Ahmet Erdogdular, left, and Yurdal Tokcan at Zankel Hall.Ian Douglas for The New York Times
A Virtual Handshake
Midway through its concert of love scenes from Venetian opera on Feb. 14, the period-instrument ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro performed an instrumental sonata by the 17th-century composer Dario Castello. On one note the first violinist enacted a sort of extravagant, slowed-down vibrato that resulted in a quarter-tone wobble. The gesture injected a hint of Middle Eastern flavor into the music, momentarily troubling the early-Baroque harmonies in a way that was both beautiful and alienating.
Three days later, sitting in the same seat at Zankel Hall for the Ahmet Erdogdular Classical Turkish Music Ensemble, I felt a jolt of déjà vu during an improvised kamancheh solo in a Sufi hymn. The bowed, almond-shaped kamancheh looks a bit like a violin, but is held upright on the player’s knee and produces a sandier, more veiled sound that can be uncannily like a female voice, husky with grief. That vocal quality came through strongly in Derya Turkan’s soulful improvisation — which included the same languid oscillation of pitch that had struck me as so oddly expressive in the Pomo d’Oro concert.
There were no program notes at either event belaboring the point that Venice owed much of its cultural riches to its deep engagement with the Ottoman Empire. But by presenting both excellent ensembles side by side as part of its festival, Carnegie Hall subtly orchestrated this virtual handshake across cultures, genres and time. CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM