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304 North Cardinal
St. Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Monday to Friday: 7AM - 7PM
Weekend: 10AM - 5PM
We talked with the world-famous piano duo Güher and Süher Pekinel about their music education systems in three different areas and the future of our world. “Humanity has always stood up with hope, despair will not get you anywhere,” the Pekinel sisters say.
‘Despair will get you nowhere. Humanity has always stood up with hope, we have the solution.”
“We both believe that everything will be resolved. Because there is science. We must quickly educate those who do not have that consciousness.”
Güher and Süher Pekinel, “If you start music at a young age, you can reach a solid place as a musician. When you find the talent at that age and direct it correctly, you will see a diamond. Introducing music to children at an early age is of great importance in the discovery of talent. Our mother took us to the conservatory at the age of four, they said the admission is not possible before the age of 5, we came back crying. But already at the age of 3, our mother started teaching us, she was the one who opened the way for us.”
“Values keep us together”
“Just opening a university is not a solution, what quality of education do you provide at that university? What kind of personalities are you raising? Actually, that’s what we want to do with music. To be a pioneer in re-experiencing values by raising humanist people, respecting their own folk and the life around them. Unfortunately, the values have been lost. It is not correct to accept this situation by saying that the values have changed. Values are what hold us together.”
– Shall we talk about Anatolian Music Education first?
We saw it as a duty to go to Anatolia. We want all children to receive free music education, which is their right. In kindergarten, we aim to enable children to develop themselves through music and to realize their musical inclination. First, we presented our system to the Ministry of National Education and in 2010 we started negotiations for the adaptation of music education to the curriculum. In the first step, the 6 music teachers we chose received education at the Orff Institute/Mozarteum University in Salzburg with a one-year scholarship. When they returned, they trained teachers working in public schools. The aim is to create a domino effect and to reach thousands of children with the world’s leading music education methods, starting with Orff-Schulwerk. We continued our training with videos during the pandemic. 300 teachers can attend the training each time. Each course consists of 24 hours of lessons. We want consciousness to spread and be internalized. Teachers who receive this training go to schools and train other teachers there. We reached 57 provinces with face-to-face trainings, our goal is for 500 thousand teachers to receive this special course. We stand behind all of them, follow them, evaluate the current situation and feedbacks. All this happens in a sustainable way within this constructive system. We explain ourselves to the MEB every year, because our interlocutors are constantly changing, now you can imagine how much time and effort it takes.
-I understand that there is a strong stubbornness here…
We do something we believe in that leads us to success. This becomes our greatest motivation as we see the development of children. Their personalities are changing, forming, their faces are smiling first of all. They become different. First of all, we come across children sitting on the edge of the row in silence, nothing comes out of their mouths, they are afraid to say a wrong thing… Then, you see, they are opened, they communicate through instruments, they have a spiritual harmony, they discover the balance within, because they discover how to be happy. With the strength children get from music, their lessons suddenly get better.
– Your students at TEVİTÖL are in the best universities of the world…
Four of our students, in addition to their majors at Harvard they pursue with scholarship, also play in three different orchestras of the university and continue to make music. We have academics from our former graduates, one of them is even a lecturer at the University of Colorado.
-Studying music department gives them a privilege when they want to go to universities abroad, right?
While completing the high school, students are subjected to an exam within the scope of the Music Department and they get grades. In this way, they get priority in their applications at schools in America with these scores. Nowadays it doesn’t matter to which university you go to but what you do to improve your personality is important. The understanding of education and personal development vision is changing all over the world.
-Academic success will not be enough…
Exactly. What separates us from each other, what makes us who we are? Now these will be more obvious. You need to support your child in order to discover his inclination towards art. Then it goes into it naturally. Not everyone is going to be a musician. It is important to develop a humanistic and balanced understanding through music… Music by enabling you to use both lobes of your brain, lays the foundations of a balanced personality and enables individuals to discover the subtlety of their souls.
-What was the reason for establishing a department at TEVİTÖL?
Those kids will go to the best universities. The CEOs of the future will emerge from them. In the future, they will also support culture and art, because they will have reached that consciousness, they will have tasted it… Culture is a vein, as Atatürk said, a folk without veins cannot rise.
-You haven’t been to Turkey for a long time, have you?
28 years. We couldn’t come because we used to go to competitions in all other times than concerts (laughs.) We traveled the world with masterclass trainings and concerts. You set goals for yourself and you know where to focus. All doors open if you win the most important competitions. It is a great chance to have worked with the icons of the time, to have studied in the best schools, we have come here by working hard and always advancing with a strategy. We know very well what is needed and how it should be. We did not study in just one school. We cannot keep this experience to ourselves. We have to give something to those who come after us. It’s a responsibility. This is how your life becomes meaningful. Doors have been opened to us, and if we can open doors, they can come here too.
– What was the environment like when you first came to the country?
Aydın Gün, the former Istanbul Opera Director of the period, invited us to the festival. There weren’t two pianos when we arrived, the second one, just being bought ; was on its way. We played in the first Ataturk Cultural Center . We are very happy for AKM to meet with the public again, we were really excited at the opening. It was our home, we grew up there.
-How have you been affected by the Corona epidemic?
Suher Pekinel: It was time to go inside, to go deep into the loneliness we forgot, to discover new breaths, to establish a new balance. We all have to go through this road. We cannot go on like this. A much purer, cleaner new world needs to be emerged. We cannot continue like this in order to create quality of life. We are finishing nature, we need to give back the energy it gave us as soon as possible. What do we leave to the next generation as the people of this world? We need to leave a clean, humanistic world. A world that understands each other and helps each other… Only then will we find our balance.
