After Sultan Mahmud II reduced the Guild of Janissaries in 1826, a military band was also established to maintain the new modern army in western style. Italian musician Giuseppe Donizetti came to Istanbul in 1828 upon the invitation of the Sultan and conducted Muzikâ-i Hümâyûn.
Muzikâ-i Hümâyûn Mektebi, the first music school of the Ottoman Empire, was founded in 1831 in Maçka. Schooling gives way to the increase in the number and effectiveness of military bands. The scope of the Muzikâ-i Hümâyûn expanded during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid. Muzikâ-i Hümâyun Mektebi 1831’de Maçka’da kuruldu. Okullaşma, askeri bandoların sayısıyla etkinliklerinin artmasına yol açtı. Sultan Abdülmecid döneminde Muzikâ-i Hümâyûn’un faaliyet alanı daha da genişleyecektir.
After Donizetti Pasha passed away in Istanbul in 1856, Callisto Guatelli (1819-1899) was appointed as the conductor of the Muzikâ-i Hümâyûn. Upon the increase of the bands established outside the palace during the reign of Sultan Abdulaziz, Umum Mızıkalar Nezareti was established in the Ottoman Palace.
Muzikâ-i Hümâyûn gained its former glory back during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamit II, who ascended the throne in 1876. The music-lover sultan expanded and enriched Muzikâ-i Hümâyûn and the number of the sections within the organization increased to 13. With the help of the Spanish musician Fernando de Aranda (1846-1919), the Italian school, which had dominated Muzikâ-i Hümâyûn since 1828, was replaced by the French school
During the conduct of Aranda Pasha in Muzikâ-i Hümâyûn, the Palace Orchestra started to give public concerts in Istanbul. This decision was of great importance in that the orchestral music began to penetrate the city life without being confined within the walls of the palace and the palace theater.
After the declaration of the Second Constitutional Monarchy in 1908, Aranda Pasha who was dismissed upon the ban on foreigners from working in Imperial Institutions, raised so many young artists including Saffet Atabinen, who was to mark the first quarter of the 1900s and Zeki Üngör, who was to be at the forefront of the revolutionary movement of the Republic in the field of music. Mr. Atabinen was brought to the conduct of Muzikâ-i Hümâyûn in 1909 replacing Aranda Pasha.
Saffet Atabinen conducted the Palace Orchestra in a concert composed of symphonic works for the first time in the early 1910s, marking one of the milestones of our music history. The Orchestra, in this historical concert, left the repertory composed of gentle compositions behind and performed Beethoven: Symphony No. 7. In the concert, Zeki Üngör performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto as the soloist.
Muzikâ-i Hümâyûn continued its activities under the conduct of Zeki Arca from Mr. Atabinen's retirement in 1916 to 1924 when it was moved to Ankara upon Atatürk’s instructions. Muzikâ-i Hümâyun Phillharmony Orchestra gave concerts outside the borders of the Ottoman Empire for the first time on a European tour for the benefit of the Red Cross between December 25, 1917 and January 31, 1918. Basri Özozan became the lead violinist of Muzikâ-i Hümâyun Phillharmony Orchestra in 1918, replacing his teacher Zeki Üngör, who became the conductor.
Muzikâ-i Hümâyun Phillharmony Orchestra started to give weekly concerts at L'Union Française in İstanbul since 1918. This development, which marked the music life of İstanbul, meant the opening of a new page in the history of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, which was to offer "regular weekly subscription concerts" to the audience in Ankara years later.
With the abolition of the Sultanate in November 1, 1922, Muzikâ-i Hümâyun carries on its activities under the name of Makâm-ı Hilâfet Muzikası, connected to the Last Caliph Abdülmecid Efendi.
On March 3, 1924, with the abolition of the Caliphate, Makâm-ı Hilâfet Muzikası and Mâbeyn Fasıl Heyeti under the authority of the Palace lost their functions. Makâm-ı Hilâfet Muzikası, under the conduct of Mr. Üngör, was invited to Ankara to give concert for the benefit of Rumelia refugees. The concert was successfully held on March 11, 1924 at the National Cinema Building.
