Composer and director
born in 1939 in Nicosia
As long as there is Music - The man behind it all
Yilmaz Taner has dedicated his life entirely to music. You see it in his calm and ageless face, his deep and youthful eyes and you hear it in his caring and loving words when he speaks of the work he has done over the years and which he still plans to continue.
Yilmaz Taner politely came to meet me at the entrance of the Presidential Office in Nicosia and led me to his office where he works as Special Advisor on Art to the President. I told him that we all have watched with excitement the birth and the growth of his brainchild, the “North Cyprus International Bellapais Music Festival”. It has already become a fully fledged, internationally recognized event, a true gem in our cultural life in the TRNC. Now I have come to meet the father, the man behind it all, the creator, to get to know him better, by taking a closer look at his personality, his life and what motivates him.
He leans back in his chair comfortably. “Yes, I am very proud of this successful child. But I am also father of another child, my beloved daughter Rüya who has inherited my love for music and has become an internationally recognized concert pianist. What more could a man ask in life than to see his passion carried on by his own child? Let me think back to how it all began.”
Yilmaz Taner was born in Nicosia in 1939 and learned music from his cradle. Thus it was a logic step for his parents – his father Zeki Taner, a Band Master and well known musician himself – to send him to study music, which he did for three years in Ankara with an emphasis on becoming a teacher with the piano as main instrument. “On my return to Nicosia, I went into teaching music in secondary and high schools and when I was appointed Music Inspector for these schools, I was able to influence the educational plan in favour of music.” I had to interrupt and ask about the situation today? “Unfortunately present priorities today favour another direction, that of computer and languages, with only one hour of music a week, and that is not compulsory. It is not enough.”
But let us resume the thread of Yilmaz Taner’s life. “After my education in Ankara and my first few years of teaching, I was offered a scholarship in Germany by a Student Exchange Organisation DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) to continue my studies in conducting, which was where my daughter Rüya was born. Yes, my daughter was born in Germany”, he adds, noting my surprise, and further surprises me with some words spoken in excellent German.
“The year of 1977 was a very intensive year for me. I obtained a scholarship from the British Council and was attached for three month to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. During that time, I founded within the Turkish Community there the Turkish Philharmonic Orchestra, which many of our English friends in London joined as musicians.”
“When I returned to Cyprus, I was then appointed Music Inspector for Secondary and High Schools and during that time I founded the Cyprus Turkish Philharmonic Society and took over the Turkish State Symphony Orchestra and Choir as Director and Conductor. Because wherever I am, there is always music, and I am proud to say that all the members and friends in this association are still the same as they were in the founding years.”
Another important period in his life was his appointment in 1983 as Cultural Attaché to the Representative Office for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in London, where he and his family stayed from 1983 to 1990, and where his daughter studied music. What made him come back to Cyprus? “Although my family and I felt at home wherever we were, and we have many friends in many countries, Cyprus is my homeland and I just had to return. There was never any question about it. Soon after my arrival in 1991, I was appointed Special Advisor on Art to the Presidency, an office I still hold today. In 1997 our friends. Ilker Nevzat and his wife Rezzan Hanım, myself and my wife Sifa established the “Forte Music Agency” and soon afterwards the Music Foundation which was helpfully sponsored by the Presidential Office, the Ministry of Economy and Tourism, the Turkish Embassy, the public and all music lovers. Our wives were the heart of it all with their talent for organisation.” Did he have Bellapais Abbey in mind when starting it all? “Oh yes, the Abbey had always been in my mind, but many things had to be done, restorations of windows, a stage, lighting and other electrical appliances, the anterooms, chairs and whatnot. I am still grateful for so many helping hands and supporters. Here my special thanks go also to the Turkish Embassy. The first years we had to make do with an old piano, with all the other musicians bringing their own precious instruments with them, but the pianists were left in a very neglected situation. But now, we are proud to have an outstanding piano with a velvety sound, a Bösendorfer, and that turns the Bellapais Abbey Hall into a true international standard concert hall.” Where did all the musicians come from, how did he organize that? “That is why we founded the Music Agency and thanks to our daughter’s travels, giving concerts in about 40 countries over the years, we made many contacts and friends in the music world. And also with the help of the embassies, we were soon able to receive international artists. Their response has been so encouraging, that our task became easier each passing year.”
This year the 9th Music Festival has started on 20 May and we will have the pleasure of enjoying outstanding artists in our midst until 24 June. On behalf of all music lovers, I would like to express our respect and thanks to Yilmaz Taner and the Trustees of the Music Foundation for the endless effort and energy he and his committee friends have put in now and in the future.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Presidential Office, the Turkish Embassy, all the sponsors, governmental and public supporters, and all my friends who share my love for music and I also would like to thank my family for their love and support.”
What will he do after the Festival. “I will make music, what else? We have four rehearsals a week with the Cyprus Turkish Philharmonic Society and the Chamber Orchestra and Choir. Music determines our social life, because music makes us happy, and it is our aim to pass on our happiness to others, because as long as there is music, there is hope.”
(Published in Cyprus Times on 4 June, 2005)
1) The portrait of Yilmaz Taner shows next to him his daughter Rüya. I had so far not had the chance to meet and talk to her personally for an interview.
2) Ilker Nevzat and his wife Rezzan Hanım are also fondly known as the founders of the HP Gallery.
Copyright Heidi Trautmann