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Opal Beşli

Interview

1. Clearly your mother was a guiding influence as a concert violinist whose concerts you attended. Can you tell us more about her please?

My mom has been working at the presidential symphony orchestra for 36 years. Since I was 5 years old, she always took me to the concerts and for this reason I liked listening to the classical music and I wanted to be a violinist just like her.

2. Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?

I really admire to Yuri Bashmet who is the best violinist in the world. He has got an incredible playing style and also he has got an amazing musical expression.

3. Was your mother your first teacher? Was the violin the natural instrument for you?

My first teacher was Betil Başeğmezler who studied with Fredrick Riddle in London. Of course my second teacher was always my mother because she always helped me to improve my skills while I was practising at home.

4. What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?

The reading concerto which I played was my fondest memorisation piece when I was 9.

5. You studied at the Ankara State Conservatory of Hacettepe University under Prof. Betil Başeğmezler. Can you tell us more of this period and how it was to be mentored by this lady?

Betil was one of the most successful teachers in Ankara when I first met with her. Because she also has a degree from RCM and studied with the most famous viola teacher in England and she has perfect knowledge. I studied with her for almost 12 years and I learnt many good thing from her that is why I am really appreciative of her.

6. Can you tell us when and where you had your solo and orchestral debuts please?

My first solo performance was at the Ankara Rotary Club when I was 9. And my first orchestral performance was with the CSO (the Presidential Symphony Orchestra) in Ankara.

7. In 2007 you joined the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in Turkey and according to your own words you ‘focused on the symphonic side of music’. Can you explain to us what drove you to this specialization please?

Since I was 5 years old I had been taken to the orchestral concerts that made me love the symphonic side of this music. That is why I wished to fully immerse myself in this world of study and performance.

8. If you could do a duet with anybody alive or dead, who would that dream partner be?

I would love to play with Yuri Bashmet.

9. In April 2008 you performed at the International Music House, Moscow-Russia with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra with İbrahim Yazıcı as conductor and Fazıl Say on piano. Was this your first international outing and how did it feel like?

Yes, this was the first international concert I have ever played and it was a huge project, we played Fazıl’s music which was written for Nazım Hikmet and it was a really emotional piece which made you feel a bit upset but also made you think about the past.

10. In October 2010, you performed at the ‘Asia Music Festival’ at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra with Rengim Gökmen as conductor. Can you remember what pieces you played and how the audience and people received you in this nation?

I remembered that we played Ferit Tüzün’s music which is called Esintiler [breezes]. All audiences showed us how they loved to listen to us and this performance!

11. How often and for how long do you practice?

I have been playing the viola since I was 9 years old and a big part of my life is taken up by the practising.

12. You currently study with James Sleigh who is a viola professor at the Royal Academy. Can you tell us how it is to be tutored by this man?

Jim is a person who I admire in this world and I don’t think I have had the pleasure of getting to know another person like him. He makes me think freely when I play and he helps me to discover how to think free! Everyday I learn new different things and good technics from him. He is the only reason that I am in London.

13. How do you balance your music with other obligations? What are the biggest sacrifices?

I think for me the biggest sacrifice is to be in London because of my education. I left my family and my home just to get a better education and improve my skills. It is really important to get a good education for music in your life. That is why you should sacrifice just about everything.

14. You recently performed in two projects as an orchestra member at the Royal Academy of Music, one in November 2011, Berlioz ‘Beatrice et Benedict’, Sir Colin Davis conductor, Royal Academy of Opera. The other one was in March 2012, Berlioz ‘Harold in Italy’, Sir Mark Elder conductor, the Royal Academy Concert Orchestra. Can you tell us of the high points of these two performances please?

For me, the most important thing was the 2 different conductors who showed us how to be good musicians in the orchestra and opera. Both of them wanted us to be connected with opera singers and soloists. They provided us with the means on how to focus on to the piece while we are playing and we learnt that we should always keep looking at the conductor even they were conducting others in the orchestra. I learned how to keep dynamism from Sir Mark Elder and I learned how to follow other scores from Sir Colin Davis.

15. You state that your current postgraduate programme at the Royal Academy of Music is an opportunity to become more familiar with the soloistic side of music, in particular, the repertoire of the 20th century. Can you expand on this a bit please?

I really enjoy when I play 20th century music. However, I did not have a chance to play this music in Turkey that is why London gave me a great opportunity to play different types of composers’ music. I already knew many composers who had composed in the 20th century so many viola concerto and sonatas for viola and I found a chance to play these concertos and sonatas at the RAM (Royal Academy of Music). I’m sure that in the future, I will share and play what I learnt at the academy, including these 20th century composers’ scores, with other people.

17. Excluding money, which is always in short supply, how do you think organisations like ‘Talent Unlimited’ can assist music students like you?

I think organisations like Talent Unlimited are really important for students. It helps to make you known which is a great opportunity to express yourself at the concerts. That is why students are very lucky to be in these kind of organisations.

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