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Filling His Life with Music and His Music with Life

By Muge Mengu
Lovers of classical music will be familiar with the name Efe Baltacigil, a rare talent who, after astounding Yo Yo Ma with his mastery of cello, received an invitation to share the stage with music giants like Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zuckerman and Midori at Carnegie Hall, New York’s famous concert hall.
Efe, who hit a career peak by performing the String Sextet by Brahms at this concert in 2001 to an elite audience, is today 27 years old.

Efe Baltacigil.

He is painting a bright picture with his success since his arrival in US. His career started in Turkey, at Mimar Sinan University. He has performed countless concerts in the most important concert halls around the globe. He was awarded an “Artist Diploma” from The Curtis Institute of Music, a well known academy in the US. After being Assistant Principal Cellist with the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, this year he became the Principle Cellist.

He participated in Yo Yo Ma’s “Silk Road” Project, and toured with the “Musicians from Marlboro” chamber orchestra. He became a member of Lincoln Center II Chamber Orchestra. This year he won the Young Concert Artists Organization’s “Young Talent” award, a major prize. He participated in the Rising Stars program sponsored by Carnegie Hall and the European Commission.   

The first time I met Efe was at Carnegie Hall before the solo concert he was about to give… Minutes before the performance, I am looking desperately searching for Efe backstage. When I ask for Efe’s dressing room in the corridor, “Hah, Efe, he is in his room, how do you pronounce his last name?’ says one of the employees… Yes, when I think about it, Efe’s last name is a whopping, heavy last name… But the first time you meet him, his relatively delicate-looking and youthful build attracts attention. After a couple of minutes talking to him, you understand that he is a wise young man, who undertook a great responsibility with maturity. But you can’t help asking, “You are so young. How can you fit so many things together?” Of course, you don’t ask this in such an informal manner when you are in front of a giant of the world. When you ask about the key to his success, “ A natural result of doing your job properly” is the answer you get.

Efe, descendant of three generations of musicians, was born into music. As the saying goes, “Let babies to be born listening to Mozart.”  Efe opened his eyes to music. “I encountered music as soon as I was born, even while still in my mother’s womb. One of my favorite toys was the piano in our house,” he says. To be born as a member of a family of musicians and music lovers might be the reason for his exposure to it at an early age. Efe, who started to learn play the violin at age five, and the cello at age seven when his family discovered his interest in music, says, “The encouragement of my family, especially of my father and my grandfather Faruk, was a great advantage for me.”

There are no differences between the US and Turkey, according to Efe, who came to US to continue his education, and is currently the Principal Cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. According to him, the existence of more musicians, schools and orchestras in the US has an effect on the quality of the profession, as even having a top group of only five per cent of musicians, the larger base creates a very colorful music environment.

Naturally the number of musicians, schools and orchestras are limited in Turkey. But Efe is satisfied with the quality of musical education in Turkey. “After the strong foundation I got in Turkey, I had no difficulties here,” he declares.

The US career of Efe, a graduate of Mimar Sinan University Conservatory, started when Peter Wiley, who was in Turkey to attend a concert, discovered his talent. He was accepted with a scholarship to the well-known Curtis Institute of Music. After receiving an Artist Diploma from the school, he joined The Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the leading orchestras of the world. Efe doesn’t feel like a stranger in the US. According to him there is a better acceptance of foreigners in the US than in many European countries. “Because most Americans are people whose ancestors came from Europe, sort of foreigners themselves.”

In addition to this, Efe participated in the Rising Stars program sponsored by Carnegie Hall and the European Commission. For this project, in the 2006-2007 season he will be touring important music halls of different European countries and will be performing the compositions of Ahmet Adnan Saygun, one of the Turkish Five. “One of my future plans is to introduce the cello to the farthest corners of Turkey, as Fazil Say did, and to continue this way filling life with music, and the music with life,” Efe said.

The musicians he was influenced by are also the people contributing to his musical career. In Turkey Ihsan Kartal and Prof. Nusret Kayar, his teachers at Mimar Sinan; in the US Peter Wiley and David Soyer at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Efe says, “Pablo Casals, Mistislav Rostropovich, Yo-Yo Ma, Paul Tortolier and Thomas-Werner Mifune have influenced me most.” Besides classical music, Efe is interested in many different types of music. He enjoys a wide variety of music by jazz musicians like Keith Jarreth and Joshua Redman; rock groups like Queen and Dream Theater; Erkan Ogur and Bulent Ortacgil; Kangroove and Ilhan Ersahin. Besides this he likes to make charcoal drawings, wind surf and sail.

(May 2006, 20th Issue)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07