Gulistan Ensemble

Horizon: Gülistan Ensemble 

Sat 28/10/2023 18:00 - 19:15


The Gülistan Ensemble with Helsinki Philharmonic musicians will present works by female composers of Classical Ottoman Music who lived in Istanbul from the century onwards. Join us after the concert for a post-concert talk with the musicians moderated by postdoctoral researcher Nuppu Koivisto-Kaasik from Uniarts Research Institute.

The rose and the nightingale are symbols of a love story in oriental literature. Almost all poems applied to music contain this metaphor. In this sense, in Ottoman classical music, the poems are the garden of roses (Gülistan) and the music is the melodies of the nightingale (Bülbül). This is why the ensemble, which was created to present the works of Ottoman women composers, is called Gülistan (the Rose Garden) 

The most important centre of the great city's cultural heritage is Istanbul, first the capital of Byzantium and then of the Ottoman Empire. The classical music of modern Turkey is the fine arts of the Ottoman heritage, and this heritage is in fact the accumulation of many cities of the eastern empires, which centred on Istanbul. The most important school of fine arts, especially music, was the Ottoman palace called Enderun, where many musicians and composers, both men and women, were trained and gave concerts. 

Unfortunately, like many other works, women composers were forgotten, but thanks to some writing systems used after the century and their transition to Western notation, many works were saved from oblivion. The wives and mothers of the sultans, their daughters, the women who served them privately, called Kalfa, and other female servants who lived in the palace received training from the masters of the time, just like all the male members of the palace, memorised a certain repertoire, learned to play the instrument and gave concerts in the women's section of the palace.  

For this project, The Gülistan Ensemble will present works by female composers of Classical Ottoman Music who lived in Istanbul from the century onwards. Among the most famous female composers of the palace, Reftar Kalfa, whose death is estimated in 1700, played the Tanbur (long-necked lute) and composed many instrumental works. Dilhayat Kalfa (born 1737), also a Tanbur player, whose hundreds of compositions have survived to the present day. She lived during the so-called Tulip Era in Ottoman history, this period could be described as the Ottoman Renaissance during which the Ottoman society became interested in Western culture. This period is symbolized by the musical gatherings around the palace and in the mansions of Istanbul, as well as by the curiosity to grow tulips, that is why called the "Tulip Era".  

The works of women composers of the later years are also examples of the development of classical Ottoman music, as the court was keen on Western music and the palace ladies took piano and oriental music lessons, dressed and lived in the style of European courts. Leylâ Hanım, who lived between 1850 and 1936, was the maid of honour of Münire Hanım, the daughter of Sultan Abdülhamid, for seven years. She took piano lessons from Mademoiselle Romano, the palace piano teacher, but also Makam lessons from the master musicians of the time, Nikoğos Ağa and Asdik Ağa. A female composer of the same period, Mrs Kevser played the piano and violin and became famous for her well-known Nihavend longa, a symbol of the Eastern influence of Western music. 

More recent examples of women composers include Faize Ergin, a pupil of Tanburi Cemil Bey who died in 1954, Neveser Kökdeş who lived between 1904 and 1962, Gevheri Osmanoğlu, the granddaughter of Sultan Abdül Aziz, who died in 1980. 

The Horizon concert series is a collaboration between HPO and MiklagardArts, and the programme is curated by Ceyda Berk-Söderblom.



