Short review:Vowels Sky Flights

27 October 2019, 18:58 hrs
Pera Ensemble connects Orient and Occident

Since this reed flute was already known 5 000 years ago, the Ney is one of the oldest musical instruments. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why its warm sound is so closely associated with the peaceful originality that filled the Philharmonie when the Pera Ensemble introduced with it the symphonic poem “Divan” for orchestra, oriental instruments, vocal soloists, mixed choir and speaker of the Munich composer Mehmed C. Yeşilçay, which was premiered there. Herr machen mir Raum in meiner enger Brust” (“Lord give me space in my narrow breast”), the actor Herbert Knaup spoke into such originality, quoting both from the Koran and from a letter by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who in his “West-Eastern Divan”, published 200 years ago, sang a hymn of praise to Islam. Even if he confessed to being a wine drinker despite the alcohol renunciation that was valid in Islam: “The drinker, however it may be, looks God in the face fresher”. Following Goethe, Yeşilçays Musik also succeeds in merging Orient and Occident. The oriental instruments of the Turkish Pera Ensemble meet the Western European sound of the Munich Symphony Orchestra. Vocally accompanied by the Munich Cathedral Choir and the Capella Cathedralis as well as by the tenor Bryan Lopez Gonzalez and the soprano Marie-Sophie Pollak, whose vocal flights in the sky alone have removed any doubt about the sublimity of Goethe’s “Divan”.An intercultural togetherness can sound so wonderful, but then thundered into it, almost daily, cruelly from Goethe’s “Faust”: “I know nothing better on Sundays and holidays than a conversation of war and war cries, when behind, far away in Turkey, the peoples strike each other”, recited Gonzales from the play, while the German national anthem melted in the background. Thus Yeşilçay does not only arouse an interest in Goethe’s “Divan”. He also points to the unbroken topicality of the poet-prince.Süddeutsche Zeitung – Kritik


A wondrously enchanting synthesis in which Sufi singing, Handel’s Baroque and Hebrew cheerfulness merged into a unique bouquet of secular and transcendent aura. “Spiritual music must be fun,” says the composer, and how right he is, is demonstrated by the Israeli soloist Michal Elia Kamal especially with her rousing Yemenite-Hebrew Hallelujah – here even the hall clapped along. It was inevitable that after more than two and a half hours and the obligatory “Händel-Hallelujah” the audience applauded enthusiastically and frenetically, and what remains is a reviewer who wonders whether Mehmet C. Yeşilçay with his Pera ensemble would not be a worthy winner of the Handel Prize. It doesn’t have to be this year, it has already been awarded, but next year: that would be appropriate.
(Händelfestspiele: One god, Wednesday, 31 May 2017, 19:30 h, concert hall Ulrichskirche)

Café in the Nikolaisaal. Postdam Latest News 26.1.2015
Occident meets Orient Musical Melange
A crossover project at its best. A mainstream crossover sound full of liveliness, originality, turbulent dance rhythms and passionate intimacy emerges from this melange of sounds. Applause after every number, increasing into the final bravo cheers. Peter Buske

Music for the One God. Süddeutsche Zeitung January 2015
Beautiful above ground
… In view of the great concert in the Philharmonie with more than 100 musicians who united music from Judaism, Christianity and Islam from the Middle Ages to the Baroque as one “Music for The One God”, one would like to believe that music itself is paradise. For what could be more paradisiacal than the sublime beauty that emerges from the interplay of supposedly different cultures, which on this evening in the Philharmonie asserts itself as a common culture, without denying any differences? (Dirk Wagner)

Music for the One God. Evening Newspaper January 2015
Wonderful unity of religions
… Thus a spirituality succeeded in the hall, which was dedicated to the idea of the monotheistic God and, despite all cultural differences, in the end made a unity between Islam, Jewishness and Christianity not only obvious, but palpable with through-composed flowing transitions… a touching, cleverly conceived, artistically perfect, three-hour evening arose, which released one into the night in a world-embracing atmosphere…(Adrian Prechtel)

From Soul to Soul at the Heidelberg Spring 2013
A very special magic was conjured up here together in the music of a Purcell, Marini or Lully. When the Arabic flute Ney swings into such music with microtonal and glissandierenden tones, the table harp Kanun or the lute Oud add their soft sound, then a colour magic develops, which beguiles and amazes. Not least about how well and harmoniously East and West can meet in notated Baroque music. Baroque music and Turkish court music in alternation: a large round dance of colourful melodies and vital rhythms passed by here, sensual sounds like from the Arabian Nights passed by as a vision of universal music.
(Rhein-Neckar newspaper)

