for 2019 goes to young violinist Elvin Hoxha Ganiyev

Awarded every year since 2012 by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) to promising young classical musicians, the Aydın Gün Encouragement Award of 20,000 TRY is granted to the 22 year-old violinist Elvin Hoxha Ganiyev in its eighth year.

Elvin Hoxha Ganiyev was born in 1997 into a family of esteemed musicians and started playing the violin when he was 5 years old. At the age of 8, he made his concerto debut with his grandfather Server Ganiyev, and that same year he was admitted to the Zurich Conservatoire Young Student Programme. At the age of 10, Elvin made his debut with Moscow Virtuosi under the baton of Vladimir Spivakov at the Kremlin Palace. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía in Spain. Ganiyev is currently pursuing his master’s degree at Hochschule für Musik Theater und Medien Hannover in Germany.

Ganiyev has performed with renowned conductors, such as Zubin Mehta, Yuri Bashmet, Sasha Goetzel, Gürer Aykal, Rauf Abdullayev, Placido Domingo, Jules van Hessen, and David Bernard. He has concertized with such virtuosos as Vadim Repin, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Maxim Vengerov, Cihat Aşkın, and Fazıl Say at prominent concert halls throughout the world such as the Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow, Opera Garnier Monte-Carlo, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and the Royal Albert Hall in London. At the age of 13, Ganiyev performed as a soloist in the opening concert of the 38th Istanbul Music Festival with the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Gürel Aykal. Among the many leading orchestras that Ganiyev has performed with are the Moscow Virtuosi, Shanghai Chamber Orchestra, Amsterdam Philharmonic, Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic, Azerbaijani Philharmonic, Qatar Philharmonic, Odessa Philharmonic, New Russia Orchestra, Bilkent Chamber & Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, Turkish Presidential Symphony Orchestra, IIstanbul State Symphony, and İzmir State Symphony. He has received numerous awards and honours at prestigious international competitions including the David Oistrakh Violin Competition, Lipinski-Wieniawski Competition for Young Musicians, Golden Medal Berliner International Music Competition, and Vienna International Music Competition to name a few.

Festival contributes to artistic production with three new commissions

Istanbul Music Festival commissions new works to local and international composers since 2011 to support contemporary artistic production. This year, the festival enriches the contemporary music repertoire with three new commissions. While one of the works receives its world premiere at the festival this year, the other two commissions will make their premieres at the next edition of the festival in 2021.

The commission to the Turkish composer Turgay Erdener entitled Nonet Pastoral ‘alla turca’ interweaves Beethoven’s Pastoral with themes from Ottoman composers, and it is part of the Beethoven Pastoral Project run within the scope of BTHVN2020. Erdener’s work will receive its world premiere online on 27 September under the sponsorship of STONELINE with the master musicians Derya Türkan, Yurdal Tokcan, Serkan Mesut Halili, Aykut Köselerli, Kağan Yıldız, and Semplice Quartet.

The other work Toprak Sever İnsanları Birer Birer (Earth Loves People One by One) by Hasan Uçarsu is a co-commission with Tekfen Foundation and funded by Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation. Inspired by the poems of the Turkish poet Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca, Uçarsu’s new work alludes to the universal values Beethoven represents both in person and in his music.

Co-commissioned by the Istanbul Music Festival, Philharmonie Essen, Autumn Chamber Music Festival Riga and Wigmore Hall with the support of the President of the Hoffmann Foundation André Hoffmann, Peteris Vasks’ new work String Quartet No. 6 is based on the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s op. 132, ‘Heiliger Dankgesang’ (Holy Song of Thanksgiving).

The world premiere of Earth Loves People One by One and the Turkey premiere of String Quartet No. 6 will be given at next year’s festival.