The orchestra, which was equally successful in its second concert on April 2, received the title of Riyaset-i Cumhur Musiki Heyeti with the official letter, published on April 6 upon the resolution of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. Riyaset-i Cumhur Musiki Heyeti consisted of three different units; Orkestra Heyeti, Bando Heyeti and İncesaz (Fasıl) Heyeti in the capital. While Zeki Üngör was responsible for the Riyaset-i Cumhur Orkestrası and Veli Kanık was responsible for Riyaset-i Cumhur Bandosu, Nuri Halil Poyraz was to conduct the Riyaseti-i Cumhur İncesaz Heyeti. The orchestra also started giving regular weekly concerts for the public in Ankara.
With the law ‘Entering the Riyaset-i Cumhur Orkestrası into the Domination of Maarif Vekaleti’ on June 25, 1932, the Orchestra musicians, Riyaset-i Cumhur Musiki Heyeti and İncesaz (Fasıl) Heyeti consisting of fifty artists, was relinquished from the Ministry of National Defense and entered the authority of The Ministry of Education with the existing teaching staff. Armoni Muzikası went under the authority of the Ministry of National Defense. The official symphony orchestra, under the authority of the Presidency, became ‘demilitarized’ from the military bureaucracy to the civil bureaucracy and its name was changed to the ‘Presidential Philharmonic Orchestra (Riyaset-i Cumhur Filarmoni Orkestrası)’.
German conductor Dr. Ernst Praetorius accepted the invitation from Paul Hindemith who was charged with the mission to establish the Turkish music culture and came to Turkey. Mr. Praetorious started to conduct the Presidential Phillharmonic Orchestra for the first time at the concert, coincided with the twelfth anniversary of the Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1935. The years between 1935 and 1946 were to pass into history of the Orchestra as “years with Ernst Praetorius.
In 1936, Hasan Ferid Alnar (1906-1978), one of the first generation composers of the Republic, was the second Turkish assistant conductor after Ekrem Zeki Ün. In the eighth month of his appointment, Mr. Alnar began conducting the weekly concerts of Presidential Symphony Orchestra upon Praetorius’ illness.
The Ankara Radio met the audience again by broadcasting the concert of Presidential Philharmonic Orchestra live in October 28, 1938. The orchestra started to give two concerts every week in the Radio House's No.1 Grand Studio to the audience of about 160 in number under the name of Radio Symphony Orchestra (Radyo Senfoni Orkestrası).
The Presidential Philharmonic Orchestra and The Conservatory Choir, under the conduct of Mr.Praetorius, performed the composer's Symphony No:9 in 1942, coincided with the one hundred and fifteenth anniversary of Beethoven's death, in the Conservatory Hall located in Cebeci. With this historical concert, the orchestra was giving a message of peace and hope to the world that was going through the hardest times during the World War II.
Dr. Ernst Praetorius passed away on 26 March 1946, in his second homeland, Turkey where he spent his last 11 years in the capital. He was buried in Cebeci Cemetery upon his will. The composer and conductor Hasan Ferid Alnar was appointed as the first conductor of the orchestra.
"Beethoven Festival" was held in Ankara in May22-26, 1947, coincided with the one hundred and twentieth anniversary of Beethoven's death. The well-known German conductor Hermann Scherchen was invited to Turkey to conduct the nine symphonies of the composer. Mr. Scherchen conducted Presidential Symphony Orchestra in nine symphonies of Beethoven in five concerts, held in five days festival.
In 1953, Mr. Alnar had to resign, because of the health problems, from Presidential Symphony Orchestra in which he had been the conductor since 1946. Hans Hörner who came to Turkey in previous years to conduct the performances of the Ankara Opera, began to take Mr. Alnar’s place as the conductor of Presidential Symphony Orchestra.
The law No: 6940 on “The Establishment of Presidential Symphony Orchestra” was accepted by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on March 25, 1957. The name of the orchestra was changed to “Presidential Symphony Orchestra” (Cumhurbaşkanlığı Senfoni Orkestrası). American conductor Robert Lawrence became the first conductor of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in 1958. Hikmet Şimşek was appointed as the assistant conductor as of June 1959.
The visit to Erdek Festival which was held in Balikesir in September 1959 was the first Anatolian tour in the long history of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra under the conduct of Hikmet Şimşek. This historical tour, which started in Balıkesir and was organized in September 5-20, was called "The Concerts for the Army and Regions". The second Anatolian tour named "The Concerts for People, Army and Youth" was held in our southern provinces in February, 1960 under the conduct of Mr. Şimşek. On the tour with Suna Kan and Ayla Erduran, concerts took place in Mersin, Adana, Antakya, İskenderun and Antalya.
