Tuesday 10 March, 2020

The Basque National Orchestra shines at its début in Istanbul

The Basque National Orchestra shines at its début in Istanbul

The concert offered yesterday in Istanbul by the Orchestra was a success not only because of the audience's enthusiastic reception, but also because the Orchestra's musicians delivered a solid performance in the face of several setbacks. Due to a long delay in receiving their instruments, the musicians had to perform the first part of the programme with loaned instruments, only using their own for the second part.

All international tours have their own quirks, and this trip to Istanbul was no exception. Initially, the Orchestra's presence in the Turkish city on the shore of the Bosphorus, on the border between Europe and Asia, aimed to break into a new music circuit eager to receive large ensembles from all over the world. But what the Orchestra found yesterday was an exceptional stage, an exceptional concert and also exceptional conditions. In these circumstances, the Orchestra shone for many reasons.

Firstly, it has been said on several occasions that the Basque ensemble is going through a great moment musically and that it is in a position to perform internationally with great works from the universal repertoire. Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 is one of the composer's masterpieces, complex and demanding, which all the musicians in the Orchestra led by Hans Graf performed masterfully and confidently. It is the piece that was the focal point of the concert and its performance had raised high expectations. With good reason, before the concert Cem Mansur, director of the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall, gave a talk about the interest of including in their programme a European orchestra such as the Bask Ulusal Orkestrası (as the Basque National Orchestra was presented in Istanbul) to perform the Austrian composer's great work. Before Bruckner, the first part featured the Concerto No. 1 in for Violin and Orchestra by Max Bruch. The solo performance by Alena Baeva was energetic and outstanding. It was clear from the start that the audience of the capacity-filled hall was going to be very receptive throughout the night. The first treat was delivered by the soloist, who tackled Paganini's Caprice No. 1. After Bruckner’s impressive piece which was the main feature of this singular concert's second part, the night ended with an impressive ovation and the always well-received “Amorosa” by Guridi, played on the shore of the Bosphorus.

Secondly, the fact that the concert was held in exceptional conditions is related to the difficulties that had to be overcome throughout the day in order for the Orchestra's instruments to be brought to the concert hall. All the musicians and staff travelled to Istanbul on Sunday, but not their instruments. The 1000-kg load that had been prepared to ship from Madrid during the weekend suffered many delays and was not dispatched until Monday. The understandable concern over their timely delivery led to frantic efforts to secure instruments that could replace their own to perform the concert. In a fantastic gesture of generosity and collaboration by the Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra and by another youth orchestra from the city, they managed to gather enough instruments to guarantee the performance of the first part with Bruch's Concerto and planned for the performance of a less demanding orchestral piece than that initially scheduled for the second part. Their own instruments were brought to the theatre when the concert had already started and the musicians displayed the quick-wittedness and skill that is demanded in these situations to perform a complicated piece such as Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 without the chance to rehearse with them during the sound check. Only the exceptional response by the city’s musicians made it possible for the Basque National Orchestra to perform the scheduled programme, the first part with Turkish instruments and the second with their own. The city of Istanbul, a bridge between two continents, was the perfect metaphor that managed to find, through music, a meeting point between cultures and civilisations that for a long time have turned their backs on each other.

Thirdly, the fact that the concert was exceptional is also related to the audience’s response and the desire to develop a more pro-European perspective. As highlighted by the director-general of the Orchestra, Oriol Roch, “It was a concert where the Orchestra was looking towards the West, towards a desire for a Turkish society that wants to schedule top-level European orchestras, to look in a mirror that represents them. And that feeling, with a diverse, young audience with many cultural differences and a huge passion has taught us all a lesson”. 

Another sign of the concert's success was the presence of many institutional and business representatives, among whom were the Consul General of Spain in Istanbul, Álvaro de la Riva Guzmán, from San Sebastian; the Director of the Cervantes Institute in Istanbul, Gonzalo Manglano; the Honorary Consul of Turkey in Bilbao, Carmen Uriarte; the representative from BBVA, Javier Bernal; the representative from Banco Sabadell, Vicente Balbín; the representative from Caixabank, Marta García; the EFE correspondent in Istanbul, Ilya Topper; the La Vanguardia correspondent in Istanbul, Jordi Joan; and the El País correspondent in Istanbul, Andrés Mourenza.

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