World-renowned virtuosos Hélène Grimaud and Anne-Sophie Mutter, Turkish pianist/composer Fazıl Say, the Ensemble Wien Berlin and the Warsaw philharmonic Choir are among the stars of this summer’s İstanbul International music festival, the organizers of Turkey’s foremost annual classical music event announced on Tuesday.
The İstanbul Foundation for Culture and Art’s (İKSV) music festival will this year mark its 40th anniversary with a month-long program running from May 31 through June 29 that will feature 23 performances, two of them world premieres.
The 40th festival will see over 750 performers take to the stage in a range of symphonic chamber music and vocal performances and recitals, the İKSV announced at a news conference held in İstanbul on Tuesday.
The festival will open on May 31 with a concert that will bring young Turkish instrumentalists Simge Büyükedes, Ezgi Kutlu, Cenk Bıyık and Burak Bilgili together on the same stage with the Borusan İstanbul Philharmonic Orchestra (BİFO), the festival’s orchestra in residence, in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth at the Haliç Congress Center.
Internationally acclaimed Turkish pianist/composer Hüseyin Sermet will receive the 2012 festival’s Honor Prize during the opening gala.
One of the headliners of the program is internationally acclaimed French pianist Grimaud, who will take to the stage on June 22 at the historic Aya İrini Museum, one of the main venues of the festival, for a recital of pieces by Berg, Bartok and Liszt. Grimaud, who had to cancel two scheduled concerts as part of the 2006 and 2008 İstanbul music festivals due to health reasons, is one of the most eagerly anticipated performers on the lineup.
The program will see two world premieres as Georgian composer Giya Kancheli’s newest symphonic work, dedicated to the memory of late Turkish cellist Benyamin Sönmez, and Turkish composer Fazıl Say’s newest symphony, “Mesopotamia,” will be performed for the first time as part of the festival, for which they were commissioned.
Kancheli’s work will be given its premiere on June 11 at the Aya İrini by the Borusan İstanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of maestro Andres Mustonen and the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir. The concert will be dedicated to the memory of Sönmez, who was to take to the stage as a soloist in this concert had he not died of a heart attack in December 2011 at the age of 28. Instead, the concert will be a tribute to the internationally acclaimed late virtuoso and will feature cellist Giedre Dirvanauskaite, violinist Gidon Kremer and countertenor Mamuka Gaganidze as soloists.
Composer Kancheli will receive the 2012 festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award on June 11 before the performance.
The second work commissioned for the 40th festival, Say’s Second Symphony “Mesopotamia,” which the composer himself bills as his “masterpiece,” will premiere on June 23 at the Haliç Congress Center on the Golden Horn coast. The premiere will be performed by the Borusan İstanbul Philharmonic under the baton of veteran maestro Gürer Aykal.
Another highlight of the program, the Grammy Award-winning German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will be onstage on June 1, the festival’s second night, when she will feature as a soloist in the Ensemble WienBerlin concert to be conducted by Michael Francis at the Lütfi Kırdar Congress Center.
The İstanbul Music Festival, starting with its 2011 edition, is being held under a different theme, and the theme for 2012 is “Hope and Heroes,” the festival’s director, Yeşim Gürer Oymak, told Tuesday’s news conference.
“Artists, much like heroes, run after their ideals all throughout their lives. They sometimes have to fight for society and sometimes against it, all along hoping that they will be appreciated someday. They become our [society’s] guiding light and inspiration; they inject hope into our weary souls and hearts. We invite music lovers to an acoustic world of music themed around hope and heroism, two concepts that are intertwined, in the 40th year of our festival,” Oymak said.
Apart from concerts, this year’s program will also feature two special performances by the Zurich Ballet at the Aya İrini. The company will be in İstanbul on June 4 and 5 to present two of its productions, set to a score made up of Bach cello suites, under its distinguished choreographer Heinz Spoerli. The performances will come as part of the choreographer’s farewell tour, İKSV said.
In addition to Aya İrini, Lütfi Kırdar and the Haliç Congress Center, venues to host concerts for the 40th festival include the Süreyya Opera House, the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall (CRRKS) and the İstanbul Archaeological Museum. Tickets will be available starting Feb. 4 at Biletix and İKSV. For a full program, see the İstanbul Music Festival website at http://muzik.iksv.org/en.