Who Was Benyamin Sönmez?
Benyamin Sönmez grew up in a musical atmosphere and soon proved himself to be an exceptional talent.
His parents were both musicians. And his older brother, Mehmet Sönmez, studied contrabass at the Ankara State Conservatory.
With encouragement from his brother, Benyamin Sönmez later applied to the same Conservatory and was awarded a place at just age 14.
By the age of 17, he came first in the National Cello Contest.
Benyamin Sönmez was an exceptional talent and was eventually recommended to Russian cellist, Natalia Gutman; one of the world’s great cellists.
He studied under her at the Stuttgart Music Academy (Stuttgart Hochschule für Musik) and later at the Moscow Conservatory.
Winning many international awards and performing at prestigious events such as the Manchester Cello Festival and the Adam Cello Festival in New Zealand, Benyamin Sönmez also impressed with master class performances with the likes of David Geringas and Phillipe Muller.
Sadly, in 2011, Benyamin Sönmez lost his life to a heart attack. He was just 28 years old.
He passed away in the Turkish capital, Ankara, but was laid to rest here in Fethiye.
And so, now, we have the annual Fethiye Benyamin Sönmez Classical Music Festival.
The Benyamin Sönmez Classical Music Festival
Each year, the Benyamin Sönmez Classical Music Festival looks a little different. Dates change, the length of the festival changes, some of the venues change.
What never changes is the quality of the music we are treated to around the performances.
Often, there are cellists from the Ankara State Conservatory where Benyamin Sönmez studied.
Sometimes, we get an orchestra, too, where a solo cellist will take centre stage.
We always attend at least one of the performances. And, if you’re in the area when the festival is taking place, we highly recommend you do, too.
They’re outdoor, free of charge and the music is truly beautiful.
If you’re like me (Barry’s a classical music fan) and thought you didn’t like classical music, these young cellists might just convince you otherwise.
Over the years, we’ve attended recitals around different parts of Fethiye.
Back in 2014, one of the venues chosen was the summit of Babadağ; the area’s highest mountain.
We had a group of friends holidaying here at the time. So we hired a minibus with driver to take us up there for the sunset performance. Truly spectacular!
Opening events usually take place at Fethiye’s Benyamin Sönmez Parkı.
If you didn’t know it was there, the park is very easy to pass by without even noticing it.
But one year, we watched two cellists perform music by modern composers – and they also brought us into the world of pop.
And then there’s the recital never to miss – the Çalış Beach sunset recital.
One of the most beautiful sunsets in the world as a backdrop to live chamber music performed by young cellists. Perfection!
This one always pulls in a good crowd of appreciative onlookers.
If you’re in the marina town of Göcek, there’s usually a sunset recital there, too.
And then there’s the orchestra.
As Fethiye is part of the Muğla Province, the orchestra attending the Benyamin Sönmez Classical Music Festival is often the Müğla Büyükşehir Belediyesi Orchestra.
For 2023, Fethiye’s ancient Telmessos Theatre has been reopened. So it’s going to be amazing for the musicians to set up and perform there with the audience watching on, looking over the bay of Fethiye in the background.
A fitting venue for a cellist who was creating a legacy in the world of classical music and who had his life taken away too soon.
You can read more about the life of Benyamin Sönmez, here.
Benyamin Sönmez Classical Music Festival Dates
- For 2023, the festival will take place on 15th-16th September.
- The opening of the festival will take place at 5pm on the 15th at Benyamin Sönmez Parkı.
- At 8:30 pm on the 15th & 16th, there will be concerts at the ancient Telmessos Theatre on Fethiye Harbour.
- At 6:30 pm on the 15th & 16th, the sunset recitals will take place at D Marin in Göcek and Çalış Beach, respectively.