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Cihat Aşkın - violin

Interview

1- Was it inevitable you would become a violinist as a result of your early education?

I was keen on music in my early education in the primary school and still remember that I used to conduct the school choir. I started to play the Mandolin with instruction from my teacher and after a while my father put me in a local society choir where I sang Turkish music. In the same society one day I listened to a local violinist who played fairly well and I fell in love with the sound of the violin.

2- Is your family musical?

Not at all but they appreciate music.

3- Which famous musicians do you admire and why?

I admire great pianists, violinists and conductors mostly. I cannot give a specific name but I mostly admire their struggle with life and their refined sound.

4- You completed your Master’s and Doctoral degrees in London at the Royal College of Music with Rodney Friend. Can you tell us what you specialized in this study and how it was like to be mentored by the person?

Mr. Rodney Friend was my first teacher at RCM, London and I studied with him mostly romantic and contemporary works. I enjoyed working with him and he was such a strong character and a wonderful violinist. Later on I completed my masters and doctoral studies in City University and the Guildhall School of Music with the Maestro Yfrah Neman who was one of the greatest exponents of the Flesch school. We mainly worked on German classics and French impressionists as well as some British composers.

5- In your teaching position at the Istanbul Technical University from 1998 to 2012 you were the founder and co-chair of MIAM (Advanced Research Music Center). Can you explain more about this association please?

MIAM was a pioneer in modern music in Turkey. It still is… My colleague and co-director of MIAM, Mr. Kamran Ince, a well-known composer in Turkey and the USA, joined me when establishing the institution. We achieved a wonderful music center, for masters and doctoral studies, in performance, composition, musicology as well as music business and sound engineering studies. The school became quite popular among the new generation. Not only local students but European and Asian students also came to Istanbul to have the benefit of learning both eastern and western music.

6- What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?

There are great moments with the greatest musicians. First of all I should say that the meeting with Menuhin was one of them. He was on the stage when he gave me my certificate after the competition in Folkestone, UK. Many years after that to share the stage with immortal musicians such as Ida Haendel and Shlomo Mintz were great memories for me. On the other hand Zakhar Bron was in the jury in one of the competitions which I took part and after many years I served as a jury member beside him.

7- In 2007, you founded the Aşkın Ensemble with an aim to fulfill the needs of variety of quality music, develop chamber music projects and to support growing young musicians. Can you tell us who else was involved in this gathering as well please?

This was my idea. After establishing the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra which was a privately sponsored orchestra, I thought I should serve music by establishing an orchestra in which musicians could work for its puplicity and development. It was a teamwork in which every member of the orchestra could devote himself or herself. This civil society orchestra ‘Aşkın Ensemble’ is a product of collective work.

8-You made the first CD recordings of the Turkish composers U.C. Erkin and N.K. Akses. What made you choose these composers and how satisfied were you with the result?

In 1998 I started to collect the works of contemporary Turkish composers which were neglected over few decades. Since then I collected over 150 works by recording and performing most of them. Erkin and Akses were the pioneers of 20th century Turkish music and my efforts helped to bring their work to daylight.

9- In 2006, you did the first integral recording of Kreutzer 42 Etudes which was highly acclaimed by the critics. What made you embark on this ambitious project?

A mutual friend Laurits Larsen -the owner of Larsen strings- gave me this wonderful idea. He is a wonderful musician and violinist, we always talk about music, violin and its history. One of those days the idea suddenly came that I should play and record these wonderful etudes which are really one of the bibles of violinists.

10- In 2004, you founded an educational project called Cihat Aşkın and Little Friends (CAKA), which aims to support young talents and develop violin education throughout Turkey. Is this venture still going on and are you happy with its results?

The foundation of the project was in 2001. In order to get talented children onto a national and international platform, I started the project in Bursa, one of the larger cities of Turkey. In a few years I had expanded the project to other Anatolian cities where they did not have a serious music education as it was in the larger cities. Since then I founded 11 branches where we have more than 400 students at the moment. Apart from Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir, we have branches in the Anatolian cities such as Bursa, Afyon, Manisa, Bolu, Konya, Kayseri and Mersin. Afyon University is releasing a documentary film on the project and we are going to celebrate its 15th anniversary next year. We organize summer and winter schools as well as a mini festival every year. We also started organizing our masterclasses in Europe starting from 2013. CALF project will be a private company in order to maintain its aim for larger scale of participants and will start an online education with grade systems.

11- What advice would you have for people considering embarking on a professional musical performing career?

Love for music, practice with discipline, life with culture, humanity and with knowledge.

12- You have worked with a wide range of artists. Do any of these performances particularly stand out for you?

I have worked with musicians who I have admired in classical music or any other field. All of them are stand out with their different respectable characters. But I have to tell a few names, Ida Haendel and Shlomo Mintz who have left the greatest influence on me.

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

Chopin, Brahms and may be Caruso.

14- How often and for how long do you practice?

I do practice every day and not more than three hours a day.

15- How do you balance your music with other obligations? What are the biggest sacrifices?

Music is a life style. If you take it as a model, you will find your way easily. It shows you the difficult and the easiest corners of your road. There is too much comfort and digital luxury in our day. One should learn to sacrifice all this luxury and find some concentration area and time for oneself.

16- Do you have worries on the future of music education and arts support in Turkey?

Only in Turkey? I think the world is expecting a new model artistry with all kinds of digitilized dancing, showing and performing on stage. We classical artists are worrying with all of these new fashions for the sake of ‘conservation of the tradition’. But we have an enormous corruption in the musical market of today. On the other hand states are less interested with classical music and art. Privatisation is the biggest enemy of culture and art because you lose the essence of elitism which is somehow necessary for the development of the art. I also do support the popularization of classical art into the large amount of people but with a question mark of quality. Music education is going worse every day in European universities because of so called ‘new Bologna process’ for schools. We are forced to abandon our traditional conservatoire systems and now there are so many uncultured musicians around.

17- Do you have future projects in the pipeline?

I have concerts coming up very soon and I do play in different continents with different musicians. This is a real joy. For the 2015-2016 season I have a few solo recording projects and The Brahms Festival where his chamber and violin works are going to be performed with opus numbers. I am looking forward to realizing these.

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submission September 2015