Istanbul Music Festival presents the Festival Orchestra

Under the extraordinary conditions of the pandemic, the festival, together with all its supporters, has decided to hold the 2020 edition in order to create opportunities for musicians and music sector workers, and to ensure the continuity of cultural activities. With the new edition, Istanbul Music Festival establishes a festival orchestra with the support of Bell Group & Organik Holding. Comprising Turkey’s most talented young musicians under the baton of Cem Mansur, the Festival Orchestra brings a qualified, dynamic, and innovative approach to music making. In its debut concert, which was recorded at the Tophane-i Amire Culture and Art Centre and to be streamed online on 22 September, the Festival Orchestra performs a colourful programme with works by composers from various countries.

Festival’s Weekend Classics concerts

A tradition for the festivalgoers, the free Weekend Classics that usually take place outdoors on weekend mornings throughout the festival, are also held online this year and welcome the world thanks to the sponsorship of Mercedes-Benz Türk A.Ş. / Mercedes-Benz Otomotiv Tic. ve Hiz. A.Ş. The concerts recorded at the Khedive Palace in Istanbul and Wonderfeel Festival Site in the Netherlands will be available for free on

At the first concert of the Weekend Classics, MİAM Percussion Ensemble will offer a selection of jazz, Latin and world music, followed by the ‘Make It & Play It’ workshop for children aged 3-6 on making instruments from scrap materials on İKSV’s YouTube channel. The concert will be open to streaming on 20 September at 11.00.

The second concert of the Weekend Classics will celebrate Beethoven’s love of nature with The Nederlands Saxofoon Octet’s unique project ’Canto in Flow’, which will guide the audience into a unique flow where music, breath and movement become one. Recorded at the Wonderfeel Festival Site in ‘s-Graveland, the Netherlands, the concert will also offer a yoga experience with English instructions, enabling the viewers to join through their screens. After the concert, children aged 4-7 will have a chance to join the ‘Ek Biç Ye İç’ workshop on making seed balls and self-watering pots, which will be streamed online at İKSV’s YouTube channel.

Project for children: The Stronger Together Choir II (Birlikte Güçlü Sesler Korosu II)

The Stronger Together Choir (Birlikte Güçlü Sesler Korosu), which brought children and youth with various disabilities together with the Music for Peace Foundation Choir at the 47th Istanbul Music Festival, will bring children from refugee and host communities together in Turkey this year. Initiated by İKSV Alt Kat: Learning and Interaction Space with the support of Istanbul Development Agency (İSTKA) in 2019, the second edition of The Stronger Together Choir II (Birlikte Güçlü Sesler Korosu II) will be realised with the kind contribution of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The choir, which will be conducted by Zeynep Eren Kovankaya and will consist of children from the Human Resource Development Foundation, Mavi Kalem Social Assistance and Solidarity Association and the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Immigrants, will present the unifying power of music between different cultures with a multilingual repertoire.

The Stronger Together Choir II (Birlikte Güçler Sesler Korosu II) will meet the audience at a mini concert before Festival Focus: BIPO “From Baroque to Classical” concert on 2 October.

Festival continues to support the ‘Women Stars of Tomorrow’ through Young Women Musicians Support Fund

In 2018, the festival initiated a project to support the next generation of female musicians. Women Stars of Tomorrow: Young Women Musicians Support Fund was launched in collaboration with TSKB (Türkiye Sınai Kalkınma Bank) and the contribution of the audiences to advance the international careers of gifted musicians in the branches of instrument, singing, and conducting.

The project is open to young Turkish female musicians who seek for financial support to study abroad or for various activities to further their careers. The selection committee, presided by the Deputy Director General of İKSV, musicologist Dr. Yeşim Gürer Oymak comprises conductor and Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall General Artistic Director Cem Mansur, violinist and conductor Hakan Şensoy, piano duo Ufuk and Bahar Dördüncü, and pianist İris Şentürker.

The recipients of the project are Aslıhan Gençgönül (cello), Billur Ongun (trumpet), Cansu Özdamar (piano), Doğa Çetin (violin), Ece Selin Yüksel (flute), İdil Bursa (cello), İlke Işı Tuncer (violin), İrem Özyiğit (double bass), Mercan Demirkanlı (flute), Nora Heder (viola), Seher Karabiber (flute), and Simay Gönültaş (bassoon).

