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COMPOSERS OF ISTANBUL: ITRÎ

COMPOSERS OF ISTANBUL: ITRÎ The things we know about Itrî, one of the great composers of classical Turkish music, is very limited. We know that he was born in Istanbul between 1630-1640, and died, again, in Istanbul in 1711 or 1712. Apart from this, most of our knowledge about his life is far from certainty.

The things we know about Itrî, one of the great composers of classical Turkish music, is very limited. We know that he was born in Istanbul between 1630-1640, and died, again, in Istanbul in 1711 or 1712. Apart from this, most of our knowledge about his life is far from certainty.

Buhuruzade Mustafa Itrî Efendi, whose real name was Mustafa, took lessons from instructors, some of whom were great composers and performers. Starting from the era of Sultan Mehmet IV, Itrî performed at the palace concerts (fasıl). He enjoyed the support of five Ottoman sultans, as well as Selim Giray I, the khan of Crimea. Itrî, who was also a poet and calligrapher, gave music lessons in the Enderun, the imperial school at the Topkapı Palace.

However, Itrî’s real importance stems from his musical compositions. Out of almost thousand compositions only forty have reached today. In his poem, "Itrî", Yahya Kemal complains about this unpleasant fact: "Misfortune and destiny hid with envy / maybe more than a thousand of his compositions".

One of the most recognized compositions of Itrî, which have been sang and played for more than 300 years, is Segâh Bayram Tekbiri. Sung in mosques in religious feasts, Segâh Bayram Tekbiri is a short yet an intense piece, and it leaves an almost hypnotic impression on the audience.

Among his few works that have reached today, Neva Kâr is, without a doubt, Itrî’s most influential composition. Composed on a poem from of Hafız, Neva Kâr is regarded one of the pinnacles of classical Turkish music. With its structure both summarizing the previous eras and announcing the signs from a new mode of music, Neva Kâr deeply influenced not only composers, but poets and writers as well.

In a scene from his novel "A Mind at Peace", where Neva Kâr was sung at a crowded outside dinner table, the great Turkish novelist Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, who once was a student of Yahya Kemal at Istanbul University, tells how Itrî shaped the life on this geography: "While singing Neva Kâr, Tevfik Bey’s voice gained an authority they barely knew up until now. It was as if an unknown bird formed a palace of a great river, a flood of light somewhere. However, the important fact was the rapid transformation of the things around them at Itrî’s hand!"