- Rast Peşrev by Reftar Kalfa  

  Prelude (instrumental) in mode Rast by Reftar Kalfa  
- Rast Yürük Semai ̧(Hayal ufkunda uçan binbir renkler) by Neveser Kökdeş 

  Song in mode Rast by Neveser Kökdeş (A thousand colors flying towards the imaginary horizon) 

- Mahur Aksak Şarki̧ (Bahar pembe beyaz olur) by Neveser Kökdeş 

Song in mode Mahur by Neveser Kökdeş (Spring turns pink and white) 
- Rast Saz Semaisi by Reftar Kalfa  

Prelude (instrumental) in mode Rast by Reftar Kalfa 


- Müstear Curcuna Şarkı (Sanma seni unutur bu gönül) by Neveser Kökdeş  
Song in mode Müstear by Neveser Kökdeş (Don't think that this heart will forget you even if the years go by) 

- Evcârâ Saz Semaisi by Dilhayat Kalfa  

Prelude (Instrumental) in mode Evcârâ by Dilhayat Kalfa 


- Hicaz Peşrev by Reftar Kalfa 

Prelude (Instrumental) in mode Hicaz by Reftar Kalfa 
- Hicaz Ağır Aksak Şarkı (Seni Sevda çiçeğim) Lyrics by Leylâ Hanım, composed by Ibrahim Uygun  

Song in mode Hicaz Lyrics by Leylâ Hanım, composition by İbrahim Uygun (You are the flower of love) 

- Hicaz Saz Semai by Reftar Kalfa  

Prelude (Instrumental) in mode Hicaz by Reftar Kalfa 


- Hüzzam Saz Semaisi by Gevheri Osmanoğlu 

Prelude (Instrumental) in mode Hüzzam by Gevheri Osmanoğlu 
- Hüzzam Aksak Şarkı (Gül olsam ya sümbül olsam) by Neveser Kökdeş  

Song in mode Hüzzam by Neveser Kökdeş (If I were a rose or a hyacinth) 

- Hicazkâr Methal by Neveser Kökdeş 

Song in mode Hicazkâr by Leylâ Hanım (I wonder where you are) 
- Hicazkâr Aksak Şarkı (Nerdesin nerede acep) by Leyla Hanım  

Song in mode Hicazkâr by Neveser Kökdeş (If I were your nightingale singing on the rose branch) 

- Hicazkâr Düyek Şarkı (Gül dalında öten bülbülün olsam) by Neveser Kökdeş  

Song in mode Hicazkâr by Neveser Kökdeş (If I were your nightingale singing on the rose branch) 

- Kürdili Hicazkâr Aksak Şarkı (Bugün biz hep neşeliyiz) by Neveser Kökdeş  

Song in mode Kürdili Hicazkar by Neveser Kökdeş (Today we are all joyful) 

- Nev-edâ Saz Semaisi by Reftar Kalfa  

Instrumental piece in mode Nev-edâ by Reftar Kalfa 


- Nihavend Devr-i Hindi Şarkı (Nâr-ı Aşkın sîne-i mecruhumu suzan eder) by Leylâ Hanım  

Song in mode Nihavend by Leylâ Hanım (The fire of your love burns in my wounded heart) 

- Nihavend Aksak Şarkı(Kız sen geldin çerkesten) by Faize Ergin  

Song in mode Nihavend by Fâize Ergin (You come from Circassia, you're more beautiful than anyone else) 

- Nihavend Longa by Kevser Hanım  

Instrumental piece in mode Nihavend by Kevser Hanım 


Gül YAZICI - Vocal 

She was born in 1970 in Istanbul. She studied at Müjdat Gezen Art Center, which was established in 1991. She started his career in 2002 by winning the voice artist exam opened by the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation. In addition to giving concerts with many solo and various groups in the country and abroad, she also worked on albums. She still continues to work as a voice artist in radio and television programs within TRT. 