Guher Pekinel: Covid 19 showed us in the first place that we need to defeat this egoism. Those who have money live the life they want, without considering values in any way. This problem starts with politics. First responsible politicians, second responsible people, us. For the first time, most of us discovered nature. The destruction of the world is not far away, life will disappear at 3 degrees Celsius. We need to find a new solution to agriculture. Gates doesn’t buy land from the best places in the world for nothing, and neither does Bezos. The bells are ringing on their own, if you don’t hear them, you will suffer the consequences.
-So, are you still excited about going on stage?
Of course ! If you see anyone who isn’t excited, let us know.
-Who is more panicked?
Sometimes one of us panics less, sometimes more, and then we balance and calm each other.
Everything from A to Z is success oriented
The successes of the extraordinary talents supported by the Pekinels do not end with counting. They are all in with each step the musicians take: to which teachers they will go to, which competitions they will participate in, who is on the jury, and everything including the repertoire. Students are trained with instruments of the 17th and 18th centuries. Among them are even Concertmasters in world-famous orchestras. Can Çakmur is one of the young musicians who are now famous all over the world for their success. Naz İrem Türkmen (14) qualified to participate in the prestigious International Tchaikovsky Competition. Korkmaz Can Sağlam, who studies at the Juilliard School in New York, is the finalist of a very important 4-stage competition in New York “Vendome Prize” . Eda Seviniş, who continues her education at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, won the Düsseldorf International Robert Schumann Piano Competition in October. Kıvanç Tire plays in the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Alican Süner plays in the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich as concertmasters.
In response to these efforts, among their numerous honorary awards, Pekinels were aslo awarded with the Bundesverdienstkreuz “Order of Merit” by Federal Republic of Germany at the beginning of this year.
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.
The Anatolian Orff Project under the leadership of the international artists Güher-Süher Pekinel and the support of Finansbank offers significant contributions to Turkey’s future and the Music Education in Turkey.
As a a part of the project three teachers will specialize in the Orff-Schulwerk approach during a nine month education in Salzburg, where they learn how to reach to natural talent, highlighting the creativity and multiple intelligences.
After completing their education, the teachers will return to Turkey to teach the Orff Approach to teacher groups of 30 people in a total of 180 hours all over Anatolia will all its details.
Our producer Füsun Özgüç spoke with the world-famous piano duo Güher and Süher Pekinel about their three major education project, the Anatolia Orff Music Education, the TEVITOL Güher & Pekinels Music Department and about the “Young Stars of the World Stage” Foundation.
Sanat Deliorman , December 2015
Güher & Süher Pekinel: “Our empathy with all the victims of war, impacts also our music.”
Your concert on December 15, will be opened with Bartok and continue with contemporary works, we are used to hear from big orchestras. Each title is more striking than the other. First of all, Penderecki’s adaptation of Ciaccona for two pianos arranged for you. İs this Ciaccona we know from Polish Requiem?
As known, Krzysztof Penderecki, for whom we have great respect and feel closely connected, added Ciaccona to Polish Requiem in 2005 in memory of polish Pope John Paul II, who has achieved great changes for world peace. Polish Requiem was composed to honour the heroes and events during the World war two and those killed in the Polish anti-government riots in 1970. The Polish Requiem was first performed in 1984. Due to our request concerning a short piece, Penderecki selected for us Ciaccona and supervised his assistant, the composer and pianist Stanislaw Deja, who arranged the piece for both instruments in great harmony. Even if maestro usually doesn’t integrate the piano in his works, Ciaccona has a deeply affecting beauty, we are most grateful to him.
“Spices”,”Perfumes”, ”Toxins”, from young Israeli composer Avner Dorman, is originally a work of 20 enchanting, exotic and daring percussion solos. How will you bring the enrichment of percussion into harmony within the arrangement for two pianos?
As announced in our programme, “Spices” will be performed as solo work by distinguished percussionists, Raphael Haeger and Simon Rössler of the Berliner Philharmoniker. We have asked both to perform also as soloist. Their selected piece includes Jazz elements, combines different styles and is really virtuosic. İt will be a musically smooth transition to West Side Story. Despite his young age, Aver Dorman has won several awards and has his own musical expression. We assume that the audience will react enthusiastically.
May you tell us again the story about the arrangement of West Side Story for you? How will the conflict between the gangs be reflected by the two pianos?
West Side Story is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s’ “Romeo and Julia” and as well as Shakespeare’s work. The concept of the musical has not lost its actuality since it is a metaphor for national conflicts. While these conflicts stay alive with hate and racism, there is a love that knows no distinction of races, cultures, nationalities or religions, which reached its tragic culmination in the devastating anger of two rival gangs. Today, we are still living such tragedies around the world, it is impossible not to be affected by these dramas. Therefore our empathy with all the victims of war, impacts also our music. Bernstein was not only a musician, conductor and composer but also politically committed, which is highlighted in West Side Story. When you compare the pieces of our program with each other, you will find a common denominator. After his father had been killed by Bolsheviks and his other brother had been taken off to Siberia where he died, Lutoslawski made a living in Nazi-occupied Warsaw for himself and his mother by playing with his friend 4 hands piano music in small cafés. During this period he transcribed a version of Paganini’s Caprice no. 24 in A minor for two pianos. Of course his fear and rebelliousness can be felt in his music. Despite all the difficulties, his faithful personality looking for peace and harmony, shows an explosive and intensive reflection in his Variations on a Theme by Paganini. Penderecki has lived the victimization of 2nd World War, too. His family had to leave their home and could not return to the totally destroyed region until the end of the war. His believe in god and the humanity has saved him. The fact that even today, nothing has been learned from the past history is shocking all of us. To underline this sad truth, we have created our program, since we believe that love, respect and honest will overcome all obstacles, will be hope for peace and silence the guns, terror and screams.
