I want peace among people, the musicians to be the intermediaries, the bridges between countries

I remembered again our conversation with this extraordinary man, now, days before the national holiday of Turkey. With Meltun Kadioğlu we met two years ago at a conference in the International House of Journalists in Varna. It turned out that many of the media representatives were aware of him. They called him “The Maestro", and in it they put so much respect, warmth and admiration that my journalistic interest got provoked. A few days later I understood why - there was no Bulgarian who had met that person on his way and to whom he had not handed his hand to help. For him to do good is an inner necessity, such as the music without which he cannot do. He reminded me of Sali Yashar, Yovkov’s hero, who captures us either with his blessed soul, or his art, which gives meaning to his life. And to the life of the people that get in touch with him.

What had brought the musician from Turkey among the Bulgarian journalists in our sea capital? "Some time ago, your colleagues were visiting Bursa. And there we met - through the Bulgarian consul in Moudania. We got closer and became friends. Then they invited me to the conference and I was delighted to come. Since I was born in Bulgaria and I am a graduate of the Bulgarian music school, I was attracted by the idea of ​​finding more friends here" - answers to my question The Maestro.

What's his story?

Meltun Kadioğlu was forced to leave his native country in 1989 with his family. He went to Turkey where he still lives and workes in the field of symphony music.

With his family, they first went to Adana. "Then I was 37 years old. As a musician, I had experience in classical orchestras. And my wife could not work because our daughter was still a baby. The Symphony Orchestra was just in the city and needed an experienced man like me. As early as the first month, I became Deputy Director and on the second month the actual Director. Before that, in Bulgaria, I had worked in the symphony orchestras in Haskovo and Kardjali" - says Meltun.

The musician keeps good feelings about his old friends and colleagues from that time. And he has many of them. From Ardino where he was born. From the Musical Academy in Plovdiv, from which he graduated, from the Kardzhali Orchestra, where he worked for three years, from that in Haskovo, where he was transferred in 1987. "In the Haskovo Symphony Orchestra I played on a bassoon. I also taught in the city,as well as, in Svilengrad. There were strong musical traditions. Every year, the big festival "Nedyalka Simeonova" was held in Haskovo. That's why I did not like it when I heard earlier that the number of the musicians in the orchestra has been reduced, which was run by the municipality, and for some time it even ceased to exist. But they rebuilt it and I was very happy. Because art and orchestras are hard to create. And music represents the culture of a nation, of one land."

Adana is not easy at first

"There were different rules, laws, culture. They were strangers to me. I knew Turkish from Bulgaria, I could read and write, but I thought in Bulgarian and my sentences did not sound right. I needed to adapt quickly" Meltun says.

In Adana, besides the creation of an orchestra, there is a music school - the Conservatory at the Chukurovo University. "In Turkey all music schools and conservatories are in the universities. Students, starting from the 6th grade, can continue their studies until the completion of their higher education. Well, they have an exam after high school, of course, but it's all in the universities. There they teach 8 hours solfeggio weekly, 4 hours English, which is obligatory for musicians and other subjects. At that time, they needed teachers there. And I started teaching the chamber music and folklore at the university. I also had lessons at home, as there are many rich people in town. And they – as a hobby were studying piano, accordion, and so on. I was alright. "

In this city of southern Turkey, Meltun has been working for 11 years as a director of the Symphony Orchestra and a professor at the Chukurovo University, where he has even taken the brass instrument department for some time.

Director of the Bursa Symphony Orchestra

In 1999, Meltun’s son - Seval graduated from the Conservatory in Ankara. Just then, a new orchestra was created in Bursa and the young man won a place in it. Meltun says: "We started to think about where to bring the family together - in Adana or Bursa. Then Hikmet Cemeshe - a very experienced Turkish conductor, who is no longer among the living, but did a great job - he created orchestras, choirs, children's choirs, folk music groups, he called me. He knew my work well and said, "Come on, Meltun, it's time to move to Bursa! We are making a new orchestra there, your son won the contest, and you will be closer to Bulgaria. And you will be in touch with Bulgarian musicians. We will appoint you a director there".

So, from Adana, the whole family moved to Bursa, a town that is only about 400 km from our border. Seval immediately enrolled into a violin master's degree at the New Bulgarian University in Sofia. As soon as it was created, the Bursa orchestra could not do more than one or two concerts a month. This allowed the boy to travel to Bulgaria and finish his master’s. Then he also made a second one - "Orchestral and Choral Conducting", in Plovdiv with Maestro Georgi Dimitrov. Today, Seval is one of the leading figures of the Bursa Symphony Orchestra, and has many guest appearances and projects in Bulgaria.

Meltun's daughter also becomes a musician - a contrabassist, as well as, a wonderful pianist. Meltun emphasizes: "In Bursa, the working conditions and the performance of the musicians are very good. The municipality has built a building with three concert halls. One has 1,800 seats, the other one 800, the third 400. The largest one is also used for opera when guests from Ankara are invited.