Press about the concerts at the Schleswig Holstein Musikfestival Juil 2011
From Soul to Soul

Monastery church became a temple of love
The early baroque can be so exciting: Although the musical style, which is always oriented towards exoticism, may seem too boring to many when listening to it, the ears of many a visitor were taught better on this evening. Yesilcay and his nine-member ensemble demonstrated Handel’s, Purcell’s and Vivaldi’s early turn towards the Ottoman Empire, which for its part took on the music of the West and occupied it with its own stylistic means.
(Holsteiner Courier)

Mysticism & Ecstasy and Meditation
Dancing dervishes, eternal cycle
We experience the fantastic performance of the rotating dervishes, members of the Sufi Brotherhoods, who build bridges between man and God making music. And singing and dancing they preach an Islamic philosophy of tolerance, which is expressed in the texts of the mystic Yunus Emre in wonderful oriental floridity: “Love is my denomination and my religion”.
(Die Welt)

The Turkish Pera Ensemble’s concert brings together two worlds – that of Christians and that of Muslims.
Something really happened that evening: The music brought two worlds closer together and even touched them for a short moment. Art can hardly want more.(Stä)
(Hamburger Abendblatt)

The fascination of the music in the completely sold-out church in Rellingen was mainly due to the masterly use of oriental instruments. Much cheering and applause for great musicians and dervishes: Germans and Turks have moved closer to each other through more empathy for this music.
(Uetensener news)
Dancing dervishes inspire the Rellinger festival audience
It was a fascinating sight: Three Sufis, also called dervishes, dance to the sound of the singing and music of the Pera ensemble in the Relling church.
(Hamburger Abendblatt)

See what love has made of me
Musical journey to the Orient
Turkish music and poetry provided for an unusual concert of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Schloss Reinbek.
The musicians and the speaker complemented each other perfectly. The end of a poem echoed in the sound of the flute. Or Christian Brückner lifted up and unfolded the poetry with the lute beginning at exactly the same time. Lyrics and sound were from the same mould. It was hardly noticeable that Goethe and his “West-Eastern Divan” also mingled between the poetry of Rumi and the Ottoman poet Yunus Emre. Nothing surprising for the great German. He wrote: “Those who know themselves and others will also recognize here that Orient and Occident can no longer be separated”. With its focus on Turkey as a country, the festival has ventured this cultural balancing act. He succeeded in Reinbek.
(Hamburger Abendblatt)

Oriental sounds inspired in the castle
The Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival presented an unusual as well as challenging musical and guitar evening in the castle. The audience was enthusiastic about the cultural bridging between Orient and Occident.
The light-hearted musical-literary enjoyment was provided by a top-class trio of artists: As a sensitive reciter, the actor and dubbing artist Christian Brückner, known as “Die Stimme” (The Voice), was completely enthusiastic. He has been Robert de Niro’s permanent voice since 1976. The sublime, expressive way in which Rumi, the love poems of Emre and Goethe, played back profound, partly philosophical, always longing texts delighted.
(Bergedorfer newspaper)

City of Peace Augsburg
Mehmet Yesilcay, seasoned the evening with a little humour when he compared the infiltration of the viola d’amore into the western orchestra with the situation of German Turks of the third generation – and when he succinctly explained the task of military janissary music by saying that it was about “attacking you Christians here.
(The Augsburger Zeitung)

On both sides of the barricade the music is brilliantly played, by both ensembles, which alone provides great pleasure. The voice of star guest Ahmet Özhan is hoarse, haptic and as if from another star.
The instrumental ensembles under the direction of Mehmet C. Yesilcay and Werner Ehrhardt play with passion and natural soul.
(Opera Glass)
At the same time, a charming Handel concerto is provided, and the excellent musical level
(Aachener Zeitung)

Amor oriental is much in one: modern Handel-Pasticcio, interplay of European classical music and oriental Sufi music, not least adventurous fairy tale with happy ending. Captured in a rousing live recording of a concert from the Berliner Philharmonie. With racy instrumental numbers from Handel’s most popular operas and the most beautiful arias like “Piangerò”, “Ombra mai fù”, “Ah crudel”, or “No, no ch’io non” in oriental garb. Interpreted by the baroque ensemble l’arte del mondo and the Turkish group Pera as well as Juanita Lascarro (soprano), Florin Cezar Ouatu (counter) and the legendary Sufi singer Ahmet Özhan.
Händel hasn’t been that lively and colourful for a long time. Orient meets Occident at it’s best.