In May 1960, the new target of Presidential Symphony Orchestra was the Black Sea. "The Concerts for the Black Sea Region and Army" started in Trabzon and then, took place in Giresun, Ordu, Samsun, Sinop and Zonguldak. The conductor Robert Lawrence was replaced by Italian conductor Bruno Bogo in the same year. Mr. Bogo and Hikmet Şimşek conducted Presidential Symphony Orchestra in the concerts took place in Kayseri, Sivas, Malatya, Elazığ, Diyarbakır, Erzurum, İstanbul, Edirne and Kocaeli within the scope of "The Concerts for the Army and Regions" held in May 1961.
The State Concert Hall was opened with a small concert under the conduct of Bruno Bogo, held on October 29, 1961 in honor of the thirty-eighth anniversary of the declaration of the Republic, with the participation of the soloist Suna Kan. Architects Ertuğrul Özakdemir and Feridun Helvacıoğlu signed the project of transforming the Exhibition House located at Talatpaşa Boulevard into the "State Concert Hall". Mükerrem Berk, the director of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra at that time, stated that he considered the year 1961, when the doors of the hall, with 800 people capacity, were opened, as the second and even the "original" establishment year of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, which is considered to be established in 1826.
The Chamber Orchestra, composed of the artists of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, went on a tour in April 1962 through our eastern provinces, which were not visited before, under the conduct of the violinist Fethi Kopuz. The soloist was the violinist Suna Kan, who wanted to be a part of this tour exclusively. Erzincan, Gümüşhane, Erzurum, Muş, Bitlis, Van, Hakkari, Tatvan-Bitlis, Siirt, Batman, Diyarbakır, Malatya and Kayseri were the cities visited within the scope of the tour.
The Presidential Symphony Orchestra gave concerts for the first time in Middle Eastern countries in May 1962 under the conduct of Bruno Bogo. Tehran, Baghdad, Beirut were visited on the tour in which the violinists Ayla Erduran and Suna Kan were the soloists.
In October 1962, the German conductor Otto Matzerath was appointed as the first conductor replacing Bruno Bogo. The European tour, under the conduct of Mr. Matzerath, took place in Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway and Finland and the orchestra went to Western countries for the third time the after 1917-18 and 1926.
After Mr. Matzerath resigned the following year, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing began to conduct the Presidential Symphony Orchestra at the beginning of the season 1963-64. Gürer Aykal, who was to conduct the Presidential Symphony Orchestra as the assistant conductor and later as the first conductor, entered the second violin section in the orchestra in 1964.
Within the scope of the operation called "Pilot Area" started in Bursa and Eskişehir, Presidential Symphony Orchestra, under the conduct of Lessing, gave concerts in Eskişehir and Bursa in November-December 1964, accompanied by the violinist Fethi Kopuz and the pianist İdil Biret.
In October 1966, The Presidential Symphony Orchestra went on a tour in Europe with 102 artists under the direction of Mr. Lessing accompanied by the violinist Suna Kan and the pianist Verda Erman as the soloists. The cities, visited within the scope of the tour, are Bucharest, Budapest, Salzburg, St. Pölten, Vienna (Musikvereinsaal), Munich, Bonn, Mannheim, Bern and Zurich.
The Presidential Symphony Orchestra, under the conduct of Mr. Lessing went to Karabük, Bolu, Sakarya, Kocaeli, Balıkesir, Bursa and Eskişehir during the spring tour on May 9-8, 1968. The pianist İdil Biret performed at the concerts given to the public, the members of the universities and the army. It was stated that 8.600 people attended to 11 concerts of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra and more than half of the audience were students.
During the Aegean tour in May 1969, the orchestra visited İzmir, Aydın, Denizli, Isparta, Alanya and Antalya. Due to the lack of halls for symphonic concerts in Anatolian cities, The Presidential Symphony Orchestra also gave concerts in sports halls and again had a large audience in number of 11,000.
The tour, which started in May 1971 and covered important German cities, was to be the last European tour conducted by Mr. Lessing. The Presidential Symphony Orchestra gave concerts in Maribor, Munich, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Rüsselsheim, Holzminden, Hameln, Kiel, Hamburg and Bonn during the tour that started from Belgrade on May 13 and ended in Leverkusen on June 2. Lessing's times as the first conductor, which began at the beginning of the year 1963, ended in 1971.
