Andante Interview in English​

The prestigious “Bundesverdienstkreuz” award you received from the Federal Republic of Germany has honoured us as your fellow citizens as well as you. First of all, I would like to congratulate you on this great success. In Regards of long term rooted friendship and cooperation between Turkey and Germany could you briefly explain what this important award signifies?

This award is being presented to prominent personalities who establish intercultural dialogue shaped on solid foundations. We are grateful that our long-lasting professional career, contributions to music world and efforts for the worldwide coexistence of different social voices, perspectives and visions in tolerance with the universal language of music is acknowledged. It is also an honour that this award is presented for our music education systems as well, which we have been pursuing for 15 years, transferring all our knowledge and experience to new generations through the unifying, healing and sharing power of music.

The Order of Merit symbolizes for us the sustainable impact of our transmission of the opportunities offered to us, to children and young musicians of all ages, without compromising our principles in our professional career. This signifies an example of constant balance act in life. This award with its features, marks the deep trust in mutual communication between Germany and Turkey, besides symbolizing an extension of the relations between two countries in music and education. Far beyond being a solid bridge, this dialog develops its perspectives organically. The importance of this award reveals a new door for promising opportunities for culture also as a source of hope for new generations.

We are aware , that Germany is the country that shaped your personality, helped to form your culture and played a big role in your musical personality since your secondary school years. What if I asked you, what makes you admire the most, when it comes to Germany and German culture?

Our passion for music guided our journey to Germany. With the desire to internalize Bach, Mozart and Beethoven (who are regarded as the founders of classical music) , we came to Germany , as their country where they became a universal heritage, with great enthusiasm, although we couldn’t speak any German. While we were continuing our education at the renowned boarding high school “Odenwaldschule”, we started taking lessons from the representative of Busoni and Leschetizky piano school, August Leopolder, having been a student of Leschetizky’s assistant Egon Petri, at the Frankfurt Musik Hochschule.

Primarily, experiencing the German education system at the “Odenwaldschule” made a great contribution to our vision. The fact that academic education is supported by art and music education creates effective forward-looking formations in the spirit and minds of young people, whose attitude towards life is shaping according to their environment. In this respect, one of the factors that deeply affected us in Germany was the education system.

The years we started our academical education at the Frankfurter Musikhochschule, after our high school graduation, were very active days for Europe in social and political terms. The struggle for human rights was effective in all areas of the universities. We were also participating in working groups and protests in addition to the Philosophy and Psychology courses at Goethe University, which we parallelly attended. Prominent Professor Joui, our professor of sociology at the university, gave lectures and impressed us all. This environment played a major role in shaping our perspective as well.

One of the most important point that we admire, is that music and art are a part of life in Germany, one of the countries where classical music was born. We were able to find the opportunity to study different art disciplines and music schools by assimilating them deeply.

I follow the contributions you make in Turkey’s music, educational and cultural life, which should be an example for many artists. At the peak of your career, what is the purpose of investing in your country’s children and youth, trying to pave the way for them and dealing with bureaucrats instead of giving more concerts and making recordings all over the world? What are the reasons behind this motivation?

The level of art and music of a society is reflected in the aesthetic aspects and shared consciousness of the individuals. In this sense, if we provide the right opportunities to convey the love of music from a very early age, we believe that music catches the right environment to develop itself organically. When investing in music and mainly in art education from an early age, you are initiating the raising of a generation, that will internalize harmony in their life, solve the problems in the most humanist way and form the environment in which they exist. With this motivation and vision, we have implemented our systems that can be realized in the geography where they are located, reach the whole world and can be transferred in a systematic order within the framework of a concept. This can be adapted all over the world, wherever there is need for young generations’ formation.

Our country is going through a difficult period in every aspect. We observe that it is getting harder day by day for people from different views that make up the society to understand each other and meet on common points, and the atmosphere of tolerance and dialogue is eroding. Do you think that if the music education and music culture were handled more seriously and professionally from the past to the present in our country, would we have less problems today and does music have the power to cure these troubles?

Thank you for noticing the situation, just like us, and wanting to learn our thoughts with a pinpoint question.

Music and art in general, reflects the society and culture in which they grew up, nurtured and influenced, as it is an exact reflection of human nature. We believe that if music education had been addressed with this awareness, the lack of empathy and tolerance would be less of a scale today. Because meeting at a common point, mutual understanding and different perspectives breathing and existing together can only be possible, when individuals first find the balance in their inner world. The music, that appeals to the soul and the mind at the same time, taking its place with our heartbeat at the moment we are born, has a leading role in the establishment of this balance, since it eliminates the barriers that people put, classifications such as language, religion, race, and gender.

