Mustafa Mehmandarov: "The Youth Chamber Orchestra of TURKSOY contributes to the Rapprochement of Turkic Peoples"
The Youth Chamber Orchestra of TURKSOY gathering talented young musicians of the Turkic World has completed its tour to the Balkans with successful concerts it gave in Skopje and Ohrid in Macedonia, Podgorica in Montenegro, Mostar and Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Belgrade in Serbia. This year, the orchestra took the scene with young artists from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Turkey and autonomous republics of the Russian Federation, Bashkortostan and Tatarstan.
The orchestra which takes the scene with different artists every year gathered Mustafa Mehmandarov, Said Mammadov, Orkhan Cumayev and Sabuhi Akhundov from Azerbaijan, Anvar Akbarov, Assem Kalman, Zeynep Suleimenova, Aliya Mashkeyeva, Zhangir Zhubanov, Amina Mashkeyeva and Birzhan Mynbayev from Kazakhstan, Aliya Okeev from Kyrgyzstan, Bahram Dolyyev from Turkmenistan, Ilzira Kudasheva from Bashkortostan (RF), Donier Avlaiarov and Arslan Saifi from Tatarstan (RF), along with Nazlı Avcı, Pelin Odabaşı, Ilayda Zeynep Köksal, Atakan Çalışkan and Işın Işık from Turkey.
Following the tour of the orchestra in the Balkans, Mustafa Mehmandarov, the conductor of the “Caspian Virtuosos Orchestra” and Youth Chamber Orchestra of TURKSOY who is currently pursuing his studies at the Conservatory of Vienna gave an interview to the "Yeniçağ" internet newspaper of Azerbaijan. Mehmandarov who is one of the young conductors of Azerbaijan, gave some information on tours of the Youth Chamber Orchestra of TURKSOY and its contribution to the promotion of Azerbaijani music as well as to the rapprochement of the Turkic World.
- Maestro, how have you joined this orchestra?
- The Youth Chamber Orchestra of TURKSOY was established in 2010 upon initiative of TURKSOY Secretary General Dusen Kasseinov. The aim of the orchestra is to bring together musicians of TURKSOY member countries and Turkic communities living in countries subject to the Russian Federation on the one hand while introducing works by Turkic composers to the world. In 2010, I received an invitation to join this orchestra which gathers talented musicians of the Turkic World. Until 2013, I worked as a violinist in this orchestra.
- Could you tell us a bit more about the tours of the orchestra which you participated in?
- Every year, we come together in Turkey where we rehearse and start giving concerts. We give concerts in a few cities of Turkey before going on tour abroad. In the first two years following our establishment, that is to say in in 2010 and 2011, we gave concerts in Bayreuth, which is a city of Germany known for its festival launched by the famous German composer. There, we participated in the Festival of Young Artists Bayreuth and also gave concerts in various venues of the city. In 2012, we gave concerts in the USA which also raised great interest and gathered a large audience.
- When did you start conducting the Youth Chamber Orchestra of TURKSOY?
- My first experience as a conductor dates back to 2016. This is also when I was invited to be part of the orchestra as a conductor. In 2013, I started to study conducting at the Conservatıry of Vienna.
- Could you tell us some more about the tour of the orchestra last year?
- Last year, we went on tour in the United Kingdom where we took the scene in Oxford, London and Edinburgh, and gave two concerts in prestigious venues of Glasgow. Our concert in London took place in the St James Church, and in Oxford, we performed in the Sheldonian Theater of the Oxford University. This circular hall usually only hosts concerts of world famous orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Oxford Ochestra. One of the scenes in François Girard's film "The Red Violin” was also shot in this hall. It was a great honour for us to perform in this hall.
- an we say that you were the firsr musician from Azerbaijan to have performed in the Sheldonian Theater of the Oxford University?
- Yes, this was a historical moment for all of us. It was the first time that a piece of music by a composer from Azerbaijan was performed in the Oxford University.
- Where did your concert take place in Scotland?
- We gave two concerts in Glasgow. Our first concert took place in the Royal Conservatory of Scotland, and our second concert took place in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall which has a capacity of 2499 spectators. Later on, we also performed in the famous Greyfriars Kirk Cathedral in Edinburgh.
- Did the tour of the orchestra end in Italy in 2016?
