Before ending his performance career with concerts in Odessa and Elizavetgrad in 1847, Franz Liszt visited Istanbul, gave a number of public concerts, and performed twice for Sultan Abdülmecit I in the Çırağan Palace.
A widely reported incident in relation to this trip concerns an impostor named Listmann, a historically unidentified character, who supposedly passed himself off as Liszt in Istanbul and received valuable presents from the Sultan under this pretext. According to some accounts, Listmann almost caused Liszt to be arrested upon his arrival.
Herr Listmann of the Liszt–Listmann incident was in fact a German Tonkünstler and a man of letters named Eduard Litzmann who toured Spain and the Orient, and was apparently a competent pianist. The sources indicate that—notwithstanding Liszt’s own letter to his cousin Henriett—numerous colorful aspects of the incident as reported in the literature result from self-perpetuating transformations of fiction and cannot be substantiated.
This according to “The Liszt–Listmann incident” by Ömer Eğecioğlu (Studia musicologica XLIX/3–4 [September 2008] 275–93).
Inset, a plaque marking the location where Liszt stayed in Istanbul; below, Liszt’s variations on a theme by Giuseppe Donizetti, composed for one of his performances for the Sultan.
The Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II enjoyed Italian opera so much that his new Dolmabahçe Palace incorporated a small but sumptuous opera house; decorated by Charles Séchan of the Paris Opéra, it was said to rival that of Versailles.
Occasionally he invited the Italian opera company to perform in his seraglio, before the ladies of his court. The libretti were apparently altered to suit Turkish tastes: for example, a performance of Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri ended with the marriage of Isabella and the Bey. The punishment of Taddeo, who received the bastinado on the soles of his feet, drew shouts and applause from the audience.
This according to “‘Each villa on the Bosphorus looks a screen new painted, or a pretty opera scene’: Mahmud II (r.1808–1839) setting the Ottoman stage for Italian opera and Viennese music” by Emre Aracı, an essay included in Ottoman empire and European theatre. II: The time of Joseph Haydn–From Sultan Mahmud I to Mahmud II (r.1730–1839) (Wien: Hollitzer Wissenschaftsverlag, 2014, 621–30; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2014-88925).
Above, a portrait of Mahmud II by Henri-Guillaume Schlesinger; below, a rousing excerpt from the Schwetzinger Festspiele.
Dil-Hayât Kalfa Tanbûrî (generally known as Dilhayat Kalfa, d.1737) was raised in the Ottoman royal palace, as indicated by the adjectival Kalfa, which also denotes important administrative tasks. She played the tanbur, and historical sources contain information on nearly 100 of her compositions.
Her surviving works are counted among the most important examples of the technique and aesthetic of the Ottoman classical school. The flow of her makams and her prosody are exemplary. Two works in the evcârâ makam, a peşrev and a saz semaî, exhibit a very individualistic style. She was exemplary in her setting of texts, showing great care in arranging the relationship between meaning and melody.
This according to “Dilhayat Kalfa” by Meral Akkent (İstanbul Kadın Müzesi, 2012). Above, a Romantic-era depiction of the composer (no contemporaneous portrait exists); below, the saz semaî discussed in the article.
As Syrian refugees’ migration experience in Turkey sways between transience and permanence, the culture of coexistence can only occur with the refugees and the locals getting to know one another. Like any cultural/artistic production, music provides a fertile ground for this interaction.
Sınırın ötesinden sesler/Sounds beyond the border is an open-access resource presenting interviews that strive to understand Syrian musicians’ experience of migration through music. As a response to homogenizing and exclusionary perspectives, the series aims to draw attention to the refugees’ talents and practices, the diversity they bring to Turkish geography, and the possibilities of a common cultural world.
The interviews are conducted by Evrim Hikmet Öğüt; the project is sponsored by Friedrich Naumann Vakfı Türkiye Ofisi.
Below, Sadim Al Zafari, one of the musicians interviewed in the series.
Filed under Asia, Resources
The attempted Turkish coup d’état on 15 July 2016 brought some unfamiliar sounds to Istanbul–including low-flying F-16 jets and sonic booms–in addition to mosques broadcasting the sala, which serves to notify the community of an all-concerning event in an Islamic context; recordings and performances of Ottoman military music; and the sounds of chanting demonstrators.
Conversations, which incessantly continued in both public and private spheres, constituted another auditory aspect of the attempted coup and its aftermath.
This according to “Soundscape of a coup d’état” by Evrim Hikmet Öğüt (Sound matters 6 September 2016).
Today is the two-month anniversary of this historic event! Above, an F-16 jet flying low over Istanbul; below, the sala that night, with the sounds of bombs.
Filed under Asia, Politics
In 1599 the English organ builder Thomas Dallam personally accompanied to Istanbul an instrument he had built for the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed III at the behest of Queen Elizabeth. The gift was intended to smooth relations in the hope of gaining access to Ottoman caravan routes.
The instrument, which could sound a fanfare, chime the hours, and play several pieces by itself due to controlled wind release, delighted the Sultan, who declared a festive occasion with amnesty for over 300 prisoners.
Dallam himself made a highly favorable impression, and was offered many luxuries in exchange for staying in Istanbul. He respectfully declined, however, citing his responsibilities toward his family. Dallam’s success assured his prosperity back home, and soon the trade routes to India were opened to the British.
This according to “A gift for the Sultan” by Peter English (Saudi Aramco world XXXIV/6 [November–December 1983]).
Related article: The Nawāb’s musical bed
The Turkish musical scene may be viewed in terms of three categories: alatürka, which refers to Turkish sociocultural practices; alafranga, which refers to Western ones; and arabesk, which denotes the culture of peripheral urban immigrants. The gazino, a type of nightclub, provides a common denominator for alatürka and arabesk music in an alafranga space.
While the gazino owner holds direct power over the content of the show, he may make changes on the basis of audience reaction. The performers also try to supply what the audience wants, and their aesthetics are further shaped among themselves when they perform backstage for each other. Vocal audience reactions also influence performers’ aesthetic decisions. The visual aesthetics of the gazino—the decor and the clothing of performers and audience members—provide the most significant alafranga elements.
This according to “Aesthetics and artistic criticism at the Turkish gazino” by Münir Nurettin Beken (Music & anthropology VII ). Below, musicians and dancers perform at an urban gazino.