Well-known Turkish pianist Gülsin Onay gives a recital in Chicago on May 19

  • The recital will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 19 at Ganz Hall located on the 7th floor of Roosevelt University at 430 S. Michigan Ave in Chicago. Courtesy of Onur Acimaz

    The recital will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 19 at Ganz Hall located on the 7th floor of Roosevelt University at 430 S. Michigan Ave in Chicago. Courtesy of Onur Acimaz

Natalia Dagenhart
Updated 5/16/2019 10:55 AM

Every country has a significant day in its history. For Turkey, it is May 19, 1919 when the founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk started a popular uprising against the decision of the World War I Allies to divide many territories of the defeated Ottoman Empire. Since then, May 19 has been considered an annual national holiday in Turkey and Turkish communities around the world. It is celebrated as Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day. This year, May 19, 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the War of Independence, and world-renowned Turkish pianist Gülsin Onay is happy to give a recital dedicated to this great holiday. It will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 19 at Ganz Hall located on the 7th floor of Roosevelt University at 430 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

"World War I was perhaps one of the biggest disasters in Turkish history," said Umut Acar, Counsel General of Turkey in Chicago. "May 19, 1919 was the day Mustafa Kemal, later to become Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, arrived in the Black Sea province of Samsun from Istanbul to organize the War of Independence that saw the remnants of the Ottoman Empire transformed into modern Turkey four years later. Turks believe that on that day the first brick was put down in the construction of Turkey, where we live now in safety. The independence war ended on October 29, 1923 and Atatürk dedicated May 19 to the country's youth."


Being a big patriot of her country, leading Turkish concert pianist Gülsin Onay celebrates this anniversary by giving free concerts in several US cities. Her recital in our city is organized with support from the Turkish Consulate General in Chicago.

Gülsin Onay holds the titles of State Artist in her native Turkey and of soloist for the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in Ankara. She is "Artist in Residence" at Bilkent University in Ankara and holds honorary doctorate degrees from Bosphorus University in Istanbul and from Hacettepe University in Ankara. Sevda-Cenap And Music Foundation awarded its prestigious 2007 Honorary Award Gold Medal to Gülsin Onay. She was also named "Pianist of the Year" in the 2011 Donizetti Classical Music Awards. In 2014, Onay was awarded the Honorary Medal of the 42nd Istanbul Music Festival. For the last two years, the Turkish city of Tekirdağ, which has named one of its streets after Gülsin Onay, has held a concert series "Gülsin Onay Piano Days" in her honor.

Onay carefully selected the repertoire for her celebratory US tour. Her Chicago recital will start with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major. This sonata is in three movements: Andante grazioso (a theme with six variations), Menuetto (a minuet and trio), and Alla Turca (Allegretto in A minor and major). This composition is best known for its third movement written "in the Turkish style." It is often heard on its own and is considered to be one of Mozart's best-known piano pieces.

It will be followed by The Variations sérieuses in D minor, Op.54 by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. Variations sérieuses are a set of seventeen variations based on a theme in D minor. The composer called these variations serious, but many critics rather call them tragic. Each variation demonstrates the composer's deep emotion and his inner struggle. This is not typical Mendelssohn; this is Mendelssohn who opens to his listeners the deepest secrets of his soul.

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The next composition will be Mazurka in A Minor, Op.17 No.4 by Frédéric Chopin. For Onay, who is an exceptional Chopin interpreter, performing this piece will be a great honor and pleasure. In 2007, this great pianist was honored with the award of a State Medal by the Polish nation for her deep and extremely touching presentation of Chopin music. Now, in her recital on May 19, Onay will impress her Chicago audience with her thoughtful and professional performance of this composition.

Of course, this recital wouldn't be complete without Turkish classical music. Onay will perform Sonatine op.15 by famous Turkish composer and musicologist Ahmet Adnan Saygun. In his works, the composer masterfully incorporates Western musical practice and traditional Turkish folk songs and culture. Onay, who is acknowledged worldwide as the finest interpreter of Saygun's music, will demonstrate all the brilliance and inner strength of this piece.

Besides that, Gülsin will perform the popular Grande Marche du Sultan Abdul Médjid-Khan by Franz Liszt. The victorious sounds of this optimistic composition will become a great conclusion of her highly anticipated recital in Chicago.

The concert is free. To reserve a seat, please contact rsvp.chicago@mfa.gov.tr or call 312- 263-0644. The event is presented by Turkish Consulate General in Chicago and will take place at Ganz Hall of Roosevelt University located at 430 S Michigan Avenue in Chicago at 2 p.m. on May 19, 2019.

Natalia Dagenhart

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