Bernstein left us in 1990, but Symphonic Dances recorded by you was published in 2005 if I am not mistaken. Why did you wait 15 years?
İn 1987, due to Hanno Rinke, then artist director of Deutsche Gramophone, we had the chance to come together with Bernstein. He found it very interesting to arrange Symphonic Dances for two pianos and percussions and implemented our wish. Supervised by him, the arrangement of his assistants Paul McKibbins and Robert Philipps was revised a few times. Bernstein wanted to ensure the translation of the same intensity into two pianos. We are still working with the hand written script. Why Symphonic Dances? In perspective of musicality, this part is including an intensive symphonic idea and rhythmical and harmonically content. In our view, it is the most striking piece of the musical and has immediately enchanted us. We’ve recorded it in 1988 for Teldec/ Warner Classics. İt succeeded to stay in the markets for almost 20 years and from time to time the recording is still crossing our way. By the way, Hanno Rinke, who has written our biography film script, was also behind the camera during the production of “Double Life”. West Side Story has found its place in this documentary, too. This ARD Production was broadcasted many times, until it was bought by Unitel. Finally the film still makes his way, as bonus track on our 2nd DVD.
Would you kindly tell us something about the international reviews of your last CD/DVD with Zubin Mehta?
First of all the positive reviews and news are really motivating us. İn January 2015 our DVD was nominated for the “Quarterly Critics’ Choice” within “The German Record Critics’ Award” along with Berlin Philharmonie/Rattle, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Nelson , Staatskapelle Dresden/Thielmann , Evgeny Kissen and Menahem Pressler. Two weeks ago we got the news, that our DVD is also nominated for the “Annual Award”. We hope to continue this success with our next work, which would be a great feeling.
Lutowslawski’s “Variations on a Theme by Paganini” will be a premier in Turkey ….we would like to imagine, that also this peace was arranged specially for you…will your pianos be positioned one behind the other? We are very curious.
Life is full of surprises. Let’s face this evening with surprises, too.
Your recording which was released this month in Turkey, consisting of 2 CD’s and a DVD plus CD, includes very various duo pieces, in addition to a concerto you performed under the direction of one of the greatest living orchestra conductors, Zubin Mehta. Could you provide our readers with some information regarding this release, which will be distributed globally in September?
SP/GP: Our DVD and CD recordings, whose Turkish distribution was pulled forward by the publishing firm Unitel/Arthaus, in an effort to have it ready for the Istanbul Music Festival, will be available in our country starting this month. Our recordings will also be available at the IKSV store and sales points established at concert venues throughout the festival. Breaking new ground for Turkey, IKSV will also be selling our recording alongside souvenirs specially produced for the festival at Beymen stores with which they have partnered.
IKSV’s special design products for this year also honor us as well. As part of the collaboration IKSV undertook with artists, this year, two of our paintings that were created in 1978 and sold in aid of the World Wild Fund in Frankfurt, were used in Bülent Erkmen’s collage design for the advertising poster of the Istanbul Music Festival. Additionally, our paintings will also be featured on products that will be sold this year. Just like in festivals held in cities such as Salzburg, New York, and Paris, this effort will mean that our desire for art to reach different segments of the public will come to life. We hope that the diversity that will develop over years will spread across all sections of society to eventually include segments that are not yet acquainted with new, dynamic, and classical music. Personally, we believe this is very important. As part of world music, the more classical music appeals to the people, the more it will become the classic of the people.
Compared to a studio recording, the recording of a live concert must be a relatively different experience, is it not?
All of our DVD’s are live recordings. Film takes on the role of immortalizing the excitement and actuality of those lived minutes. In a way, this work also stands against the unfortunately common practice, the understanding of going into the studio and converting momentum into a collage in the name of quickly achieving excellence. Of course, this preference is more risky as mistakes that may be made in the concert setting remain an inevitable part of this choice. This mentality is more akin to the recordings made between 1950-1980. We still listen to these recordings and identify with them because they are exceedingly natural. Since we have generally been recording all of our recordings for years, this process isn’t difficult for us; just the opposite, live recordings only adds to our excitement.
It’s also an important privilege to be able to do this with radio institutions that are known for their recordings. Since there is no going back in a recording, it’s extremely critical that the microphones are optimally placed. Additionally, with the purpose of generating profits from their own archives, in the agreements made with these radio institutions, they hold the right to use the concert in their programs as much as they want, which, in turn, allows for the global recognition our recordings. Even though we had performed our concert program at the Würzburg and Ludwigsburg festivals, they recorded the concert two nights in a row, in order to use it for the Bavarian Radio and Stuttgart Radio archives.
The musical structure, variation, and integrity is extremely important in the selection of the pieces to be included in the concert. We opened the concert featured on this recording with Schubert’s “Fantasie in F minor for Piano, Four Hands.” This opening piece was followed by Mozart’s “D major Sonata Op. 448 for Two Pianos” and Debussy’s In Black and White, of which the third section is dedicated to Stravinsky. We then bid farewell to our audience with one of Spanish composer Manuel Infante’s most important pieces Andalusian Dances, Poulenc’s scarcely played Elegy, Lutoslawski’s Paganini-Variations, and, finally, Darius Milhaud’s work Scaramouche’s third section “Braziliera,” which is adorned with Latin rhythms. We undertook this entire effort with the firm Unitel, which has developed a rich archive of important musicians. Upon Zubin Mehta’s suggestion, years ago Unitel purchased our ARD and Arte co-produced one-hour biographical film from ARD, and the firm Arthaus took on, its issuing and distribution.
