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My first debut this year was with Bilkent Symphony Orchestra in Ankara, Turkey, and with a French program (Chausson Poème, Ravel Daphnis & Chloe) plus a world premiere, "Töresel Çeşitlemeler" by Turkish composer İlhan Baran. Working on a never-before-heard piece is always a lot of work, since especially with modern music it is very hard to imagine the end result before you actually hear it. Luckily we had a lot of rehearsals, and also I got help from Dr. Mahir Cetiz who had helped the elderly composer to finish his orchestration of the piece. Given Baran's reputation our performance was considered a major musical event in Turkey - it was attended by a lot of composers and we got a lot of press afterwards.

Also the French half of the program was all firsts to me - the Daphnis & Chloe suite I had studied during my conservatory years, but never performed before. For Chausson's Poème my violin soloist was the lovely Rachel Kolly d'Alba.

This was my first proper visit to Turkey in general, and just at the moment when there were a lot of political tensions in the air - especially with Russia. My trip happened without any commotion, luckily, and I even was rehearsing in two languages, English and Russian, since so many musicians came from the former Soviet Union and were more comfortable hearing Russian. The orchestra took very good care of me and the atmosphere was positive throughout. I hope to return to Bilkent soon - maybe with a Finnish program?