The orchestras are well paid and appreciated in Turkey

At the time Atatürk had said something that I have repeated many times. When the Symphony Orchestra of Ankara was set up, they asked him: "Mr. President, what are the wages of the musicians?" He replied, "They are not smaller than the MPs. Everyone can become a politician, a deputy, a minister, even a president, but not a musician!" This is still something to be done. Both our government and our country appreciate the many musicians. The salary is somewhere around $2,500 for those who start, and then they slowly increase."

There are 6 symphony orchestras in the Ministry of Culture in Turkey. Meltun thinks that this is not enough for such a big country. Although there are other, smaller orchestras in the mayoralties of the big cities like Istanbul, besides the state ones. "The symphony orchestras hear rehearse on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, on Thursday is the general rehearsal, and in the evening is the concert; on Friday - too. There are two concerts every week. Those on Friday are mostly for the school and university students, as they have lessons during the week. The halls are full.

When we make the annual program, we plan 60-70 concert of symphonic music in it. Of these, 15-16 are with conductors from abroad - USA, Bulgaria, Russia and others. This figure does not include the educational concerts, visited by 15-20,000 children.

We have made many tours - in Turkey, but also in Syria, Japan, Greece, Bulgaria..." - says The Maestro.

Both the state and the government provide many opportunities for the development of the musicians. And what is their level? According to the Maestro in Turkey, "There are really good musicians in recent times. Many of them have studied abroad –the US, England, Germany. And now in our conservatories, if there are 20 seats announced, the candidates for them are around 400-500. One is to choose 20 from 500 and it’s different when the number to choose from is 50. The exams are heavy and only the best stay”.

The ties with the home country

Throughout his professional and creative journey in Turkey, Meltun maintains his contacts with colleagues and friends from Bulgaria. "A lot of them I called in Adana, in the Conservatory, some them even work there. For example, years ago I invited the vocal pedagogue Chavdar Hadjiev, as well as, Rusko Ruskov. And then Klavdia Atanasova, Vanya Bachvarova, Emanuil Petrov. The level of the newly-formed symphony orchestra had to rise."

The same does The Maestro for Bursa. Many emblematic names of the Bulgarian musical culture have visited him there while he was the director of the orchestra. "We have been working with Mincho Minchev and Emil Tabakov for years; also with maestro Georgi Dimitrov, Teodosi Spasov, Jeni Petrova, Stanislav Ushev. Our contacts continue, and for their development I do my best, and am I not a graduate of the Bulgarian music school?!" - repeated The Maestro.

We have good ties at the level of orchestras too. "The orchestra from Ruse visited us long time ago. Our concerts took place in Kardjali, Varna and Shumen at the invitation of the Minister of Culture Vejdi Rashidov. Then the Plovdiv Orchestra and some others visited Bursa. We have no money restrictions from our ministry of culture. It only takes for the directors to make an arrangement, to get the contacts, to have invitations..."

According to The Maestro, the taste of the audience on both sides does not differ much. The only difference is that there are "bigger concerts in Turkey with big soloists and big conductors. There are 3-4-5 works by Stravinsky, Masne or Tchaikovsky. Our orchestra has about 54 people, but I have the right to bring in 34 more musicians from abroad for big concerts without a problem".

Music brings the nations closer

The Maestro says he wants to live in both Bulgaria and Turkey. And he is trying to do it. He often comes to Haskovo where he has an apartment. "No one knows where life will take you. And I did not think I would go to live in Turkey. But then the times were different. Maybe the politicians made a big mistake. I left Bulgaria in an unpleasant way. One night they got me out of the house in a hurry - with a shirt on my back. I managed to take only the bassoon, the accordion, the saxophone, and the car. But I do not wish to go back to those memories. I want to remember just the good. I was born here, I studied here, I have friends here.

I want peace among people, musicians to be intermediaries, bridges between countries. Music brings the nations closer together. I will never forget Bulgaria and vice versa.

I very quickly become friends with people, I am very honest. I'm happy, smiling. Whoever came to Bursa, I always met him, drove him by car, walked them around. I have always helped, even the unknown Bulgarians who have come. As long as I have time. Life is short; I want people to remember me in a nice way.

The Maestro is already retired, but continues to be involved in music. In Bursa he created and manages an emigrant folk choir. In his repertoire there are all sorts of songs, from the Bulgarian ones - mostly from the Rhodope region. They have concerts in Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia... In such a way, he says, “we remember "the good of old times".

Photos: Meltun Kadioğlu's personal archive

1 and 2. Meltun Kadioğlu as Phagottist in the Haskovo Symphony Orchestra

3. As a director of the Chukurovo orchestra in Adana - a concert directed by Krassimir Zahariev. The first to the left is his son Seval Kadioğlu /soloist - violin/.

4. As director of the Bursa Symphony Orchestra, opening the season

5. New Year's Concert

6. In 2000, in Bursa, the Maestro created a new urban classical brass band

7. With the emigrant folklore choir