You initially went to Paris for a short time at a very young age, immediately after to Germany and then to the U.S. for your further music education. Why did you decide to continue your education in Germany when you had the opportunity to work with the important pedagogue Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen in Paris?
GP: From Rameau to Debussy and Ravel to Dutilleux and Boulez, the French school encompasses a wide musical realm. Our instructor Statzer, who had adopted the French school as the student of Alfred Cortot and internalized the German school as an Austrian, instilled this synthesis in us. Emotionally, we searched for the continuation of this synthesis and our predominant love of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert quickly led us to Germany. Even though we embraced Madame Loriod’s teaching and personality; she was opening many doors for us with all kinds of help; and though she insisted we graduate from the conservatory as valedictorians, the German school outweighed this. Whenever we look back, our belief in the choice we made in those years has never changed.
SP: As you know, pianists should have established their technique by the time they are 16, and then continue to develop their unique interpretive style by consciously enriching that technique via different schools. Rudolf Serkin and Claudio Arrau have always emphasized this fact: Just like no two hands are alike, you can only create your unique color of touch by yourself. Accordingly, when we worked with Serkin and Arrau, the important things were the piece’s structural integrity, with all its details and the strength of musical expression. When they had lessons with us, they would play little, more so referencing philosophical authors and painters, quoting composers’ other works, and ensuring the formation of our interpretations, which rendered the bodies of work more transparent, in a manner that was generally faithful to the piece. Let us also note that we only worked with them as soloists.
GP: What Serkin and Arrau would emphasize was that we worked from the original score, and were completely loyal to it. Serkin would even bring in the second or third editions, compare them to the original, identify errors, and then explain them. In his eyes, it was extremely important to reach the purity lying at the heart of the piece. Of course, this point of view influenced our view of music as well.
SP: Adele Marcus, our instructor at Julliard in New York, however, was a teacher coming from the Junghaus school, whose touch possessed a magnificent color palette. Whereas Claudio Arrau, known as the “Seigneur of the Piano,” would explain, in his own unique manner, how each neatly worked detail could be integrated into the whole, with all its elegance and softness. He was a good instructor, who had mastered the technique of detail in every aspect. Every pianist must accurately identify their deficiencies and select their instructor accordingly because no instructor can give you everything. It was a great privilege to work with these masters, and each of them also enriched us greatly as individuals. We are indebted to each of them.
In addition to recording Bach’s concertos for two pianos with the British Chamber Orchestra conducted by Colin Davis, you also released the Take Bach album featuring this music suited to improvisation. How did the idea of bringing Bach and jazz music together come about?
GP: Ever since we were children, we found transparency within harmony and the endless pursuit and direct formulation of the extraordinary, in Bach. This is because of Bach’s farsightedness and his ability to simultaneously give life to the past, the present, and the future, as well as the timelessness of his works. When his music is approached consciously, its “swing” characteristics naturally come to light. This is why Bach is popular among jazz musicians. Adapting Bach’s musical architecture to jazz, without fully disturbing it, is only possible by catching the composers’ “swing” characteristic. Jacques Loussier is a successful example regarding the combination of classical music and jazz. Jazz frees and enriches classical music. Within the tradition of classical music, jazz acquires a different kind of depth. What is important here is closing the distance between listeners of classical music and jazz, and that these two genres are blended together without any loss of quality.
SP: For our generation, raised on famous pianist Glenn Gould’s innovative Bach interpretations, this style was a brand new and alternative discovery. This development later led us to Bill Evans and George Shearing, and we had the pleasure of experiencing them as the “poets” of jazz piano. With their distinctive style, Evans, Shearing, and Loussier not only worked on Bach, but also arrived at new interpretations by blending jazz with the harmonies of Brahms, Schumann, Debussy, Ravel, Satie, and Milhaud.
You also frequently perform pieces out of the modern music repertoire. Can we discuss 20th century music, its execution, and, more specifically, your recording of Igor Stravinsky’s revolutionary piece The Rite of Spring?
GP: Within the scope of the celebrations for Stravinsky’s piece, The Rite of Spring’s 100th anniversary, the firms Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, and Philips put together a box-set of the best The Rite of Spring interpretations they released since 1913. This set also includes Stravinsky’s own interpretation from 1921. It brought us great joy that, in addition to interpretations by Ansermet, Haitink, Karajan, and Solti, Deutsche Grammophon chose to include our own, from their 1987 recording. The Rite of Spring is one of the most intriguing pieces of the 20th century, celebrating the coming of spring and illustrating its deep and effective role in bringing together different musical cultures. Bringing out the instinctive ways of primitive people prior to civilization, the piece appeals to completely contrary directions by overlaying multiple percussive rhythms and simultaneously utilizing different tonalities.
SP: We take care to try and live as artists who are open to world music and diversity, in addition to classical music. One component that has enriched us the most throughout our career is experiencing new interactions within different types of music, free of any template, and creating new syntheses. As thus, with our Taking Bach CD recording in 2000, we had the opportunity to appeal to a completely different audience. Our “computer-synthesizer” focused work with Bob James, Bach-Jazz, had also given us a taste for innovations that we had not yet musically experienced. On the other hand, we captured new lights with Bernstein’s West Side Story. Different musical genres are becoming increasingly universalized and intertwined. That is why we need to listen to different genres in order to create a new vision, as well as new concerts, program styles and projects.
Throughout your educational experience, you worked with legendary names, and now, with your project “Young Musicians on World Stages,” you are sharing your professional experiences with young talents. What has been achieved so far in Turkey and what are your future goals within the scope of this project?
