As part of EPF’s Armenia-Turkey Dialogue and Cooperation Initiative, funded by USAID, the esteemed Bosphorus Quartet from Istanbul, Turkey performed at Komitas Chamber Music Hall in Yerevan on June 18, 2008. This was preceded by the Yerevan Komitas State Quartet’s exchange performance in Istanbul on June 13.
The pair of concerts continued a musical exchange between the Komitas State Quartet and their counterparts in Turkey that began in 2002. “This project intends to forge a musical bridge between Armenia and Turkey, celebrating the artists of each country while establishing a practice of cultural cooperation,” says Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan, Country Director of Eurasia Partnership Foundation in Armenia. “EPF believes that supporting cross-border grass-roots initiatives between Armenian and Turkish civil society activists, businessmen, journalists, and artists will accelerate the normalization of relations between the two countries.”
In Yerevan the Bosphorus Quartet performed pieces by European, Turkish, and Armenian composers: Debussy’s “Quartet”, Shostakovich’s “String Quartet No. 8”, Selman Ada’s “Kleine Jazz Suite”, Serdar Yalçýn’s “Together and Stringed Songs” and, as an encore, Komitas/Aslamazyan’s “Habrban.” The Quartet, managed by Murat Gurol, brings together Seda Subaşi, 1st violin; Ceren Gűrkan, 2nd violin; Deniz Yűcel, viola; and Rahşan Apay, cello.
The concert enjoyed high turnout among the local public, representatives of international organizations and foreign missions accredited in Armenia. Joseph Pennington, Charge d’Affaires of the United States, delivered welcoming remarks in Armenian and Turkish. He stressed importance of developing people-to-people ties between Armenians and Turks and stated that US government contributes to the improvement of Armenian -Turkish relations by strengthening the capacities of government, non-government, business, and cultural sectors to develop and maintain cross-border partnerships. The Minister of Culture of the Republic of Armenia, Hasmik Poghosyan, attended the event. The concert was widely covered by Armenian and Diaspora-based mass media.
EPF’s Armenia-Turkey programs, and the concert exchange project, in particular, were mentioned in the halls of the US Congress on the same day. While making his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 18, 2008, Daniel Fried, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs said, –“The U.S. also supports more cross-border dialogue and cooperation between the people of Armenia and Turkey through research initiatives, conferences, and exchange programs. An example of this cross-border exchange, supported by U.S. assistance funds, was the performance of the Armenian Komitas Quartet in Istanbul last week, and the scheduled performance of the Turkish Bosphorus Quartet in Yerevan today.”
The wonderful performance of the Bosphorus Quartet provided a unique opportunity for Armenians to get familiar with contemporary Turkish composers. At the same time, hearing the skilled Turkish musicians’ understanding and interpretation of an Armenian classical melody by Komitas/Aslamazyan was extraordinary, and perhaps most exciting for the audience.
In an interview to the on Armenian Public TV, the musicians stated they enjoyed their stay in Yerevan and said: “music indeed is the shortest way to people’s hearts.”