Countless civilizations have settled in the Levant throughout history, leaving their mark on lifestyle and culture. Here, in the eastern Mediterranean region, old trade routes such as the Silk Road or the Incense Road ended or flowed together. Between Ottoman cities such as Istanbul, Damascus or Cairo and the Italian metropolises Venice, Genoa and Rome, on the threshold to the 16th century, trade in spices, precious fabrics, colours and increasingly popular coffee flourished. But not everyone took things in a peaceful way that he thought were his own. Ottoman buccaneers demanded respect and fought legendary naval battles on their voyages of caperage across the Mediterranean to the Canary Islands.

With works from the Middle Ages, late Renaissance and early Baroque from Italy, Spain and the Ottoman Empire, the Pera Ensemble presents the sounds of this ancient cultural area in a musical collage that touches the soul. The fascinating musical tradition of the Sephardic Jews is also touched upon, many of whom found a new home in the Levant after their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in 1492. The sensual and joyful approach to music that characterises this programme is the result both of a deep knowledge of the compositions of European and Ottoman art music and of an unbridled passion for playing and improvising together.

Many travellers, prisoners of war, slaves and diplomats tell stories from this cultural area. Cervantes, who was captured by Turkish pirates and deported to Algiers for five years. Djem Sultan (1459-1495) son of Fatih Sultan Mehmet, who lived in exile in France and in the Vatican with Pope Innocent. The conquest of Otranto in 1480 in the south-eastern corner of Italy, which was conquered by the Ottomans, also enabled a strong cultural exchange. In 1492 the Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Spain found a new home in the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan issued a decree welcoming the Jews throughout the Empire, allowing many persecuted Jews from Europe to emigrate to the Ottoman Empire.

Music by Alfonso el Sabio X, Landini, Tromboncino, Franciscus Bossinensis, Marchetto Cara, Charles Tessier, Giulio Caccini, Abdülkadir Meragi, Gazi Giray Han, Sephardic Music
Cantigas, Morescas, Villanescas, dances, Sephardic and Turkish music

Mehmet C. Yesilcay: Oud, Colascione, Medieval Lute, Shahrud
Enea Sorini: Song (Milano)
Michal Elia Kamal: Singing (Jerusalem)
Corina Marti: organetto, harpsichord
Serkan Mesut Halili: Kanun
Volkan Yilmaz: Ney
Christoph Sommer: Theorbo, Baroque guitar
Sarah Perl: Gamba
Joss Thurbull: Percussion