GP: As you know, the aim of the “Young Musicians on World Stages” project, which we started in 2010, was to ensure that exceptionally talented newcomers were able to train in Europe with globally renowned instructors who are the best in their field, to open the path leading to the world stage, and contribute to their successes in international competitions. Within this framework, our scholarship recipients have placed first six times and second three times in international music competitions in only three years. Among them, 16 year-old Veriko Tchumburidze achieved a first for Turkey, placing first in the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians held in Montreux, Switzerland, by receiving the highest score awarded by the jury, and, in September, violinist Elvin Hoxha placed third in the International David Oistrakh Violin Competition held in Moscow. Sponsored by Onduline Avrasya until the first season of 2013, and currently being sponsored by Tüpraş since the second half of 2013, our musicians are continuing their conservatory education in Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Leipzip, Cologne, Zurich, and Brussels. Now, young musicians from Europe who would like to take part in the project are also applying, however, we will be giving priority to those who are applying from Turkey.
Duygu Eliz Erkut, who is among this year’s scholarship recipients, is the only Turkish ballerina to study at the Milano La Scala Academy, which is one of the most important schools for classical ballet. Since outstanding talents Can Çakmur and Cem Esen are still continuing their education, they are taking monthly private lessons in Brussels from their esteemed instructor. 13 year-old violinist Doğa Altınok started her education at the Amadeus International School Vienna in the September of last year. In the March of this year, our scholarship recipients gave a concert, which was recorded on DVD, at the Zurich Tonhalle’s chamber music hall. The recording will be released by Lila Music this coming October. In the last five months, our young musicians have given concerts at venues including the German Consulate (New Years Concert), the Albert Long Hall at Boğaziçi University, the Notre Dame de Sion Concert Hall and the Kadıköy Süreyya Opera House.
SP: We have also been working to increase the quality of music education in all of the kindergartens and elementary schools in Turkey with modern and creative educational programs, such as the “Carl Orff” system, which was accepted into curriculum at TEVITÖL High School, where we have been implementing the music lessons for the past six years alongside the Ministry of National Education. We wish to discover the future’s talented musicians at a young age, ensuring that they are trained in the best way possible, to develop a system that will present them with the opportunity to have a career on the world stage, and to see all of the infrastructure and instruments of each of our conservatories be updated. It is exceedingly important that all of our orchestras reach European standards. In the meantime, I was happy to be a jury member for the first International Piano Competition – Istanbul-Orchestra’Sion in Turkey this past November, organized by the Notre Dame de Sion School. It was exciting and educational to see young pianists from all over the world compete with Turkish pianists, and to have the works of five of our important composers be heard by international youth. Placing first and fifth, our two finalist pianists made us very proud.
Awarded to a Turkish artist every year since 2006, IKSV’s Honorary Award was presented to you last year. Could you share with us the importance of and your feelings as an artist upon receiving such an important award from your own country?
GP: Receiving IKSV’s award in 2013 brought us the joy of having the “language” reflecting the inner values, which we’ve been making an effort to share throughout our lives, be understood and accepted. The fact that we were awarded by an institution such as IKSV, which has been protecting these values with all its might and seriousness for 42 years, only deepened our happiness. When we look back, we see that such great happiness, the likes of which we’ve only felt a few times throughout different periods in our lives, was experienced alongside unprecedented pains in our country. The storm of “Gezi Park,” which was progressing during the time we received the award, opened great wounds in our hearts and minds. As artists, we are determined to continue to protect a positive outlook towards the future with all our might, without succumbing to the wrong emotions.
SP: Following the ceremony, having violinist Veriko Tchumburidze, one of the scholarship recipients from our “Young Musicians on World Stages” project, perform Waxman’s Carmen Fantasie with the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra (BIFO), conducted by Sascha Goetzel, touched us greatly, making the evening even more meaningful in our eyes. Having young cellist Dorukhan Doruk, who internationally placed first twice during his four years with our project, perform alongside BIFO, and under the direction of Gürer Aykal at the opening of this year’s festival is also another source of happiness for us. We are additionally grateful to IKSV and BIFO for supporting our young musicians through such important concerts.
Güher and Süher Pekinel gave their first concert at age six. At nine years old they were playing alongside the Ankara Philharmonic. They fit 22 albums, thousands of concerts, and tens of awards into the years that followed. They’ve played with important orchestras all over the world, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Los Angeles Philharmonic, British Chamber Orchestra, French National Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic,… Now, they are back with their third international release. “Hearing Colors, Seeing Sounds,” is an album that reverses the senses. It is rooted in the distant past, in their childhood. Hence, they’ve said “Ever since we were little, the active unison of all the branches of art set us on an endless journey.”
The movement of painters’ union Blauer Reiter (The Blue Rider), founded in 1911 by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, had great influence on this album. They say, “This DVD could be called a musical documentary of intertwined past artistic and sociopolitical structures. A program that combines classical, impressionist, expressionist, and the beginnings of modernism while showing the flow of similarity and change between them.” Let’s let them tell us…
This album has a title that subverts ones habitual senses: “Hearing Colors, Seeing Sounds.”
This title is as important for those listening to the CD or watching the DVD, as it is for us. Even though they’ve both been released simultaneously, they awaken different emotions. Ever since we were little, the active unison of all the branches of art set us on an endless journey. For those of us who seek unity, this is simply part of an endless stream.
What kind of a relationship do you find exists between colors and sounds?