“… of rousing liveliness”
(Berliner Zeitung)

“The closed system baroque opera suddenly seems permeable for non-European tone sequences, idiosyncratic relatives open up. In this way, the figures are given spiritually different colours and characters. Sometimes multiculturalism can be truly magical. You just have to know how.”
(The world, 07.04.2011)
“…an all-round harmonious program that lets the listener discover completely new facets of Handel’s music.”
(Rondo Online, 09.04.2011)
“The duet “Scherzano sul tuo volto” from Handel’s opera “Rinaldo” has rarely been so groovy.”
(NDR Culture)

The compilation of opera arias from “Rinaldo”, “Serse” and “Guilio Cesare” with music from the Ottoman-Turkish cultural circle allows two worlds of sound, which could not be more different, to harmonize amazingly with each other.
Thus “Ombra mai Fu'” and “Piangero” are the highlights of this “Rinaldo” project.
“…that the differences between cultures are not so great when it comes to love.”

The stage ensemble, consisting of the Pera Ensemble and the Ensemble l`arte del mondo, the Colombian opera singer Juanita Lascarro, the Romanian opera singer Florin Cezar Ouatu and the soloist Ahmet Özhan, offers its audience a passionate and pulsating love story.

“Not next to each other but with each other”
The ensemble has succeeded in ensuring that the different musical and stylistic directions do not play alongside each other, but rather with each other. Mehmet C. Yesilcay, founder and musical director of the Pera Ensemble, and Werner Ehrhardt, conductor, placed particular value on this.
“We started from the historical situation in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the legations of the various countries also brought their musicians with them to their meetings, who then also played together,” says Ehrhardt.

“Interreligious Happyend”
An encounter between Armida, the daughter of a dervish and Rinaldo, who joins the army voyage against Islam, cannot promise anything good. Nevertheless, the two fall in love. So the story takes its sometimes dramatic, sometimes melancholic and sometimes joyful course. The couple defies all adversities and difficulties: an “interreligious happy end”.
Not even the otherwise more dignified Philharmonic audience can escape so much lived and felt integration. Standing ovations and thunderous applause, powerful in time are the result. The pâté of integration is enjoyed together, not against each other. Chapeau!

Handel and Sufi Songs in the Chamber Music Hall of the Philharmonie
Martin Wilkening
The instruments of the European and Turkish ensembles mediate between his trance-like chants with their micro-intervalism and Handel’s straightforward melody, moving into each other’s spheres without losing their own. Different intonation and phrasing touch each other in a fascinating way, the result of listening to each other, the first condition for any dialogue.


Völklingen. The ensemble “Pera” opened “Concertare 2010” at the Völklingen World Heritage Site on the weekend. The German-Turkish group merged courtly Baroque music with Ottoman music. The view through the keyhole into the seraglio even spotted a harpsichord that is probably more at home in western baroque pieces. They found an exotic change of color through Turkish instruments: flute, zither, the lute Ud. singer Ezgi Köker provided the lascivious timbre. Countertenor Valer Barna-Sabadus showed with coloratura bravura, bell-bright and expressive vocal gestures that the Western (Porpora, Vivaldi) can reach far into the emotional. fa

With “Armida statt Rinaldo” Werner Ehrhardt and Mehmet C. Yesilkay had baked a pasticcio that combined ingredients from Handel operas with exotic spices – a mixture of Orient and Occident, which read like a respectful recipe on paper. But what one then experienced in the Ulrichskirche was much more – a refined mixture of aromas, a reciprocal penetration and enrichment of the sound worlds.
The idea of reversing the Eurocentric view of the Crusades provided the aesthetic added value: when the Turkish ney flute with its rough tone came up after a Baroque battaglia, one could literally see the wind sweeping across the empty battlefield. When the flawless soprano of Juanita Lascarro or the high note of Florin Cezar Ouatu mixed with the unfamiliar scales of Ahmet Özhan, it was precisely the difference between these forms of expression that directly touched. But how inspiring the percussion was for the strings, how perfectly the timbres combined to new tones – this should encourage the organizers to further encounters of this kind, in which baroque music reflects its own in the other.

