East of the Sun
West of the Moon
East of the Sun, West of the Moon brings two different worlds of music together; Turkish-Ottoman classical music and Western classical music. Focusing on the 17th-18th centuries, an ensemble of eastern and western instruments will perform music from both traditions, featuring works by baroque composers from Europe and composers of Turkish-Ottoman music of various origins including Polish, Romanian, Jewish as well as Turkish.
The aim is to bring out the delicate interconnections these two musical traditions carry. Enriched with the unique timbre of the traditional instruments, the music will create a bridge in between the traditions, blended with unique improvisations.
The inspiration of this project;
I am a classically trained violinist, and over the years, I developed a growing interest for the traditional music of Turkey. Growing up in Turkey, I had naturally a lot of exposure to the music of the culture, however it was much later in my life when I became actively interested in this music and began performing it.
Over the time, this created a double-sided musical life for me. I was switching gears each time I was playing in a classical music performance versus a Turkish music performance, and I thought to myself, how can I bring these two sides of myself together? And how can I bring these two styles of music together, the Turkish classical music and Western classical music?
First, I brought together the instruments of the two traditions, performing a Turkish music piece with the harpsichord by tuning the instrument to the micro-tones in Turkish music. Then I decided to focus on the time period of 17th and early 18th century, which corresponds to the baroque period in western classical music, when the element of improvisation was still high regarded, which is a key element in Turkish music as well, and will be a key element in this project too. I looked into the influences in between the works of the traditions with the idea of performing together in a mixed ensemble of eastern and western instruments, and thus this project was born.
In this concert we are presenting music from a wide array of nationalities. Not just several western composers from different European countries but also composers from the Ottoman world of various origins such as Polish, Romanian and Jewish as well as Turkish.
The first piece we will play is the duo violin sonata of German baroque composer Johann Vierdanck , who lived in the 1600's and was also a violinist and a cornettist aside from being a composer. This piece will lead us to the Yegâh Saz Semai with an improvisation, in other words taksim, as it is named in Turkish music.
Tanburi Isak, the composer of Yegâh Semai, lived in Istanbul in the 1700s. His real name was Fresco Romano and he was of Jewish origin. He taught tanbur in the palace and his school of teaching was passed down on generations. This particular piece of him that we’re going to play is among the unknown works of the repertoire. It has recently been transcribed from a manuscript of an old notation system to current notation and a recording of this piece was not available, though one is on the way now.
The third piece we’ll play is a short Ritournelle from Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opera `Les Indes Galantes’. Rameau was an influential French composer of the late Baroque period, best known today for his harpsichord music, operas, and also known as a music theorist. One of his most famous works, Les Indes Galantes, is his opera in four acts. The four acts have distinct and separate plots but are unified by the theme of love in exotic places, which are The Ottoman Empire, Peru, Persia, and North America. The first act, Le Turc Generoux, translates as The Generous Turk, takes place in the Ottoman Empire. The story takes scene in the gardens of Osman Pasha and tells the story of how he generously set free his slave Emilie, who he was in love with.
The following is Bûselik Peshrev, a piece by Dimitrie Kantemir. Kantemir, who is known as Kantemiroglu in Turkey, was a Romanian Prince, a historian, composer, a collector and researcher of Turkish music. Cantemir came to Istanbul at the age of 14 and lived there for 21 years. He received a high-quality education in the Ottoman Palace during the reign of Ahmet II, where he learned many eastern languages and cultures. He was also involved in literature and was a poet. He left behind many beautiful works of music and Bûselik Peshrev is one of them.
The next piece on the program is from another composer with European origin. Ali Ufkî Bey, whose real name was Wojciech Bobowski, was a Polish musician and translator in the Ottoman Empire. He translated the Bible into Ottoman Turkish, and wrote a grammar of the Ottoman Turkish language. He was also known to master sixteen languages. Born in Poland, he was raised in a Protestant family and started a career as a church musician. At some point, he was taken as a worker by a Turkish Prince as his sister was married by an Ottoman prince. Because he had musical training he was sold to the court of sultan Murad IV where he converted to Islam and became known as Ali Ufkî, where he served as an interpreter, treasurer and musician in the sultan's seraglio. His musical works are considered among the most important in 17th-century Ottoman music.