As we started to announce from our social media accounts since the first quarantine period, in the era of Covid -19, where humanity is re-scrutinizing its relationship with itself and society, we say “Music unites, music heals, music shares” . We are pleased to see that these slogans we have created are now being used in music programs, instagram interviews and concerts, after us. The fact that people are inspired by the messages we give throughout our career and the methods and concepts we apply in our Music Education Systems, is a big step towards change. Because imitation is the beginning of modeling behavior and an important learning process.

Within the scope of Güher & Süher Pekinel Music Education in Anatolia, six teachers you have chosen so far have received a language course and intensive training at Mozarteum University Orff Institute. Do you think this number is sufficient, do you continue to work to increase it? At what stage is your joint work with the Ministry of National Education?

In the preschool range; 3-7 years of age, academic articles point out the importance of the Mozart effect and the studies conducted by Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins show that music education in this age group simultaneously the right and left lobes of the brain, so that the analytical and emotional intelligence development is supported at the same time . In line with this study of music education in Turkey, the answer to the question about what we can do with the adaptation of the acknowledged curriculum in schools , we provide our Güher & Süher Pekinel Music Education in Anatolia System, which has been also adapted in other schools.

Within the scope of this system, we first focused on Orff – Schulwerk music education pedagogy. Our first aim at Orff-Schulwerk was to bring children together with music in public schools in Anatolia. Orff-Schulwerk nurtures children’s inner feelings of rhythm with song and body percussion. Local polyphony in Anatolia also provides a very suitable infrastructure for the development of the creative process. It was of great importance that the teachers we chose in the light of their academic music education, instrument knowledge and experience, learned the Orff-Schulwerk in place, with intensive training at the Orff Institute of Mozarteum University. When the teachers who completed their education with scholarship, returned to our country, they started to train pre-school and music teachers from provinces within the scope of local trainings in line with our protocol, which we signed as a result of long negotiations with the Ministry of National Education and which is renewed every year.

Orff instruments used in the lessons were also provided by us, thanks to our generous sponsor, QNB Finansbank. This systematic working order creates a domino effect. Teachers who have completed the Orff-Schulwerk training include and inform both other teachers and students in their schools with the new perspectives that this training provides them. Our work in 2019-2020 academic year, in-service training centers, gained momentum with the participation of teachers from all over Turkey and aimed to reach total 52 cities last year. The eminars had to take a brake unfortunately, due to Covid- 19. We will soon compensate the seminars with the MEB cooperation. After the educations are completed we will be introducing new music education pedagogical systems to Turkey in the coming period with MEB in our system.

The demand for Güher & Süher Pekinel Anatolian Music Education, which is the only system in Anatolia identified with Orff and implemented together with the Ministry of National Education, has reached throughput the years a level above our expectations. For example, in the second year of the trainings, in the 2018-2019 period, when announcements were made for new lessons in Social Media, it was highly sought after from teachers in Anatolia within hours and approximately 19,000 applications were received.

You took the stage as a soloist with CSO at the opening of CSO’s new concert hall. As international musicians who performed among world’s major concert halls , what do you think ,that the Turkey’s first vineyard music concert hall in Ankara will provide benefits to Turkey in fields of music, education, performance and acoustics?

We have an inseparable bond with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, one of the oldest and deep-rooted orchestras of our country, and we have always supported them professionally with faith. For the opening of the new hall, we continued our negotiations with 3 different residing Presidents, to initiate the opening of the hall.

When musicians, conductors, listeners go to the concert, naturally, their demands for quality are inevitable for the best interpretation of the work. One of the most important factors is the room capacity.

The highest level of acoustic parameters in a hall directly affects the musical interaction of the musicians and the interpretation conveyed to the audience, increasing the performance quality of the concert. During our work with iconic conductor Herbert von Karajan, we also had the opportunity to hear from him personally, the specific mportance of the acoustic designs in the halls. His views on the performances of the orchestra affected by halls and his elaborate strategic work played a major role in his best quality recordings even today. While orchestra musicians play in their own halls, they also shape their adaptations according to the architectural structure. It is aimed to equalize the time, the sound reaches the audience, as the lateral energy ratio is increased in the vineyard halls, which were influenced by the classical Roman theater and the audience areas were changed.