Neva ÖZGEN - Kemençe 

She was born in 1977. A graduate of ITU Turkish Music State Conservatory, she completed her masters and PhD. at the ITU Conservatory as well.  She performs as a soloist with Anatolia Ensemble, Montreal Tribal Trio, Atlas Ensemble, Netherlands Blazers Ensemble, En Chordais, Nv/Elect.Voices, Constantinople Ensemble, Ensemble Variances, Hezarfen Ensemble, and with İhsan Özgen, Hugh Marsh, Butch Morris, Shujaat Hussain Khan, Deepak Ram, Peter Murphy, Mich Geber, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Kudsi Erguner, Frangiz Ali-Zade, Cihat Aşkın, Javanshir Guliev, Theo Loevendi, Joel Bons, Michael Ellison and Kamran Ince, amongst others. Since 2009 she has given lectures on Turkish Maqam Music at the Amsterdam Conservatory as part of the Atlas Academy, introducing kemençe to composers, performing their works and helping them to write new music for the instrument. In 2010 Ozgen also gave lectures about Turkish Maqam Music and kemençe at UC Santa Cruz. Legacy, released in September 2001 by Golden Horn Records, is Neva Özgen's debut album. Her latest album, “In the Footsteps of Rumi” was released in 2022 with Constantinople Ensemble.  Neva is currently Associate Professor at Istanbul Technical University Conservatory. 

Safinaz RİZELİ - Kanun 

She was born in Ankara. After finishing her primary school in Istanbul, she got accepted to ITU Turkish Music Conservatory in 1980 and graduated in 1991. She studied qanun with Prof. Ruhi Ayangil and İhsan Özer. She also studied with well-beloved teachers like Necdet Varol, Nami Şenel, Demirhan Altuğ, Rahmi Sönmezocak and Erol Sayan. In 1993 she started working at ITU Conservatory as an instructor. She also worked at TRT Istanbul Radio as qanun performer for ten years alongside her work in conservatory. She performed in many CD’s, TV shows and concerts both nationally and internationally. She participated in a lot of international music festivals and gave concerts with musical ensembles in important venues such as Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall. She also worked with famous international ensembles such as King Singers, Concerto Köln and Sarband Ensemble; gave concerts and made albums with them. She still continues working at ITU Conservatory as an instructor and performing at concerts worldwide. 

Kudsi ERGUNER - Ney flute  

Kudsi Erguner, one of the greatest nay masters of our time, is particularly famous for his activities in bringing Ottoman and Sufi music to the world through internationally renowned projects and recordings. He lives and works in Paris as a musician, composer, musicologist, teacher and author. He was trained directly by his father, Ulvi Erguner, who was the last great master of the Ney.  

Kudsi Erguner also studied architecture and musicology in Paris. He has given concerts and performed at major festivals around the world and has researched the music of India, Pakistan and Turkey, founded various musical ensembles, recorded numerous albums and worked with renowned artists such as Peter Brook, Carolyn Carlson, Robert Wilson and others, Carolyn Carlson, Robert Wilson, Maurice Béjart, Peter Gabriel, Tony Gatliff, Georges Aperghis, Alexandre Desplat, Marcus Stochausen, Nusret Fethi Ali Khan, Jordy Savall, Ensemble Lycourgous Angelopoulos, New Ensemble, Marc Minkowski, Fazil Say, Mehmet Ulusoy, Bartabas and Sarkis,  

Erguner has thus made major contributions to world music. He has documented and revived almost forgotten musical traditions and brought them to the attention of Western audiences, securing them a place in the cultural heritage of Europe. In this way, he also initiated the revival of Ottoman classical music and Sufi music in Turkey.  

He was designated UNESCO Artist for Peace in May 2016. He also received an honorary doctorate from Bulent Ecevit University in Turkey in 2014 and from the University of Audiovisual Arts Scopje in Macedonia in 2018. 

In addition to his concerts and activities, he works as a teacher at the Rotterdam Conservatory (CODARTS) and hosts an annual master class (Birun) at the Cini Foundation – Venice. 


Gül Yazıcı
Neva Özgen
Safinaz Rizeli
Kudsi Erguner
Liam Mansfield
Mariette Reefman
Beata Antikainen
Tuomo Matero
double bass
Paavo Hall
Gül Yazıcı
Neva Özgen
Safinaz Rizeli
Kudsi Erguner
Liam Mansfield
Mariette Reefman
Beata Antikainen
Tuomo Matero