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Melting hearts

An ambitious new work of classical music – based on Howard Blake’s enchanting score for ‘The Snowman’ – has just received its world premiere. This concert is just one of many achievements by Talent Unlimited, a Turkish charity that gives budding young virtuosi a helping hand. Tony Barrell tells the story. Photographs: Monica Fritz

  • Julian Trevelyan by Monica Fritz

Jetting around the globe to perform in the world’s most opulent concert halls sounds extremely glamorous. But being a young classical musician entails a lot of graft. Not only do you have to study and practise for many long hours, but you have to promote yourself tirelessly in order to find enough work to make a decent income. Tuition fees and travel make it a shockingly expensive business as well, so it’s always good news when young musicians receive support of some kind – as they do from Talent Unlimited.

Talent Unlimited (TU), which gained official charity status in 2010, is the brainchild of Canan Maxton, an aficionado of Western classical music who was raised in Istanbul. When I caught up with Canan last summer, she explained that one of the main inspirations for TU came when she was working for other charities. “I was raising funds for them, but I realised that I had absolutely no control over how the money was being spent,” she said. She had also become aware that young classical musicians from Turkey were failing to receive financial support. “They get a lot of promises that aren’t fulfilled, and they can find themselves in the middle of their studies without any funding. Turkish students, just like other students from non-EU countries, have to pay very high college fees, which might be in the region of £27,000 in the UK – a lot more than in many other countries.”

Canan (pronounced Jah-nan) revealed that her gift for finding talent goes back to her childhood, when she harboured her own musical ambitions. “I realised at the age of 14 that I didn’t have the talent to become a good pianist, and decided to abandon the piano.” She also abandoned plans to become a choreographer. “I’m delighted that I had the gumption to recognise the level of my ability. This is one of my strong points. I have no difficulty seeing who has real talent, and who is just okay but will do well because he or she is a determined individual. I try to help them according to their ability.”

Other Highlights from Cornucopia 55
  • Golden globes

    And the award for most versatile, most nourishing and best-loved ingredient goes to… the humble chickpea. Berrin Torolsan explores its history and its limitless talent to entertain us in a multitude of different roles

  • Citizen canine

    A fascinating exhibition at the Istanbul Research Institute that explores a dog’s life in Ottoman Istanbul and the transformation of attitudes as Westernisation takes hold

  • Puppetmaster of Pera

    Yusuf Franko Kusa used brush and pen and position to lampoon and pull the strings of Ottoman high society. Unseen for 60 years, his caricatures are now the subject of a fascinating exhibition in Istanbul, writes K Mehmet Kentel

  • The great defender

    At one time all roads led to Erzurum, a key stop on a great caravan route and a strategic bastion against invasion. Today it is a remote city on Turkey’s Asian frontier with an important history crying out to be discovered. In Part 2 of Cornucopia’s Beauty and the East series, the photographer Brian McKee continues his tour of eastern Anatolia in Erzurum as Scott Redford leads us from Turkic citadel to Mongol minarets.

  • Man, myth and mastic

    It was for centuries the preserve of sultans, extolled by the ancients, sought after in the harem, a staple of palace kitchen and pharmacy. More precious than gold, mastic brought fortune and fame to the island of Chios, today the world’s sole source of this ‘Arabic gum’. Now, thanks to a pioneering initiative, the Turkish shores across the water will be green with mastic groves. Text and photographs by Berrin Torolsan

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Issue 55, May 2017 Parodies Lost
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