Among the young women musicians selected for support, Ece Selin Yüksel (flute), İdil Bursa (cello), İlke Işı tuncer (violin), İrem Özyiğit (double bass), and Seher Karabiber (flute) will make their appearance at a concert recorded at the Süreyya Opera House with the pianist Ayşegül Sarıca as guest artist. The concert will be streamed online on Tuesday, 29 September at 20.00. At the Pre-Concert Talk, which will be streamed online on İKSV’s YouTube channel, the journalist and author Melis Alphan will interview Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of SosyalBen Foundation Ece Çiftçi on her personal success story.

Festival tickets go on sale on Friday, 4 September

Tickets for the 48th Istanbul Music Festival will be on sale with a standard price of 20 TRY as of 10.30 on Friday, 4 September. The audiences will also be able to purchase a bundle ticket that is valid for all the concerts for 250 TRY.

Priority sales for Tulip Card members are on Wednesday, 2 September for Black and White Tulip, and Thursday, 3 September for Red, Orange and Yellow Tulip members at 10.30. Black and White Tulip Card holders are entitled to a discount of 25% while 20% discount is applicable for Red, Orange and Yellow Tulip Card holders.

With the Eczacıbaşı Culture & Art Card, 2000 university students in Turkey between 18-25 years of age received 250 TRY that can be used until the end of 2020 for İKSV events and Istanbul Museum of Modern Art. Eczacıbaşı Culture & Art Card holders will also be able to use their cards from 10.30 on Friday, 4 September to purchase tickets for the Istanbul Music Festival concerts.

Supporters of the 48th Istanbul Music Festival

The 48th Istanbul Music Festival is organised with the support of several performance sponsors. Performance sponsors with the Highest Contribution are Borusan Sanat, Borusan Holding, Tekfen Foundation and Mercedes-Benz Türk A.Ş. / Mercedes-Benz Otomotiv Tic. ve Hiz. A.Ş.

Among the festival’s performance sponsors are Türkiye İş Bankası, STONELINE, Nobel İlaç, bluechip Creative Events, Bell Group & Organik Holding, Berrin Erengül & Eva Barlas, Elvan Tuğsuz Güven, Işıklar Holding and Mercedes-Benz Türk A.Ş. / Mercedes-Benz Otomotiv Tic. ve Hiz. A.Ş.

Additionally, Tekfen Foundation supports the festival with the Tekfen Philharmonic Orchestra as the festival’s Opening Concert Orchestra in 2019-2022.

TSKB (Türkiye Sınai Kalkınma Bankası) supports the festival as the Education Support Fund Sponsor.

The 48th Istanbul Music Festival is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Governorship of Istanbul, the Istanbul Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and Kültür AŞ, Beşiktaş Municipality and Kadıköy Municipality.

The festival takes place with the kind collaborations of Austrian Cultural Forum, BTHVN2020 Beethoven Pastoral Project, Biletix, Bilkent University and Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, Boğaziçi University, Brucknerhaus Linz and Salzkammergut Klassik Festival, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Tophane-i Amire Culture and Art Centre, Harbiye Saint Esprit Cathedral, Süreyya Opera House, Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey, Wonderfeel Festival, Consulate General of the Netherlands in Istanbul and The Performing Arts Fund NL.

The Founding Sponsor of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts is Eczacıbaşı Group, İKSV Official Hotel Sponsor is The Marmara Group, the Insurance Sponsor is Zurich Insurance Group, and the Service Sponsors are American Hospital, Navitas, GFK, and AGC.

The 48th Istanbul Music Festival’s promotional campaign was led by an advisory board comprised of Pemra Ataç, Uğurcan Ataoğlu, and Kenan Ünsal. The festival poster was designed by Geray Gencer and illustrated by Müjde Polatkan whereas the campaign video was prepared by Animasyon Cumhuriyeti.

Photo Credit: Poyraz Tutuncu

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