Famed Turkish conductor in Greece to lead Athens’s Orchestra of Colors

ust minutes before its end, the news conference took an unusual twist. The words of prominent Turkish classical music conductor Gurer Aykal, in Greece to lead the Athens-based Orchestra of Colors, suddenly lost their previous flow. There were pauses and the otherwise conventional session struck an unexpected note. «Please know that you are always welcome in Turkey. And another thing: You are sorely missed. It would have been great if you returned to Istanbul and Izmir. We had a great time together,» remarked the noted Turkish conductor, referring to the region’s multinational past. The brave remarks were initially met with hesitant applause from the Greek journalists in attendance before growing louder to indicate that Aykal’s words, reflecting the increasingly nostalgic feelings of modern-day Istanbul’s progressive, urban classes, had registered. Aykal will conduct the Orchestra of Colors for the first time tomorrow at the Megaron Mousikis, or Athens Concert Hall. The repertoire for the evening, dedicated to the 100th birthday anniversary of Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich, will comprise Turkish composer Hasan Ferit Alnar’s «Prelude and Two Dances,» Ravel’s «Concerto in G,» with pianist Thanassis Apostolopoulos, and Shostakovich’s «Ninth Symphony.» This collaboration between Aykal and the Orchestra of Colors highlights the warm ties cultivated over the past five years between the Greek orchestra and the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, where Aykal is the general director and head conductor. The Borusan is a key part of Istanbul’s cultural agenda. In 2002, it had invited the Orchestra of Colors to present contemporary Greek composers within the framework of the annually held Contemporary Mediterranean Music and Dance Week. Since then, the Greek orchestra has been a regular participant. Last year, in September, some musicians of the Borusan orchestra performed at the Benaki Museum. A student of the prominent Turkish composer Ahmet Adnan Saygun and a permanent conductor of Amsterdam’s renowned Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra, Aykal offered a lively description of the efforts made to spread classical music throughout the Ottoman Empire and modern-day Turkey. «Nobody would turn up when, in 1924, the state orchestra performed free concerts in Ankara, which was still a village,» said Aykal. Much has changed since those early days. Today, there are six state orchestras, two privately run symphony orchestras, eight philharmonic orchestras, and three privately run chamber orchestras.