Certainly, targeting the highest level of sound access and acoustics with the architectural structure and design of the new hall at CSO, it will allow unique concert experiences, as we have emphasized in all our meetings. A big step was taken by increasing the capacity from 800 seats to 2023 seats for the audience. In addition, the halls reserved for Chamber Music with 500 and 600 seats will also provide different concert and recording opportunities. This hall, which is the new home of the orchestra, will also lead to the recording of concerts at the highest level, with the sound harmony and quality that we hope will increase gradually.

What would be your suggestions as our internationally renowned artists , as CSO is thinking about the operating system of the new concert hall? Should such a concert hall / performance arts centre be a hall in which only 1-2 symphonic concerts are held per week, or should it be loaded with different functions?

The greatest function of a concert hall should be to deliver music in the highest level to the audience. Such concerts offer unique and “catching the momentum” musical experiences with the unification of live components such as, orchestra, conductors, soloists, the mood of the audience, new instruments and acoustics. The fact that this experience is unforgettable for both listeners and musicians, raises the hall to the list of the most prestigious concert venues in the world. In addition to this, first of all, the meeting of all kinds of qualitative universal music in such halls is a very important key that will open the doors of interest in music beyond expectations.

A great responsibility falls on the board of directors and the artistic director, in the creation of the programs. Always researching and taking as an example of how Conductor Herbert von Karajan (Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic) and Conductor Eugene Ormandy (Philadelphia Orchestra) adapted the strengths and weaknesses of the hall as dynamic parameters in their programs. As you have stated in your question, the orchestra has to provide at least two symphonic concerts a week in order to maximize the harmony and quality of his musical sound.We would like to emphasize that it is very important for musical and artistic development, that these concerts are recorded and evaluated with all orchestra members. These halls also undertake educational tasks as musical shrines. For this reason, hosting student groups from elementary schools, high schools and universities, especially conservatories, at the last general rehearsals every week is a step, that will carry us forward in music education with mutual interaction.

As we were studying at the Curtis Institute of Music, we used to go to the Philadelphia Orchestra rehearsals every Wednesday after classes. Conductor Ormandy also emphasized the architectural design of the hall during orchestra rehearsals. He wanted each orchestra member to get to know the hall very well, and he also stated that they could establish their own musical timbre only with this awareness.

By the way, we were often the only students who followed all these rehearsals whenever we had a chance to practice the piano, so much so that when we had exams and could not attend for a long time, at the next rehearsal, the 1st Violinist would ask us “where were you ?” with curiosity.

I have asked this question before, but let me ask once again for those who haven’t read it yet and the young people: Unlike other piano pairs, you are positioned one after the other, rather than face to face. Can you tell us about the benefits you see from this choice? Is this an application you can recommend, or should each pair find their own way?

The lack of eye contact has created a distance for us, that we consider to be a major creative force. Our interpretation is based on the expression of the pianistically impressive homogeneity and synchronicity of a duo, as well as the well-defined characteristics and distinctive resonance of both of us. In our ever-expanding symphonic understanding of sound, as a result of our research to achieve perfection at every level in musical interpretation, a sequence is realized, where the covers of both pianos are open to the audience in their original form, the original purity of the two strong soloists do extend their deepened qualitative existence more intensely by which the pedals are not blurred.

We discovered that this positioning enables us to experience the breath and rhythm of music by shaping it more individually and that the sound quality reaches the audience gaining more dimensions in its character. In this way, we are able to form our different features, which we combine in a distinctly uniqueness, with a transparent fluidity, a delicate tonality and timbre, which is our only desire.

This position is the most natural and logical for us in our concerts, where we want to convey the awareness of continuously growing breath and “momentum” to the audience. In this way, our ears become our eyes and an area independent of time and place is created, where risks turn into surprises at an interactive level. The process can be different for each couple, they have to live by experiencing their own methods for a long time.

You have a great global duo career, but do you think you have achieved all the goals you want to achieve in your career? Is there any advice you would like to give to our young people who would like to make a duo piano career after you?

Thanks to our family and music pedagogues, who have discovered our talent in music and the musical notions we internalized at an early age, followed by the conscious choices we implemented in our education and in our career, we have had the chance to share the same stage with the musicians we are inspired by.

Working with the most important concert managers and record companies of the classical music world, performing in prestigious halls and concert series with the most important orchestras, we have achieved the success, which is targeted by musicians who have just started their careers. However, for us, there are no stops that we would consider as reaching the end of the road. We always set new goals with the passion and energy that motivate us and we channel all our effort and dedication to this.