- In Italy, we took the scene within the framwork of the "Emilia Romagna Festival". We gave concerts in Forli and Pesaro, the city where the famous Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini was born. Our concert in Pesaro took place in Rocca Constanza, a castle dating back to the Middle Ages. In our tour in 2016, we gave 8 concerts.
- What kind of feedback have you received regarding the concerts of the Youth Chamber Orchestra?
- Criticism is the driving force of creativity and progress. Many people have expressed their admiration and we have received a lot of positive comments. One of these comments which drew my attention was that of Prof. Geoffrey K. Pullum from the Faculty of Psychology, Philosophy and Philology of the Edinburgh University who is also the author of the book on English Language issued by the Cambridge University. Prof. Pullum told us that he attended our concert by chance after he saw a poster announcing in in a shopping mall. He also said that he was extremely surprised once he listened to us because he did not expect musicians of the Turkic World to be as successful as their European colleagues. Prof. Pullum said that he was also surprised by the beauty of the melodies composed by composers of the Turkic World and he added that culture and art are highly developed in Turkic republics. Of course, we are really happy to hear such comments by eminent personalities on our orchestra.
- Could you give us some more information on this year’s tour of the Youth Chamber Orchestra of TURKSOY?
- This year, we went on tour in the Balkans and the number of artists from Azerbaijan in our orchestra reached its peak with 6 people. As every year, we came together in Ankara where we rehearsed for a few days before taking the scene in the Concert Hall of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra. I think our performance in Ankara has shown that we are a well-trained and experienced orchestra. Our next concert took place in Bursa where we performed in a historical building. Our tour in the Balkans started in Macedonia. We gave our first concert in Skopje and our second concert took place in Ohrid within the framework of the Summer Festival of Ohrid. Our schedule was really well-planned. We started every day with a rehearsal in the morning, then we had free time to visit historical places of the city and see its beautiful nature. In the evening, we gave our concerts. I would like to stress that our concert in Skopje took place in the presence of the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Turkey H. E. Faik Bagirov.
The last stop of our tour was Podgorica in Montenegro. Then we performed in Mostar and Sarajevo in Bosnia Herzegovina and the last stop of our tour in 2017 took place in Belgrade where the audience gave us a really warm-hearted welcome. The Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Serbia H. E. Eldar Hasanov did everything necessary to make us feel comfortable and he told us that he appreciated our performance very much. This made us very happy, of course. The cocktail reception which took place after the concert gathered many high-level guests including the MP of Serbia Mr. Dragomir Karich.
-What kind of works does your orchestra usually perform, and which works do you perform this year?
- We generally perform world classics along with works by composers of the Turkic World. Our repertoire also features works by composers from Azerbaijan. In the last 7 years, we have performed works by Fikret Emirov, Gara Garayev, Akshin Alizade and Maestro Niyazi. This year, I have written an arrangement of the String Quartet by the famous French composer Maurice Ravel which I called “Little Symphony”. We performed it for the first time during our tour in the Balkans. Other works we performed in our concerts this year included Fikret Emirov's "Miniatures" which I have written an arrangement of as well, and works by the Kyrgyz composer Seitaly Medetov, the Turkmen composer Rovshan Nepesov, the Tatar composer Alsu Sungatullina and the Turkish composer Turgay Erdener. Let me also stress that a the “Ilıgai Variations” a composition by our double bass player from Kazakhstan, Birjan Mynbayev was also performed for the first time in our tour to the Balkans.
- In how far do such events contribute to the rapprochement of Turkic peoples as well as to the promotion of Turkic peoples’ culture?
- This year, TURKSOY celebrates the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties among Turkic Republics and all concerts it organizes within this framework are contributing to the promotion of the rich cultural heritage of the Turkic World as well as to the rapprochement of cultures worldwide. Our concerts also raise great interest among members of the press media.
There is a really nice atmosphere in our orchestra and this atmosphere triggered my wish to become a conductor. My first experience as a conductor dates back to 2011 when I conducted the orchestra during our tour to Germany. I was a really nice experience and I enjoyed it very much. The Youth Chamber Orchestra of TURKSOY has been a milestone in my life as it played a key role in my decision to become a conductor.
Our tour to the Balkans left wonderful remembrances in my mind. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the Secretary General of TURKSOY Mr. Dusen Kasseinov for giving young musicians of the Turkic World the opportunity to express their talent and improve themselves while introducing the culture of Turkic republics to the world. Such activities and events are a key contribution to the rapprochement of Turkic peoples.