Buhûrî-zâde Mustafa Itrî Efendi was an Ottoman-Turkish musician, composer, singer and poet, who lived in Istanbul in the 1600s. With over a thousand works to his name, although only about forty of these have survived to this day, he is regarded as the master of Turkish classical music. He composed many religious and non-religious works of music. Itrî was a Mevlevî, in other words a Sufi, following the order of Rumi. His composition ‘Tekbir’ in the Segâh mode is one of the most important and well-known works of Sufi music. In 2012, due to the 300th anniversary of Itri's death, the UNESCO declared 2012 as the International Itrî Year.
Dilhayat Kalfa, was an influential women composer who lived in the late 1600s, early 1700s. Only very little known is known about her life. She was raised in the palace. We understand this from her adjective Kalfa, as it is a rank associated with important administrative tasks in the palace. In some Ottoman resources, one encounters information about nearly 100 of her works. However, not all have survived to our day. Her works that have survived are counted among the important examples of the technique and aesthetic of the classical school. Especially her works composed in the Evcara makam demonstrates a flawless execution of the melodic progression and movement of this makam. Her two works in Evcara, a peshrev and a saz semai, exhibit a very special style.
Next on the program is a short prelude by English baroque composer Henry Purcell, who is usually considered to be one of the greatest English composers. Although incorporating Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, Purcell's legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music. This short prelude for unaccompanied violin of him will lead us into the next piece on the program, Turkish Ceremony March of Jean-Baptiste Lully.
Lully, was an Italian-born French composer, instrumentalist, and dancer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis the 14th of France. He is considered a master of the French Baroque style and is considered the founder of French opera. The Ceremony of the Turks is a majestic march for the comedy-ballet Lully composed, which was commissioned by the King for Molière's play, Le Bourgeois Gentillome. We can hear that he was influenced by the Ottoman military band music, in other words, mehter music, when composing this piece. The piece is the result of a command from the king himself who wanted a "ridiculous Turkish ballet"and there is an interesting anecdote to it.
An Ottoman envoy was sent to Louis 14th in November 1669, to make a visit to the court in Versailles. The King, believing that he was dealing with the ambassador of the Sultan in person, had presented himself and his court in the greatest possible splendor to impress his guest. It was later found out by the interpreter rereading the letter of the Sultan, that the word "elchi" , which means "ambassador", was not there and Soliman Aga, who was sent instead, was not an ambassador, but an emissary. All the luxury that was displayed on this occasion was unjustified! In order to escape the situation, Louis XIV had the idea of ordering Lully "a ridiculous Turkish ballet", thus transferring the jokes to the Turks. This protocol visit which was intended to restore diplomatic ties between France and Turkey, was a complete failure. It was, however, at the origin of two important events: the introduction of coffee in France, and the creation of this beautiful piece of music.
Next on the program is Johann Joseph Fux’s symphony for 3. Fux was an Austrian composer, music theorist and pedagogue of the late Baroque era. He is most famous for being the author of Gradus ad Parnassum, a treatise on counterpoint. He was influenced by Turkish music and incorporated Turkish music elements in his Symphony for 3 in C major. The work consists of 4 movements, Turcaria, Passagaglia, Janitshara, Posta Turcica.
While passagaglia, the second movement is quite western to the ears, in the other three movements it is possible to hear the Turkish elements in the music. Title of the 3rd movement, Janitshara, refers to Janissaries, known as Yeniceri in Turkish, which means new soldier or new troop.
The last piece on the program has become my favorite piece in the repertoire. It is a song composed by Tanburi Mustafa Cavus, who was also a poet. The lyrics of the piece is written by Âşık Hıfzî in a beautiful poetry.