With thousands of years of evolution humanity has developed an inherent power over the suppositional. However, this can first and foremost be comprehended through personal development. It is impossible to develop the colors of music without hearing it within ourselves first. Even though the colors we discern while playing together are similar, we set off from different perceptions of shade. Mentally reviving his increasingly diminishing and dissolving sense of hearing in an abstract fashion through his internal sense of color and poly-phonic perception of sound, Beethoven would simultaneously put notes on paper by seeing it in some way. The sense of light Rembrandt created in his pieces while working under extremely low candle light is another example of this. The array that meets within Goethe, Scriabin, Delaunay, and Kandinsky’s color theories regarding sound is actually a natural formation bringing together different branches of art.
What is it about the Blauer Reiter movement that draws and affects you?
Hearing colors also encompasses seeing sounds. We were heavily influenced by two of Kandinsky’s books, “Punkt und Linie zu Fläche” (Point and Line to Plane) and “Das Geistige in der Kunst” (Concerning the Spiritual in Art), during our high school years. While this point of transformation for painting started around 1911 brought along important formations such as “Blauer Reiter” and “Bauhaus” in Germany, it was simultaneously preparing a foundation for diverse movements in need of innovation and new formations combining music, art, and literature in France. Although art history may have experienced its most rapid transitions during the Renaissance period, the changes reached today have always been present. What is important is how deeply an artist follows surrounding movements, and how they are influenced by and choose to relay them.
We know that you made use of your free time by painting while you were living in Munich between the years of 1970 and 1985…
At home, there was not only a deep interest in music, but also in painting, which, in time, turned to passion. Art lessons were among our favorites. Our deep interest in Kandinsky started during our time in Munich. The fact that after having moved into the Lenbachhaus with the ‘’Blauer Reiter’’ movement, the trio consisting of Kandinsky, Klee, and Franz Marc also formed a musical trio, directed us towards the constant events and seminars that were taking place in those days. We had also recorded the sonata-turned-concerto by Bartok, who was influenced by Kandinsky during this period, with two valuable percussionists of the Berlin and Munich Philharmonic orchestras. Later on, while at the Julliard School in New York, we’d spend our remaining free time on Saturdays at the “Student Art League” painting course. As the concerts began to accumulate, museums started to become our only escape and a place we could nourish our souls. We only later noticed that we had started to influence our managers in this direction. Even though they viewed it is an atypical request, this extra day that we’d spend after important concerts were highly productive. When we look back, we believe that all of the elements that came together to create this atmosphere are what brought us here today.
This is your third internationally released DVD. How did you create its contents?
First of all, what’s currently defining our future is visual media, the internet. If we can’t catch this process, we aware that, as musicians, it will become difficult for us to see ahead. A DVD is a great responsibility. Beyond documenting a program, it is also closely related to what message you want to send the world. We could call this DVD a musical documentary of intertwined past artistic and sociopolitical structures. A program that combines classical, impressionist, expressionist, and the beginnings of modernism while showing the flow of similarity and change between them. For example, the Debussy – Bartok relationship and the “Bartok, Infante, Saygun triangle” are all exceedingly interesting conjunctions. While Bartok, who was an ethnographer, was researching the development of Balkan folk music, he came to Turkey in 1936 and conducted research on Turkish folk music in Anatolia with Adnan Saygun; eventually selecting 67 of the close to 136 folk melodies and songs he collected and utilizing them in his compositions. As such, there is currently a Bartok museum in Turkey. Our DVD also contains an analysis that we personally wrote on this subject. In short, as with each of our DVD and CD’s, these special concerts were filmed in concert halls that were determined by us, through rigorous research conducted alongside world-famous firms Arthaus and Unitel and a great team. Meanwhile, the concert that was filmed for our DVD took place at a newly opened opera hall in Italy with fantastic acoustics to the accompaniment of Zubin Mehta and the Maggio Musicale orchestra.We utilize our experience for newcomers
You have received recognition for your work involving young musicians. Why is it important for young musicians to be supported?
While studying in Germany and in the U.S., we received great support not only from important musicians, but also from managers and record labels in the following years. The help we received through the mentorship of reputable conductors like Maestro Karajan, Zubin Mehta and Sir Colin Davis influenced our lives greatly in terms of music. We use the opportunities that were given to us at the time and our experiences to discover superior talents through various projects and to train them in becoming world class artists. They will be shaping the future of music and will make Turkey’s presence felt in international platforms. Being a musician and an artist is a great responsibility and they need to be equipped in every respect in order to culturally enrich society. We utilize our time and all manner of contacts and relations in order to ensure this equipage. In addition to steering them towards renowned teachers and schools, we also try and ensure that they work with the best instruments. In order to remain in the program, the talent that we select are required to prove themselves by competing in an international competition each year. Then, having their names heard throughout these various platforms, unexpected future opportunities can also come their way.
İlknur Atbaş, 12.10.2014
What does it mean, “Hearing Sounds, Seeing Colors”? What was it that pushed you to think about and produce under this title?
Ever since the first ages of history, people have believed there is a connection between colors and music. In 1922, painter Wassily Kandinsky developed a form of synthesis that would allow him to work outside of the objective. Kandinsky’s aim was to hear colors and see sounds. In light of this goal, he created “color symphonies” out of “color sounds,” assigning a color to each note, developing a synthesis of painting and sound, spearheading this movement. What pushed us to think under this title is that we are two artists who display a different form of communication that aims to synthesize modernity and tradition in new templates outside of classical music. We mainly spend our time on our works that are compiled from projects that have been synthesized with new movements, so younger generations can internalize classical music with these different tastes as part of their own lives. We have observed that the musicians that we are supporting are also slowly starting to exhibit signs of this movement.
What kind of a relationship are you building between colors and sounds when you’re interpreting the pieces that are featured on the DVD?
