The Sound of Three Seas

Written by: Douglas Cooksey

The Turkey-based Tekfen Philharmonic Orchestra appears in London on 3 April 2005; a classical orchestra embracing Silk Road instruments, this is an ensemble of reconciliation and supportive of ecology…

Many people will be aware of Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which played at the Proms in 2003 and again in London in 2004. At least as imaginative and possibly even more ambitious in terms of the logistics involved is the Tekfen Philharmonic Orchestra, which might be termed ‘the Orchestra of the Silk Road’, and which will be making its first London appearance on Sunday 3 April – in the elegantly refurbished Cadogan Hall, which is situated very near Sloane Square. The concert starts at 4 o’clock. The event complements the Royal Academy’s current Exhibition, “Journey of a Thousand Years”, which celebrates the development of Turkish cultures – please note the plural.

Like the West-East Divan, the Tekfen Orchestra (named after its supporting Turkey-based company) is the brainchild of another remarkable individual, Nihat Gökyiğit, a philanthropic Turkish industrialist born in 1925 near Trabzon (or Trebizond, as in Rose Macaulay’s book, “The Towers of Trebizond”) at the South Eastern corner of the Black Sea, an area with a long history of multiple ethnic tensions. Perhaps it is partly due to his own background, growing up in an area of Turkey at a crossroads between East and West and once rife with conflict, that he has a vision of music as a unifying force, healing the wounds between different cultures and promoting their integration. The Tekfen orchestra, established in 1992 as the Black Sea Chamber Orchestra, is his very personal contribution to this process of cultural reconciliation.

Primarily a classical orchestra, the Tekfen Philharmonic includes representatives of no less than 23 countries – running from East of the Caspian via the Black Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean. With rehearsals taking place in Russian, Turkish and English, this is a very cosmopolitan orchestra. Grafted on to the recognisable classical soundworld, the Orchestra’s London concert will feature a range of more exotic instruments largely unknown to the wider world. These include the Ney, Kanun and Ud from Turkey, the Chang from Uzbekistan and the Kemancha from Azerbaijan, which are played by remarkable virtuosos, as I discovered from a recent sneak preview at the home of the Turkish Ambassador.

Nihat Gökyiğit’s other passion is ecology and he is also the moving force behind another organisation, TEMA (Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion and the Protection of Forests and Natural Habitats) which is an educational trust devoted to reforestation, soil erosion control and rural development. The organisation also runs Eco-Tours to the beautiful Karçal Mountain area of North Eastern Turkey where Gökyiğit grew up. Having spent much time myself in Indonesia and Southern Thailand, both of which have been seriously damaged by de-forestation and soil erosion, there could not be a more worthwhile aim. Proceeds from the London concert will be donated to TEMA. Attending the concert will afford you a rather wonderful musical experience and you will also contribute to a very worthwhile cause.

  • Cadogan Hall Box Office: 020 7730 4500

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