COMPOSERS OF ISTANBUL: MÜNİR NURETTİN SELÇUKMünir Nurettin Selçuk, the greatest name in Turkish classical music in the 20th century, was primarily a composer of Istanbul; of almost a hundred compositions he made, particularly the Istanbul-themed songs that were composed from the poems of great Turkish poets, are among the masterpieces of Turkish classical music.
Born in Sarıyer in 1900, Münir Nurettin Selçuk received his first education on Turkish classical music from music masters who gathered at meetings held by his father Mehmet Avni Bey at their mansion. After taking part in various musical societies as a singer in his youth, he got accepted to Dârulelhan ("the house of melodies" in Ottoman Turkish), the first official music school in the Ottoman Empire opened in 1917.
After the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, Münir Nurettin Selçuk went to the new capital Ankara to participate in the Presidential Philharmonic Orchestra. There, he also became a member of the entourage of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk —founder and the first president of the Republic of Turkey—, together with the prominent musicians and musical theorists of the era. Shortly after turning back to Istanbul in 1926, he went to Paris to expand his musical knowledge, following a deal he signed with the first Turkish record label, Sahibinin Sesi Plak. He took solfeggio, singing and piano lessons at the famous Conservatoire de Paris, and returned to Istanbul a year later in 1929 to record his first record.
Starting a new era in the Turkish musical history with his first solo concert in 1930 at the French Theater in Beyoğlu, Münir Nurettin deeply influenced generations coming after him through his unique style that blends classical Turkish music with modern Western vocal techniques he encountered in Paris.
Apart from the fact that he raised generations of musicians through conducting orchestras and teaching at conservatoires, he left his main mark to Turkish musical history with the songs he composed from 1940 onwards. His song "Kalamış", and the immortal songs ("Dancing in Andalucia", "The Evening of Bohemians", "The Death of Bohemians", and "From Another Hill" also known as "Dear Istanbul") he composed from the poems of Yahya Kemal —one of the giants of Turkish language and also Munir Nurettin’s close friend— are among the elementary particles of Turkish classical music repertoire, and in broader sense, of the cultural fabric of Turkey as well.
Münir Nurettin Selçuk, who once said that he composes his songs at dawn and never in winter, died on 27 April 1981 at his house in Nişantaşı. His grave is at Aşiyan, a hill overlooking his dear Istanbul.