Istanbul Music Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary

Istanbul Music Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary

Istanbul is becoming a frequent stage for international gatherings more and more everyday. 

People living in the central quarters of the historic city, where the prime minister’s Istanbul office lays by the Bosphorus and a number of five star hotels reside, are not particularly happy about this fact due to the additional traffic brought by the escorts of world leaders who’ve started to adopt favorite restaurants and shops in the area for themselves as they come and go at every opportunity they find.

The Turkish government is volunteering to host international political events in Istanbul at every opportunity; a successful strategy when not very many countries in Europe are doing that thanks to an economic crisis.

This is a new tendency - of a few years past - when it comes to politics.

But when it comes to culture and arts, Istanbul has a vivid history of attracting world class musicians, artists, actors and actresses for the last 40 years, thanks to a unique civic initiative which promotes the city. The Istanbul Music Festival, as the flagship of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) turns 40 this year. The month-long festival actually started May 31, but tonight is a special night for them.

In the historic Hagia Eirene (the first church the Byzantine Emperor Constantine commissioned to the city and also to have his name in the 4th century) the İKSV has planned to present a lifetime award tonight to the Georgian composer Giya Kancheli. The Borusan Philarmonic Orchestra of Istanbul is going to play a world premier of his new opus, which had been commissioned by the festival organizers a few years earlier.

The festival was started by the late Nejat Eczacıbaşı, founder of one of the leading industrial groups of Turkey in 1973. If one could consider the Turkey of those years, hit with political turmoil, devastating effects of the world oil crisis, lack of infrastructure in almost every field from transportation to health and education, the vision in founding the İKSV is better appreciated. His successor Bülent Eczacıbaşı recalls his father’s efforts as beginning back in 1964, with a modestly defined motivation of “His love for Istanbul.” 

It is not only the 40-year-old music festival that the İKSV is presenting to the city. A jazz festival starts right after the music festival, a theatre festival has just finished and the İKSV staff has already started work on an arts biennial and the annual film festival for the colder months. This is all done with donations and contributions from those who want to keep the profile of international level culture and arts high in Turkey, since the Istanbul festivals have encouraged sister organizations in the capital Ankara and other cities in the country.

Before concluding, a nice joke about Hagia Eirene that the Eczacıbaşı family likes to tell: They consider two emperors as the festival’s site sponsors; Constantine the First, because he constructed Hagia Eirene and Mehmet the Conqueror, because he kept it as a church after Turks took the city in 1453, giving an end to the Roman Empire. 
Well, it’s not only politics and Madonna. If you are looking for another reason to be Istanbul, you can find one in one of the Istanbul festivals.