Everyone at Curtis was in a non-stop work from morning to midnight, the required program from the students especially for us, two of only four students of director Rudolf Serkin , the situation was much more difficult than we thought at the beginning. Seeing the struggle of the students around us, we started a challenge with ourselves, aware that our determination is one of the most important factors. One week program was all by memory; a Beethoven Sonata, a Chopin study, a Bach prelude, and if there was time, definitely an additional Fugue. This program was studied for 3 weeks and then a new one would be requested. When we thought, we could not do it in time, we saw the inner force starting to work spontaneously leading us to a brand new path by accelerating beyond our expectations. We experienced directly , that one of the most important factors bringing us forward in our work , was nothing more than creating the difficulty ourselves, which is our duty to overcome.

In general, we advise young people who wish to pursue a career in music, to have a vision for the adaptation of new alternatives, immediately accepting uncertainty in a fair, honest, sincere and adaptable mindset. It is very important that the mental structure has a strength and flexibility, open to development. Especially in today’s rapidly digitalizing world, our minds are shaped in this direction and this structure also shapes our life line.

While strengthening these qualities, the most important elements that feed and motivate our psychology in achieving success, are hope, believing in yourself and knowing what you want to the finest level. They need to be fully committed to achieve their goals by putting everything in their personality out in the competition, which is even more intense today.The discipline that comes from the family and internalized with the right education is one of the most important elements in music development as well , where all these together form your musical stand.

Your Young Musicians on World Stages System is taking firm steps forward. Can Çakmur, Veriko Tchumburidze, Tolga Atalay Ün, Yunus Tuncalı, Emir İlgen and other young musicians are already signaling the good news that they will do great things in the future. What kind of communication and relationship do you have with young musicians? Do you have regular meetings with them? Are you dealing with problems and needs other than music?

YMWS, which you know very well, is not only based on the combination of technical elements, but also on mentorship that supports one-to-one dialogue, and in this direction, we have a very close relationship with our extraordinary musicians. Mail, whatsapp, messaging, telephone are part of our daily life. We consult and guide them about educational decisions, teacher selections, concert engagements, concert programs and costumes, competitions to apply for, recordings, correspondence to institutions and applications.

Our meetings and correspondence take place routinely at the beginning of each academic year and during the interim periods. All of them continue their education in different countries, although we cannot always meet face to face, to be able to evaluate their development through concerts we host them in Turkey, for chamber music concerts, which compensate the lack of in Turkey. During rehearsals, in which we work with them, our conversation is of course, more intense and extensive.In these Chamber Music concerts, which allow them to bring together their musical experiences by directing these to a new depth, strengthens the communication and offer the opportunity to bring together the trainings they receive from different music schools. During the concerts, we work with them all day in their rehearsals, listen and guide them. Before Covid, after these concerts we were even going to dinner together and having long conversations.

Again, we listen to all of their recordings, we require regularly and evaluate their performance improvements in line with YMWS principles and carefully examine their scholarship status within YMWS . If the development expected from them in line with the principles doesn’t meet the criteria, we observe them for a while and decide on their situation in the following process.What we mean by the YMWS Principles is that the extraordinary musicians take the right steps into their careers and expand their CVs with prestigious competitions around the world, with the opportunities provided and the right guidance. Today, many competitions are held especially in online channels, but what we care about is that the competitions are of high quality, prestigious and at the level that can open doors, taking you forward internationally as a musician by making musical contributions to your career. In this respect, it is inevitable for a world-class career to make the steps you take and the decisions you make by progressing in consistency. In inflated resumés, we come across unrelated competitions and concerts that do not add to your career . The important subject is only to catch the quality of competitions and concerts on high standards.

Apart from the music which covers their daily lives like ours, we step in and offer solutions for all other problems and needs as much as we can.

How do you evaluate Can Çakmur’s achievement of an unprecedented success in ICMA history, such as receiving awards in prestigious ICMA for two consecutive years?

When we first listened to Can, we were impressed by his mindset and unique personality. We were faced with a pianist, who thinks very fast and whose intellectual capacity is deep and wide. We knew he had a long way to go. We are very happy for his second ICMA award and to see the point where Can is right now,   whom we have supported with our musical ideas and intellectual mentorship, as well as with scholarship in YMWS system for 6 years, evaluating his options quickly and decisively on subjects such as the right teacher, competition, direction of personal focus, etc… He put it into practice with all his possibilities, talent and adaptability and made a great breakthrough with his two CDs, which received very good reviews. We are sure that we will hear his name for many years to come , who researches and reads a lot and reflects his experiences to his interpretation.

Have you ever thought of collecting your studies under the roof of a foundation in order to ensure the continuity of your efforts in the field of education? Have or will you ever make such an effort?

