The two sold-out concerts on 30 and 31 October opened with a popular Turkish song: Ali Ekber Çiçek's Haydar Haydar was performed in an orchestral version by Özkan Manav. Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 with pianist Francesco Piemontesi and Brahms' Symphony No. 4 were equally enthusiastically received by the audiences in both cities.
The packed concerts were the culmination of an unusual project. Cemi'i Can Deliorman, chief conductor of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra Ankara, got the ball rolling. A few years ago, he invited Karsten Witt to visit the construction site of the new Presidential Symphony Orchestra Hall (AKM Cumhurbaşkanlığı Senfoni Orkestrası Konser Salonu) in Ankara and asked for advice. In the summer of 2020, the call reached our office with the good news: the hall would soon be ready! It was in fact officially opened in December, but immediately closed again afterwards to complete the construction. In the summer of 2021, the question was then whether KWMM could secure an internationally renowned orchestra for a guest performance. And since a new hall was also being built in Istanbul, it grew into a small tour.
The new Atatürk Cultural Centre (Atatürk Kültür Merkezi) in Istanbul was finished just before the guest performance - even on a visit to the site at the beginning of October, Karsten Witt and fellow KWMM manager Yan Dribinsky would not have been willing to bet that the construction site would be transformed into a prestigious hall on time. The new building on Istanbul's Taksim Square replaces the former Atatürk Cultural Centre, which opened in 1969 and stood empty in the years before its demolition in 2017. The building, which also functions as an opera house, was opened two days before the LPO concert with a new Turkish opera. The conversion for the concert went astonishingly smoothly, and both the orchestra and the audience were satisfied with the hall's acoustics, although the house will not receive its concert shell until soon.
The tour planning was exciting at every turn. Due to the uncertain timeline for the construction work, it was only possible to start organising the tour about two months before the concerts. In a way, the impossible was made possible by the consequences of the Corona pandemic: the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Robin Ticciati were actually scheduled to be tour in Asia, but were unable to travel and thus free at short notice. Even the outstanding soloist Francesco Piemontesi could take part.
The sense of joy that came over the KWMM tour team during the celebrated concerts was reminiscent of another moment not so long ago: we were similarly moved by the first bars that the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra sounded in Berlin last summer - as the first international orchestra to tour the city after the lockdown.