Subway violinist Joshua Bell opens 30th International Izmir Festival

Subway violinist Joshua Bell opens 30th International Izmir Festival

Nazlan Ertan - İZMİR
Subway violinist Joshua Bell opens 30th International Izmir Festival The International İzmir Festival, which has been bringing top composers and performers to the Aegean port city for the last 30 years, opened to a full house on May 17 with a concert by violinist Joshua Bell.

Bell, one of world’s best living violinists who recently participated in a project by the Washington Post to show that people could find good music anywhere, including the subway, seems an apt choice for a festival that has taken music to unlikely locations for the last 30 years. The festival has brought Baroque Cantatas to the Celsus Library in Ephesus; the Berlin Philharmonic to the excavation center in Kadifekale  and Jose Carreras to the ancient theater of Ephesus. Inviting a steady stream of celebrities from Kiri Te Kanawa to Tanita Tikaram, Mikhail Baryshnikov to Elton John, the festival makes use of city squares, excavation centers in İzmir’s impoverished districts, the heart of city’s Culture Park and, of course, the sumptuous Ephesus.

“We are very proud to have continued the tradition of this festival for 30 years,” said Filiz Eczacıbaşı Sarper, the founder and chairwoman of the İzmir Foundation for Culture, Arts and Education (İKSEV), at the opening. “What you hear tonight here will strengthen what is in your heart and your dreams of a freer world.”

The opening concert by Bell and pianist Sam Haywood at the Ahmet Adnan Saygun Arts Center’s crowded large hall included the city’s “who’s who” list. It also marked a rare occasion in the city where the performance started on time, rather than 15 minutes late. It, nevertheless, fell short of Bell’s exacting standard of absolute quiet – even in the makeshift stage at the subways, where his press representatives prepped the front row about not making any noise or using cameras with a clicking sound. “Please do not take photos. I cannot play while you do,” Bell told the audience.

The Indiana-born violinist, and Haywood, his long-time duo partner, have performed from Tomaso Antonia Vital, Ludwig van Beethoven and Gabriel Faure – a repetition of the repertoire in Istanbul and Ankara where the duo performed earlier this week before coming to İzmir.

Two-month festival

The International İzmir Festival, which stretches over two months, will continue with a concert that brings academic rivals, as Ege University State Classical Turkish Music Conservatory and Dokuz Eylül University Conservatory will be on the same stage for the first time on May 25. The “One Stage” projects are a tradition of İKSEV, which has brought five living conductors together to pay homage to great musicians or Turkey’s top actors and actors for a performance/recital of Nazım Hikmet’s verses.

The “theater” dimension of the festival will be realized through British novelist and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz’s “Mindgame” – a psychological play that takes place at a hospital for the criminally insane where no one, sane or insane, is what they appear to be.

The festival will also announce the results of the ninth National Composition Contest, which aims to honor its founding president, Dr. Nejat Eczacıbaşı, on June 7. 

The Ephesus dimension

The festival’s June program will mostly consist of concerts at historical Ephesus: Italian flute virtuoso Massimo Mercelli will take the stage with pianist Ramin Bahrami on June 16. Italian trumpeter and composer Mauro Maur and Canadian pianist Francesca de Clossey, who will perform famous film music from Bugsy to La Dolce Vita, will be on stage on June 20. Both concerts will take place at the Celsus Library in Ephesus.

The festival aims to end its 30th years with still another “biggie” – the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra at the ancient theater of Ephesus. This final concert will perform the works of Tchaikovsky, Dvorak and Liszt.