The Presidential Symphony Orchestra started working with the French conductor Jean Périsson in 1972. It was the first time the Presidential Symphony Orchestra entrusted to a conductor, coming from the French school after the German school (Praetorius-Hörner-Matzerath-Lessing), apart from a short working experience with Mr. Saygun (French) and Mr. Bogo (Italian).
The Presidential Symphony Orchestra, which was invited to give five concerts at the Istanbul International Music Festival to be held for the first time in June-July 1973, made intensive preparations for the festival. The Orchestra was paying attention the 1st Istanbul International Music Festival just as it paid attention to its international tours.
*Photo: Ozan Sağdıç
Due to the 25th anniversary of the Council of Europe, The Presidential Symphony Orchestra gave concerts both in here and in Baden-Baden under the conduct of Jean Périsson, who was invited to Strasbourg, France, where the Council of Europe's headquarters is located, in May 1974.
Gürer Aykal was appointed as the assistant conductor of Presidential Symphony Orchestra in 1975. Mr. Aykal became the fourth Turkish in the Presidential Symphony Orchestra to conduct regularly after Mr. Üngör, Mr. Saygun, Mr. Alnar and Mr. Şimşek. Mr. Aykal was to share his position as the assistant conductor with Hikmet Şimşek until 1986.
The Presidential Symphony Orchestra went on a tour, which was the only international tour under the conduct of Jean Périsson to the cities in the former Soviet Union in 1975. The tour was of great importance in terms of being the first tour of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra held in these cities; Vilnius (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia), Talinn (Estonia) and Moscow (USSR).
Established in 1973, Sevda-Cenap And Music Foundation made important decisions regarding the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in its first meeting on December 21, 1975. The foundation had devoted 30,000 TL to the Administrative Unit of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, for the rental prices of the Turkish pieces to be performed.
In the autumn of 1976, The Presidential Symphony Orchestra set out for Cyprus, the second homeland of Turkey. Within the scope of the tour, the concerts were given in Famagusta, Kyrenia, Güzelyurt and Nicosia.
Jean Périsson left his place in the Presidential Symphony Orchestra after his last concert that he conducted in February 1977. Tadeusz Strugała, one of the leading conductors of Poland, was appointed as the first conductor replacing Mr. Périsson in the same year.
The Presidential Symphony Orchestra gave concerts in Bern, the capital of Switzerland, including important German cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Hannover, Bonn, Karlsruhe and Stuttgart under the conduct of Hikmet Şimşek and Gürer Aykal, which was held between September 21 and October 1, 1982.
The Presidential Symphony Orchestra gave concerts under the conduct of Karsten Andersen and Theodore Bloomfield at the 2nd Ankara International Spring Music Festival, held on April 4-24, 1986. The Orchestra was to participate in the Ankara Music Festival every year since that day.
In 1986, on the tour to the former Soviet Union cities, The Presidential Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Gürer Aykal, gave concerts in Moscow, Vilnius, Kaunas and Leningrad.
Rengim Gökmen, who started conducting the orchestra in early 80's, organized a tour in Italy in 1987.
In 1988, Gürer Aykal was appointed as the first conductor of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra. This was an historical appointment, as it was the second time in the history of the orchestra after Hasan Ferid Alnar, a Turkish conductor was given the authority to conduct the Presidential Symphony Orchestra as the first conductor.
In 1989, The Presidential Symphony Orchestra went on a tour again to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus under the conduct of Gürer in Famagusta and Kyrenia.
The first international tours under the conduct of Mr. Aykal, which were to be held for three years successively, took place in Czechoslovakia in 1990 and in Germany in 1991 and in 1992.
At the opening concert of the season held at the Hippodrome under the conduct of Gürer Aykal in October 3, 1992, the orchestra performed for thousands of people that totally filled the space.
In 1992, an architectural competition titled "Presidential Symphony Orchestra Concert Hall and Choir Buildings" was held. The jury of the competition under the direction of Doğan Tekeli awarded first prize winner project of Uygur Architects among the other 46 projects.
Sixty thousand people attended the opening concert of the season which took place at the Hippodrome on the evening of October 9, 1993.