There is a common neurological denominator in the perception of sounds and colors. Yet most of us don’t even notice this relationship throughout our lives. Some of us, however, aided by an interest in painting, like ourselves, feel this distinction quite clearly and transmit different shades of color by giving different emphases to sounds. In the way that the emotion represented by each color differs from one another, animating them via notation creates an equally different effect. Even if the colors we see are very similar, since we perceive and internalize these shades differently, and the reflection of our synergy creates a different taste for the listener.
While you were living in Munich, you spent most of your free time painting. How much of an effect did your interest in the art of painting have in shaping the Kandinsky-led Blauer Reiter movement’s influence on your work?
Yes, during our time in Munich we followed the art of painting closely and spent our time painting. We spent this time under the influence of abstract impressionism, which is closely associated with Kandinsky. Especially during our high school years, we were influenced by his two books, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art ” (1911) and “Point and Line to Plane” (1926). We also visited exhibitions and attended different seminars and events held at the Lenbachhaus Museum that housed the Art Academy and the Blauer Reiter Collection. These activities helped us renew and strengthen our imaginative faculties both musically and visually. We were able to capture the connection between colors and sounds within our conception due to our interest in various branches of art and our musical foundation. Our recording of the “Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion” for Teldec/Warner was also done during this same time, in 1987, influenced by our interest in Bartok. Similarly, our paintings “Sonata” and “The Harmony of Opposites” were also created during this time period.
OUR GOAL IS TO INTRODUCE TURKEY TO THE WORLD
“Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion” is a composition that bears traces of Bela Bartok’s trip to Turkey with Adnan Saygun in 1936. It is not very well known in Turkey… Was adding this piece to your repertoire a conscious choice?
Yes. In 1936, Bela Bartok visited Anatolian towns with Adnan Saygun in a horse and carriage. He then used 64 of the folk songs and ballads that he collected in his own work, and “Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion” become one of his best known pieces. Adding this piece to our repertoire was a conscious choice as our DVD will be sold world-wide and marketed globally. One of our goals has always been to ensure that Turkey is mentioned in all of these platforms and to introduce Turkey to the world. We touch upon this in detail in the analysis we personally wrote for the DVD booklet.
Taking the harmony you achieve while playing into account, can you both see the same colors and hear the same sounds while making music?
Aside from us being twins, the distinction of the harmony that we achieve together comes from the fact that the common ground of our life philosophies stems from music and art. Even though the primary colors are the same
, we are of the opinion that the shade that represents each individual is different. We worked with the same teacher for years in order to find and develop our own personalities, but we never listened to one another play and never played the same pieces, so as to not be under any influence. I think, as can be heard in our music, even though we both perceive the primary colors differently, over time, the harmony of unity creates a unique flow in our stage performance since we capture such similar shades.
OUR WORK HAS RECEİVED ITS RIGHTFUL RECOGNİTİON FROM TURKEY
We wholeheartedly believe that our work has now found its rightful place in Turkey as well. Receiving IKSV’s Honorary Award in 2013 brought us the joy and pride of being understood in our country. Our greatest desire is to ensure that the state of the Republic of Turkey provides the support that will allow our musicians to be commemorated alongside globally recognized names by reinstating the “superior talent statute” that was revoked 20 years ago.
Even though you are twins, you are very different people. What have you learned from each other as individual musicians and artists? How have your personalities been similar or different over the years?
SP: Even though our family tried not to distinguish between us when we were young because we were twins, our individual personalities expressed themselves in one way or another. We worked with the same teachers since we were age ten, but we parted ways as soloists, which is actually one of the prerequisites of being a good duo.
As you know, your unique tone and interpretation is your personal signature that makes you who you are. Even though we are influenced by each other and our surroundings, you shape your development based on your instinct and experience.
In this regard, as a result of our development, our different styles create a synthesis when we work together, and the result is more powerful and unique. Balance and creativity are critical in this regard. One person can see a detail that the other person does not notice or consider important. Furthermore, we think that the unique benefit of being twins is the ability to produce a joint effort that is brand new because we look at it from different perspectives. In the end, the stage is an adventure that always poses risks we cannot predict. There is a very unique pleasure in creating and experiencing this adventure in one breath.
You point to the concept of “balance” as something you want your TEVİTÖL students to achieve.
GP: We believe that “balance” is one of the most important and common issues that we must focus on during the 21st century. In a world where consumerism and the Internet enslave us, we are all threatened by the increasingly limited ability to set our own internal clock and experience the richness of our own spirit. However, our internal balance is what makes us who we are.
Our goal is to help young people who will grow up to be the CEOs of the future to establish balance in their personalities when it comes to emotional intelligence. Our greatest desire is to help them establish their own emotional and intellectual balance by discovering, experiencing, directing and creating the creative energy inside them using art. All of them learn an instrument and give chamber music concerts and then continue these activities after they graduate; music in the university and in their social lives enables them to find more effective solutions to their problems, overcome stress more easily and feel happy, so we think that this is an indication that we are headed in the right direction.
From this perspective, how did you establish balance in your own lives? How have these different balances affected you as two sisters who play together?
SP: This question applies to us, but at a different level. Our life has always been full of music, where we find balance in being together, searching it out in our lives and putting it into practice. As we perform a piece of music in unison on the stage, one secret of balance is being ready to take any risk. In a sense, a clear balance consists of getting both lobes of our brain (thought and feeling) to work together. This is very important for art, which is food for the soul, and for music, which speaks to all of our emotions. In conclusion, we believe that balance is in one sense the key to happiness.
You are pioneering three important social responsibility projects. What was the inspiration for these projects?