Mehmet Cemal Yesilcay and Werner Ehrhardt have put together “an intercultural opera pastiche” – as the subtitle of this Armida project subtitles it – and even composed it together ingeniously, which above all awakens one thing: emotions! And this in an almost indescribable, touching way.
… A force that this young Romanian beats with vocal sparks, in Handel’s “Venti turbini” for example. His “Ombra mai fu” floods balsamily, his ludicrous coloraturas buzz mercurially in “Crude furie”.

and Ahmet Özhan lets his original, credible, convincing tenor flow.

… Does this singer, Simone Kermes actually know what she does to her audience in such incomparable moments? Hectolitres of tears have flowed there –

Festival Klangvokal
Pasticcio “Armida” was a bridge between Handel’s music and Turkish music.
By Julia Gaß on 7 June 2009

Handel’s music and those from Turkey flowed into each other without breaks. The “Armida” by Mehmet C. Yesilcay and Werner Ehrhardt tells the story of love across religious boundaries between the Muslim Armida and the Christian Rinaldo.
Simone Kermes, a wild, passionately singing and playing soprano, walked more emotionally between Orient and Occident. She had touching moments in the silent scenes, gripping moments in the arias in which she became a fury.

February 1, 2009
The conductor dances
… The Steinfurt audience knows that you don’t clap between the movements – or here between the arias and songs – but on this evening the enthusiasm prevailed over the composure: There was constant applause after movingly sung arias or also after a tambourine solo – and of course at the repeatedly repeated finale.
Monika Fahlbusch

February 1, 2009
Handel’s Oriental Trip
… An opera that doesn’t even exist … but with three extraordinary artists who filled every moment with electrifying tension. ….
… the highly concentrated tension was discharged in exuberant applause.
Chr. Schulte in the forest

February 2, 2009
…. Orient and Occident have never played together as emancipated as in this concert.
… Werner Ehrhardt conducted the baroque orchestra L’arte del mondo and the Turkish Pera Ensemble. In the combination of the two musical cultures, the similarities were more surprising than the differences, starting with the amazingly similar instrumentation.
And yet each music retained its characteristics. The question of whether there is a universal musical culture was answered more clearly than in any other concert: No, there is not. And that’s a good thing.
Dirk Jaehner

A reconciliation of cultures and religions, won from the spirit of music – that was “Armida, an intercultural opera pastiche”, to be seen in the Forum. The subtitle of the project promised “Handel operas meet Turkish music”, and this meeting resulted in very charming moments. The content was that arias and scenes from Handel’s “Rinaldo”, “Julius Cesar”, “Alcina”, “Xerxes” and “Agrippina” were confronted, supplemented and merged with improvisations from the Ottoman Empire. The result was a dazzling musical panorama, exciting and touching in every facet.

I am Wind You are Fire
From Anne-Kathrin Reif

After the intermission, the side music will be played together in the composition “Le Desert” by Felicien David (1810-1876) as well as in the world premiere of a composition for Turkish instruments and symphony orchestra by Mehmet Cemal Yesilcay – he plays the Turkish lute Ud in the Pera Ensemble. Conductor Werner Ehrhardt is certain: “With this extraordinary project, the Bergische Symphoniker are pioneers in the German musical landscape.

Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele invite to the “Fête du Serail” in the Bietigheimer Kelter

Mozart wrote some beautiful arias for the young lovers, which in some ways seem like finger exercises for “abduction”. The concertante oboe cantilena in Zaides, for example
“Rest gently, my sweet life” (sung by Stephanie Elliot as a bell). Delicious, too, how talkative Mozart portrays Gomatz in his aria “Herr und Freund, wie dank’ ich dir” as a rhyming comedian. Georg Poplutz makes the humour of this scene sparkle just as Ehrhardt does the springy tension, rhythmically enriched by the percussionist of the Pera Ensemble. The Turkish singer Bekir Ünlüataer represented such authenticity of an original culture foreign to Europeans: he sang his melisms sublime under the turban in the gallery. This “Fête du Serail” ended with a real janissary march of the united ensembles.
(Esslinger Newspaper 27.06.2006 )

Musical symbiosis of original and performance

Each bar has its own emotio-nal expressiveness. This is not easy for us to listen to. But with time you notice the strong expressiveness of the singing, which Ünlüataer convincingly presented. The Ensemble Pera introduced this classical music of Turkey with the Ud, the buckling neck lute, the flute Ney and many extraordinary percussion instruments. The whole work of art was a great success for the mediation between the cultures and for the visitor an incomparable experience, which was rewarded with never-ending applause.

(Bietigheimer newspaper 24.06.2006)