Edited by Anna Popper

Aligned with the annually celebrated Day of Hungarian Culture, the series of events of the Hungarian-Turkish Cultural Year 2024 kicked off in Türkiye on 21 and 22 January with captivating concerts by the Pannon Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of its chief conductor, Gergely Kesselyák in Istanbul and Ankara. The musicians took the stages of the two prestigious concert halls and performed works by influential composers maintaining a defining relationship.

The event in Istanbul, held in the 1,500-seat hall of the Atatürk Cultural Centre, featured works by Hungarian composers Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók, as well as a piece by Turkish composer Adnan Saygun, performed by the internationally renowned symphony orchestra from the city of Pécs. Composer Saygun was Bartók’s friend and companion during the latter’s trips collecting folk songs in Anatolia, and his life coincided with the period when Türkiye emerged from the Ottoman Empire and was re-organised along Western principles.

Béla Bartók’s opera Le Château de Barbe-Bleue (Bluebeard’s Castle), sung by the Hungarian soloists Atala Schöck in the role of Judit and Levente Molnár as Bluebeard, was received with a standing ovation by the audience. (The uncle of the mezzo-soprano’s father, a professor of Turkology, Dr László Rásonyi, used to be head of the Hungarology Department at the University of Ankara, and he was the one who invited Bartók to compile Turkish folk songs in the country in 1936.)

The connection between Pécs in southwest Hungary and the Turkish culture dates back many centuries. The image of the Turkish mosque built in 1546 on the main square of the city, an unequalled Ottoman monument of Turkish-Islamic architecture in Hungary, is familiar to many. Additionally, people may recall that Pécs and Istanbul were jointly named European Capitals of Culture in 2010.

Dr. Péter Hoppál, Government Commissioner responsible for the preparation and implementation of the Hungarian-Turkish Cultural Year 2024, delivered his welcome speech, emphasizing the significance of the day, 22 January, when Hungary celebrates the Hungarian Culture and commemorates that 201 years ago, on 22 January 1823, the great Hungarian poet Ferenc Kölcsey wrote the poetic text of the Hungarian National Anthem. He highlighted that this year-long series of events, consisting of 100 Hungarian cultural programs, is set to celebrate the centenary of diplomatic ties between Hungary and the Republic of Türkiye. Simultaneously, various aspects of Turkish culture will be presented in Hungary throughout the year.

In Istanbul, as part of the cultural year, Dr. Judit Hammerstein, acting General Director of the Hungarian National Museum, inaugurated the exhibition entitled “Hungarians Building Türkiye” at the venue of the concertIn her opening remarks, she expressed: “Tonight is dedicated to those Hungarians who came to Türkiye to build, teach and learn, and who also earned the respect of Mustafa Kemál Atatürk, and the love of the Turkish people by their accomplishments. Hungarians, who played an irreplaceable role in the modernization of Türkiye.” The traveling exhibition will be showcased in several Turkish cities, including Ankara and Tekirdağ, during the cultural year.

The Hungarian-Turkish Cultural Year in Türkiye, consisting of 100 programs, represents various genres of Hungarian culture, featuring contemporary exhibitions from the art collections of the Hungarian National Bank and Gábor Kovács Art Collector, exhibition by Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Centre, presentations by the Hungarian National Theatre, as well as family-oriented and scientific conferences. The renowned Ballet Company of Győr will also showcase some of its acclaimed performances during the cultural year. In 2024, Hungary will be featured as the Guest of Honour at major Turkish festivals.

A Cultural Bridge between Hungary and the Republic of Türkiye

The Hungarian-Turkish Cultural Year 2024 was officially launched with an impressive gala evening on 18 December 2023 at the MÜPA, the Palace of Arts, in Budapest, on the Centenary day of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, with the participation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Hungarian President Ms Katalin Novák, as well as Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Sources: Embassy of the Republic of Türkiye in Budapest, MTI, Hungarian National Museum, Pannon Philharmonic Orchestra, Atatürk Cultural Centre, MÜPA Budapest