Hezarfen Ensemble Musicians

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Every concert by Hezarfen Ensemble is an adventure. Co-founded and directed by Ulrich Mertin and Michael Ellison, the ensemble is internationally recognized for its performances of contemporary music, it is above all the energy and vitality of this Istanbul-based group which has brought Hezarfen increasingly widespread recognition as the ensemble enters its sixth season.    With signature projects ranging from trio (Turkish Trios in Trieste and Word and Sound) to interdisciplinary chamber opera (Deniz Küstü and Say I am You) and Music of Displacement, the impact of Hezarfen on music in Turkey has been profound, changing the face of contemporary music in its home country, while the infectious energy of its performances has brought acclaim for the ensemble in its appearances at festivals across Europe.   Key performances abroad have included MärzMusik (Berlin, 2013), Rotterdam Operadagen (2012), Klangzeit Festival Münster (2013), Essen Cultural Capital (2010), GHI, Rome (2016) and at the Trieste Prima festival (2015).  At home, Hezarfen regularly appears at Istanbul Music Festival (2011, 2012, 2016), Borusan Music House (2010-2016), Akbank Sanat (2011), Boğaziçi University (2013),  Bilkent New Music Days (2011/15) Institut Francais (2011), Saygun Centre Izmir (2012), Koç University (2015) and in collaborations with Goethe Institute (2011-16), Italian, Netherlands and Austrian Cultural Centres (2017, 2012 and 2016-17).  


Hezarfen has given countless Turkish premieres of works by composers from around the world in innovative formats, while presenting Turkish works to European audiences for the first time. Hezarfen’s interdisciplinary work ranges from modest integration of electronics, poetry and video (Music of Displacement) to major collaborations with dance, Music Theatre, live video art, and chamber opera. From 2015-2020, Hezarfen Ensemble forms the nexus of its ongoing transcultural initiative Beyond East and West, a groundbreaking European Research Council (ERC)-supported project that will facilitate Hezarfen’s long term goal of integrating Turkish traditional instruments and voices into contemporary music, while researching processes of combining of oral and written transmissions into evolving traditions.


In 2016-2017 Hezarfen will perform for the first time in Malta, begin collaborations with Klangforum Wien and Icarus Ensemble, and continue its transcultural project Beyond East and West, with recordings of Turkish instruments and voices in Istanbul. Also this season, it will collaborate with world-class percussionists and musicians including vocalist Mariana Sodovska for the premiere of Trommelsprachen on the Acht Brücken (Eight Bridges) Festival in Köln (May 2017), while contributing to a NRW transcultural initiative led by Matthias Mainz in nearby Bochum. A tour of Hezarfen’s acclaimed Total Music Theatre production, of Deniz Küstü (The Sea-Crossed Fisherman), is planned for 2017-18.



The Sea-Crossed Fisherman Opera in four scenes by Michael Ellison

Based on the novel Deniz KÜSTÜ (1978) by YaŞar Kemal

Ağıt with Verse and Images 

A Programme of Contemporary Turkish Music


Literature as Muse in 21st century composition 

Hezarfen Projects Upcoming 


ERC Workshop Feb.Workshop


15-17 Feb 2018

BilkentString Quartet Residency

Bilkent University

26 Feb-1 Mar 2018

Fallen Angels

 Crumb, Hearne (w. narrator) Kernis

Borusan Müzik Evi

15 March 201821:00

Izmir Trio Concert

Yaşar University

26 March 2018

ERC Workshop April

Turkmen, Özatalay


10 April 2018

Sesin Yolculuğu

MIAM MK Anfisi

5 May 2018


Divan of the Continents


15-21 Sept 2018

ERC Workshop October


12-14 Oct 2018

Stefan Lienen Kamper Portrait concert

Yapı Kredi Sanat

26-30 Oct 2018

Crossing Borders


Cologne Küpe

16 Nov 2018

Stefan Lienen Kamper Portrait concert


21 Nov 2018

Divan of the Continents

Bahçeşehir University

5-7 Dec 2018


ERC Workshops February


17 Feb 2019

Bilkent Academy

Bilkent University

6-10 March 2019

MIAM Composers Workshops


4-5 April 2018


ERC Workshops April


5-6-7 April 2019

ERC MV Voice Conference

Comprovisation with Sandeep B, 


10-13 April 2019

Escher Chronicles

Borusan Müzik Evi

16-20 April 2019