GP: As you know, we are carrying out two projects in addition to the TEVİTÖL project we started four and a half years ago. The first project follows the philosophy I have described above. After four years of work, the music lesson has been integrated into the general curriculum and is graded like any other lesson. Our goal is for this to be implemented in all schools, like it used to be.
Our second project, “Young Talents on World Stages”, provides support for the future careers of young professional musicians by enabling them to study with the best musicians in Europe. By preparing them for international competitions with these teachers, this project will open a way for them to appear on international stages where they will be able to make a name for themselves.
Our third project is to use famous educator and composer Carl Orff’s system to bring music lessons back to kindergarten and primary schools and integrate them into the curriculum. It is well known that age 5 – 9 is when children’s memories soak up information like a sponge, making education most productive. The goal is for children to discover their creativity at that stage in their lives, so they can develop their ability to express themselves and become people with self-confidence and vision by means of the unifying and powerful influence of music. This method is being successfully implemented in many countries, where they are obtaining amazing results. For example, Finland, which has been ranked in first place for 12 years, has been using the ORFF system in its schools for a long time. Our goal and our desire is to implement this system in all schools.
What do you imagine for the next stage of your lives? Are there projects you want to do but have not been able to?
SP: In addition to continuing our musical career, we want to see these three projects we have started implemented in Turkey, and to help modern and universal values be achieved in music education. These are very difficult projects to carry out long term under the conditions we have in Turkey. Music education has been constantly re-examined and updated in Europe. Unfortunately, the Turkish system has been fossilized for 15 years and is not open to any innovation. We are working with all our might because we believe that these steps are very important. But if every musician is aware of their ethical and aesthetical responsibility and does their part, Turkey will make great progress in music education in a short period of time.
When you look at Turkey from the aspect of music, how full is the cup and how empty is it?
GP: First of all, there is a big problem with infrastructure when it comes to music in Turkey. The conservatories and the music high schools are unable to provide sufficient training, except for few groups of teachers. First of all, there is a large deficiency in teacher training in our country. Even though some graduates write theses that are not up to par, music schools sometimes ignore it and let them become faculty members anyway. Faculty members are delaying their retirement from the conservatories, which limits the opportunities for the younger generation. In addition, the high number of students accepted to the conservatories limits the ability for classes to be given in schools.
What is more, even though music lessons are supposed to be given at primary schools, they aren’t because of the lack of teachers and other reasons. In middle schools and high schools, music lessons are a 40 minute class given once a week, if at all, because often other classes are held in its place, and they are often taught by teachers from other disciplines who have not had musical training. As a result, we need to take new, visionary and intelligent steps in music education.
How is society affected by increasing the level of understanding and perception about music? Aside from the education given to students, how is it possible to increase the level of music in society?
GP: Everyone knows that not only does music appeal to all of our emotions, it also helps us to conceptualize and develop ethical and aesthetical values and makes people happy by lifting our spirits. What is more, music is used to appeal to us all the time, everywhere. We are surrounded by music, whether it is media, social communication, advertisements or human relationships. What is important is to listen to good music that appeals to our emotions and helps us to listen to our inner voice, and using it to make life more meaningful. In this regard we believe that to raise our view of quality, all music programs (not just the classical music programs on the radio and visual media) need to be more selective and conscientious about the music used.
In order to avoid the kind of music pollution that results from playing any kind of music without passing it through a musical filter, we need people who have proven musical experience to choose the right pieces based on their awareness of high quality music; they need to draw the listener in by sometimes providing educational information. By finding a balance between the best compositions of the past and contemporary ones, it will be possible to reach a broad, long-lasting audience. This is valid for any kind of music. You can’t assume that everyone will understand or enjoy world music or jazz. A certain level of experience is necessary to understand the value of this kind of music.
In a country where people generally make do with what is given to them and where education is not sufficiently developed, it is too much to expect the listeners to do research and inform themselves. In this regard, all the responsibility is borne by those who are in control. Most of the authorities who are making decisions do not have the academic background required by their professions in this field. If we do not invest in this infrastructure, we may be left far behind other countries that are doing so in this rapidly advancing age of science.
We must not forget that a well-educated generation will solve this problem based on their expectations, and they will be more in touch with art. This will help us to be a society that is more tolerant, balanced and happy.
What did you gain for yourselves in your music from your friendship and cooperation with Jacques Loussier? What did he learn from you for his unique path?
SP: First of all, we benefited greatly from meeting Jacques. He is an artist with an incredible range of experience who lets life happen naturally, who is at peace with himself yet knows how to make fun of himself. He is funny, open to innovation, never loses control, motivates musicians in every way and expects a lot from himself.
As someone who received classical music education in the Paris conservatory, he is a rare musician who intelligently combines two worlds.
We learned from him how we can internalize a free method, the specific tones that are unique to jazz on the piano, the specific limits in improvisation and the codes for timing needed when playing with his trio.
As for him, the hundreds of questions we asked when we were together may have made him excited about certain topics. He had already studied every epoch of music, but we could say that after this project, he started to adapt classical music from other epochs besides Bach into jazz, and even started to play Mozart piano concertos with orchestra accompaniment. Anyways, the fact that we outnumbered him two to one must have influenced him somehow!
Paintings, theatre and music: what kind of holistic effect do these three branches of art have on a person’s development as a human and an individual?
GP: It is impossible to think of these three branches distinctly because they are interwoven. Therefore, each of them has developed through processes in which they were influenced by each other.
For example, the periods of expressionism, impressionism, cubism and so on developed in parallel in music and theatre. They influenced each other, creating new movements. They faced critics because of their forward thinking, but kept on track and were able to integrate their visionary perspectives into the social environment.