Western musical encounters in 19th-century Ottoman Empire


Music room of Columbia Teachers College-Horace Mann Hall, room 435
Columbia University, New York



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From its inception, this seminar adopted an interdisciplinary approach to Turkic studies, and its members represent many fields. At the same time, their interests span more than twelve centuries. In most years, the program covers a selection of topics reflecting current research of members. Special anniversaries such as the Atatürk centennial (1981–1982), the sixtieth anniversary of the Turkish Republic (1983–1984), and the traveling exhibition, The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (1987–1988), however, have provided themes around which all papers or a series of papers have been centered. Discussion on papers presented—no matter what their topic—has shown that dialogue between, for example, political scientist and art historian, medievalist and modernist, can be both stimulating and productive.

When Franz Liszt (1811-1886) came to Constantinople in 1847, Giuseppe Donizetti (1788-1856), brother of the famous Italian opera composer Gaetano Donizetti, had been Instructor of the Imperial Ottoman Music at the Court of Sultan Mahmud II for almost 20 years. Yet the operatic performances at the Italian “Naum Theater” (1844-1870) in Pera were just at their beginning. Liszt, who stayed one month in the Ottoman capital, played for Sultan Abdulmejid I, to whom he dedicated his Grande paraphrase de la Marche pour le Sultan Abdul-Medjid Khan (the “Mecidiye Marşı” by Donizetti Pasha), and also went to Polonezköy.

Nicolas Dufetel will present his ongoing research on the practice and development of western music during the Tanzimat period. His talk will focus on Liszt’s stay, but also on Alfred Roland (1797-1874) and his little-known French “40 Chanteurs montagnards”, an Orpheon (male voice choir) who came a year before the Hungarian composer while on a tour from Egypt to Athens and Malta. Beyond these two examples of exogenous musical practice, he will also present some of the compositions by sultans Abdülaziz (1830-1876) and Murad V (1840-1904) as an example of endogenous practice.


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