The idea of gathering our expanding and more comprehensive projects, which we plan to implement in the future, under the roof of a foundation, including music education systems, is one of the issues we are currently thinking about.

How do you survive in the global Covid-19 outbreak? Does this epidemic make you question the situation of humanity, our present and our future, as is the case with many people?

The Covid -19 pandemic really affected the arts and culture sector deeply. Unfortunately, the unemployment of musicians all over the world continues. Like many other musicians, we also had to cancel concerts or programs were cancelled. In this process, we are working on new projects and recordings for the audience. When we are not working on the piano, we carry out different transactions related to our music education systems.

As social media and online platforms gain more importance in issues such as access to information, communication and rapid sharing of innovations during the pandemic process, we try to closely follow the developments in culture and art in these areas, and we share our carefully created content with our followers. Since diligent content will determine the level and quality interaction you want to reach in social media in parallel with the conscious preferences of social media consumers, we think that these platforms all over the world are in the process of striving for self-renewal and being more creative, and the executives state that they are not satisfied with the progress. There is also an uncontrolled growth, in which quantity comes over quality, and although the content is empty, everybody is starting to show this as a source of pride. As publicly known figures , we think people should pay more attention to the renewal of expressions.

We also closely examine topics such as current developments, health, world news. Science and art, the most important compasses that will enlighten us, have started to see the value they deserve in these channels as well today. While science nourishes the mind, art provides balance with its feature that enhances and deepens the quality of life, and appeals to the soul.As we have always stated in our interviews and articles, this period is a process that makes all humanity question its place in the universe in all aspects. It is even late to take the immediate steps in problems for which alarm bells are ringing for a long time, such as nature, sustainable agriculture and climate change which causes natural disasters . Generation Z is more conscious about this issue, although their egocentrism seems to be at the forefront, their activism is effective when it comes to universal problems.

What are your plans for your stage career after the pandemic? Will we be able to watch you at international festivals and concert halls after the pandemic?

As you follow from the media, we are in an unpredictable period where all questions remain unanswered, since according to the explanations of scientists; new mutations and mutation variations will continue to affect our lives for a long time. In addition to concerts, all festivals in Europe are postponed one by one or cancelled completely. For example, the Lucerne Spring Festival has been cancelled.

For this reason, it is not possible for us to see our future in line with constantly changing parameters, like our other colleagues and in all sectors. Considering and believing in best scenario ,we are planning concert projects, which we believe will excite the audience, after the pandemic. In addition, the year 2021 is the anniversary of important developments in terms of our career. While celebrating 45th anniversary of our duo career with the proposal of Sheldon Gold, the director of the world-renowned management company ICM (International Classical Music Management), following our first prize win in New York Young Concert Artists, which started our Duo Career, at the same time our first recording Rachmaninov Suites with Deutsche Grammophon celebrates its 40th year.

Our preparations for festivals and concerts, which are linked to all these developments and surprises, continue under the shadow of Covid-19.

On this occasion, we would like to remind all other artists, musicians and young people of the importance of not losing their hope. There have been many pandemics and events affecting the masses in the world before. This process may take a long time, but we will overcome the process by working hand in hand, with a positive approach and hope, by feeding each other and ourselves.Where hope, which is the most important catalyst of our lives and the key to happiness, is over, negativity pulls us back. No power can destroy the creativity, which is nourished by hope and has always shown itself even by exhausted times .With this motivation, we would like to tell everyone to believe in their energy, hope and self-determination.

As a listener who follows you closely, I would like to hear you perform more contemporary composers on stage and record these. What would you think about this?Many new works are sent to us. We consider each work, that will contribute to the two piano literature and provide new expression possibilities with the criteria of universality, quality and containing features that open creative doors to innovation while assimilating tradition. If we come across a work that highlights these features, with its unique textures and colours, we are ready to enter the studio immediately.

West Side Story: Symphonic Dances, which was adapted to two pianos for us under the supervision of Bernstein, Jazz adaptations of Jacques Loussier’s Bach concertos for us, the adaptations of Bach concertos with synthesiser to two pianos by Bob James and Kryztof Penderecki, “The Ciaconna in memoria Giovanni Paolo II –“ “Polish Requiem” – which he adapted for two pianos for us- have been the result of our passion for interpreting innovative works, giving rise to valuable musical collaborations, “one of a kind” recordings and unique concerts.

“Treasures Box” which is composed of 4 DVDs, 2 Blu-Rays, 7CDs and a book, including these recordings as well besides many other special selection of our recordings, continues to meet with listeners in online sales channels with its exclusive edition. New surprises will come in the continuation of this special album.