In October 1993, the Presidential Symphony Orchestra brought in something new and paid a visit to South Korea. Two concerts were held under the conduct of Tadeusz Strugala and Yoshinao Osawa.
The Japan tour in 1994 was the first tour in Japan in the history of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra. Yoshinao Ozawa and Gürer Aykal conducted two concerts in Tokyo and Saitama in November.
In January 1997, the USA tour under the conduct of Gürer Aykal, , which was held in January9-29, 10 concerts were given in various cities, particularly in New York for the first time in the history of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra.
Gürer Aykal left his position as the first conductor of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in 1999.
In September 2000, concerts were given in Bristol, Croydon and London during the tour in England under the conduct of Cem Mansur.
2008 was the year when the Presidential Symphony Orchestra Concert Hall was completely renovated. With the protocol signed between the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Doğuş Group, The Presidential Symphony Orchestra Concert Hall was decided to be renovated with a budget of 10 million TL. With this protocol, Doğuş Group was to not only renovate of the concert hall, but also to be the “main financial supporter” of the orchestra.
The opening of the renovated hall was held in October 10, 1992 with the recital of the pianist İdil Biret and with the concert under the conduct of Rengim Gökmen in October 12.
One of the international tours were held in Moscow in 2008, the other one was held in Frankfurt within the scope of the Frankfurt Book Fair where Turkey was the ‘Honored Guest Country' in October. In the concert in Frankfurt, The Presidential Symphony Orchestra performed Ahmed Adnan Saygun's masterpiece Yunus Emre Oratorio in German.
The Presidential Symphony Orchestra was the winner of the Gold Medal of Honor Award in 2008 which has been distributed annually by Sevda-Cenap And Music Foundation, among individuals and institutions that have made extraordinary contributions to the music life of our country since 1989. The Presidential Symphony Orchestra received the award at a ceremony held in December in that year.
The year 2009 was the fiftieth anniversary of the "Concerts for the Army and Regions” initiated by the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in 1959 with"Symphonic Evenings on Campus" that year under the conduct of Rengim Gökmen. The orchestra performed for thousands of university students in 36 different campuses of Anatolia, was to be continued until 2016.
The Presidential Symphony Orchestra, under the conduct of Rengim Gökmen, went on another tour in Japan at the end of September and in the beginning of October.
Rengim Gökmen, who had been the First Conductor of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra handed over his duty to Erol Erdinç in 2011.
Mr. Erdinç traveled to Hungary with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in 2012.
Rengim Gökmen took over the conduct of the Orchestra again in March 2013.
The Presidential Symphony Orchestra went on a China tour with the pianist Gökhan Aybulus under the conduct of Rengim Gökmen in 2013.
The 90th anniversary of the entry of Presidential Symphony Orchestra under the Presidency with the official letter dated April 6, 1924, with the title of “Riyaset-i Cumhur Musiki Heyeti” was celebrated with the concert under the conduct of Rengim Gökmen.
Rengim Gökmen handed over his duty as the first conductor of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra to Selman Ada on July 24, 2014. Rengim Gökmen became the first conductor of the Orchestra again in March 2016.
The Presidential Symphony Orchestra, under the conduct of Mr. Gökmen, organized a tour to Qatar on April 16-18, 2016.
"CSO's 190th Anniversary Concert" was held in November 2016 at the CSO Concert Hall under the direction of Rengim Gökmen.
On April 23, 2018, National Sovereignty and Children's Day was celebrated with a magnificent concert where 1,500 students came together with CSO under the direction of conductor Cemi Can Deliorman in Ankara Sports Hall.
CSO's 2019-20 Concert Season was opened with a concert at the Beştepe Nation's Culture and Congress Center, under the auspices of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and under the direction of Rengim Gökmen on October 10, 2019.
Rengim Gökmen left his position as the first conductor of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in May 2020.
Cemi'i Can Deliorman, who had been the Assistant Conductor at the Presidential Symphony Orchestra since 2017, became the First Conductor of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in June 2020.
It was announced in the Official Gazette that the 31 trainee artist recruitment exam will be held to fill the missing positions of CSO. 270 conservatory graduate musicians applied for the exam held in August 2020.
The names of 30 trainee artists who were decided to be accepted in the orchestra as a result of the exam in August were announced to the public in September.
The new concert hall of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra opened its doors with a concert on December 3, 2020.
*Prepared by: Serhan Bali