Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, the first International Istanbul Music Festival, the flagship of the International Istanbul Festivals, took place between June 15-July 15, 1973 originally under the title Istanbul Festival. From its inception it has included in its programmes the finest examples of artistic creativity in the fields of classic music, classical ballet and contemporary dance, opera, folklore, jazz/pop, cinema, drama and visual arts from both Turkey and abroad, as well as seminars, conferences and lectures.
After the separation, in 1986, of the Film and then the Theater, Jazz festivals and the Biennial as distinct events, the name of the International Istanbul Festival was changed to International Istanbul Music Festival in 1994.
Since then the Festival particularly emphasises 'sharing artistic inspiration' and creates programmes in which international orchestras and conductors perform with Turkish soloists or vice versa.
Performances like the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adam Fisher with soloist İdil Biret; Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Valek with pianist Fazıl Say; Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gotthold Lessing with soloists Suna Kan, Ayla Erduran and Yehudi Menuhin; Montserrat Caballé with Istanbul State Opera and Ballet Orchestra and Chorus conducted by José Collado; or Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks conducted by Lorin Maazel with pianist Hüseyin Sermet are outcomes of this approach.
In its 35 years the International Istanbul Music Festival hosted honorable conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Sir John Elliot Gardiner, Riccardo Muti, Ton Koopman, William Christie, Howard Griffiths, Valery Gergiev, Christopher Hogwood, Pierre Boulez, Kurt Masur, Mark Minkowski and José Collado. A distinguished line-up of soloists such as Elizabeth Scwarzkopf, Kiri Te Kanawa, Kathleen Battle, Cecilia Bartoli, Montserrat Caballé, Itzhak Perlman, Mischa Maisky, Maxim Vengerov, Gidon Kremer, Joshua Bell, Aldo Cicciolini, Daniel Barenboim, Juan Diego Florez , Andre Previn, Anne Sophie Mutte, Shlomo Mintz, Suna Kan, Ayla Erduran, İdil Biret and Hüseyin Sermet were among the guests of the Istanbul Music Festival. Outstanding dance companies such as the Martha Graham Dance Company, Bolshoi Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Nederlands Dans Thetare as well as Les Ballets de Montecarlo were presented to music lovers in previous years.
Recognised as undeniably the most important piece Mozart has composed on Turkish music, "The Abduction from the Seraglio" met the audience in its original setting, the Topkapı Palace, during the International Istanbul Music Festival for long years and became a Festival classic. Once again the extraordinary story of Belmonte coming to Istanbul in search of his lover Constanze came alive with the modern interpretation of Yekta Kara in Istanbul the meeting point for the East and the West, as part of 34th International Istanbul Music Festival.
Being the oldest of the Istanbul Festivals, which became landmarks of cultural life in Turkey, the International Istanbul Music Festival has earned a reputation for its major role in encouraging research in musicology and in launching special projects on shared cultural values through its productions.
The International Istanbul Music Festival is a member of European Festival Association since 1977.
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