“Citizens” focuses on people born and raised in Istanbul and who are masters of their domains. In this section, described as unsung heroes of Istanbul, we talk about citizens’ Istanbul, profession, yesterday and today.
Ayla Erduran is telling us about her life and Istanbul childhood, which she had to give up in order to become a world-famous violin virtuoso. 
Words: Sidni Karavil
Images: Işık Kaya
I was very excited when I made my way to Gümüşsuyu for an interview with the world-famous violin virtuoso Ayla Erduran. I was about to listen the story of a life that extends from a seaside mansion in İstinye over Gümüşsuyu, Paris, New York, and even Moscow; a life that is full of art, music and literature.

Considering my previous research, I wrote down what I could ask about İstanbul. A childhood that is spent in İstanbul until 11-years-old, home visits by Ayla Erduran’s father Professor-in-Ordinary Doctor Behçet Sabit Erduran’s friends from the literature world and politics, music lessons from the Hungarian virtuoso Karl Berger who settled in İstanbul in 1920’s, violin education she took while traveling all over the world with her mother and hence, longing for İstanbul. All those subjects to talk about…

I am climbing to the third floor of an old İstanbul building with a bouquet of flowers in my hand. A pretty and a well-groomed lady - who absolutely does not look in her 80’s - opens the door to me. We hug each other immediately.

“How did you know I like flowers? That’s very kind of you.”

“You are very kind to welcome us at your home.”

In the living room there are old pictures, a piano, Bosporus view and us. The first thing that hits my eye is Ayla’s photograph with her African nanny. She starts to tell immediately.

MY MOTHER DIDN’T CARE IF I BRUSHED MY TEETH, TOOK A SHOWER OR ATE MY FOOD. SHE WANTED ME TO PLAY THE VIOLIN ABOVE EVERYTHING ELSE.

“My nanny raised me. My mother didn’t care if I brushed my teeth, took a shower or ate my food. My father used to take care of his patients at his clinic. No one was engaged with me. I cried a lot when my nanny went back to her country when I was 7. My mother was born in Büyükada and studied with the violinist Ekrem Zeki Ün. She especially wanted me to play the violin. She was a good woman, but she was despotic. She put me through the wringer all my life, but I am glad that she did, otherwise I could not bear this life.”

She mentions that her mother was a very beautiful woman, she talks about her mother’s connection with violin and that she could not play it so well. Then we start to talk about Karl Berger.

“Berger was the teacher of all İstanbul. He was a great violinist. He used to make all the women fall in love with him, he was a good-looking man. I listened him playing once in my life. I used to go to Narmanlı to take lessons from him. Cigarettes, cigarettes, cigarettes… I am waiting for the lesson. He used to make a five-year-old kid wait for hours. I hated to go to his lessons. Later, he quitted playing the violin. He didn’t give any concerts either. He had two students: Remzi Atak and I. He didn’t teach us technique, he taught us music. Then, my mother insisted that I should give a concert; so I gave my first concert for the Turkish Child Protection Institution at age 11. Before I got on stage I cried my eyes out because of fear. Yet I played Mozart’ D Major Concerto and Beethoven’s Spring Sonata beautifully.”

YES, AYLA HAD A STRADIVARIUS, BUT HER LIFE WASN’T SPENT IN GLORY AS IT SEEMS FROM AFAR.

“In my childhood, we were well endowed. I was learning to play the violin by myself. Sundays were guest days and for me, they were my childhood nightmare. Among our guests, there were Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid, Yahya Kemal, Yunus Nadi, princes and doctors. ‘Bonjour Madame, Bonjour Monsieur’ and they used to put me forward to play the violin like some kind of monkey. My mother used to pressure me so much for not making any mistakes, I used to go wrong immediately.”

I was getting more and more surprised hearing the challenges such an important artist had to struggle with. I guess people who achieve high success always go through hard ways…

“I didn’t have any friends in my childhood. I didn’t go to school either. A private tutor used to come to our house. Berger told my mother that I could break my arm in the school, and this could prevent me from playing the violin. I was captive at home, I used to look at Taksim Garden and envy the kids who play freely. I used to read the dictionaries at home. In fact, that’s how I learned French. I used to listen to the records in the house. I loved doing that. I tried to educate myself. Later, we moved into a seaside mansion in İstinye. I had no friends there, yet I learned how to swim. Cemal Reşit lived nearby. He used to come to our house. I played the Spring Sonata with him.”

OISTRAKH, FRANCESCATTI, GALAMIAN, BENVENUTI…

Later Ayla Erduran and her mother made their way abroad: First Paris conservatory, then New York and Moscow. She used to see her father once in a year. She had so much difficulty at this process. However, she had the chance to study with many world-famous violin teachers. Oistrakh, Francescatti, Galamian, Benvenuti…

Her permanent return to İstanbul happened after a 17-years teaching adventure in Switzerland. Her aunt and her beloved cousin were murdered in the apartment that is upstairs of the one that Erduran currently lives in. She lost her mother due to cancer. She had to sell the Stradivarius to which she was very attached. Finally, at the recommendations, she came back to her home country. She is here for the last 25 years. While she was here in İstanbul, her records were released. Erhan Karaesmen wrote a book about Ayla Erduran which is titled as “Evlerimizi İç Işıklarıyla Aydınlatanlar Müzik ve Keman” (The Ones that Illuminate Our Homes with Their Inner Lights: Music and Violin).  She made a trio concert with Alexander Rudin. Now, she still studies violin four hours a day. When we come across in the hall, her helper at home whispers me in the ear: “I cannot tell you how well she plays.”

“BECOMING A SOLOIST IN AN ORCHESTRA BY THE TIME YOU ARE 20 YEARS OLD MEANS WAVING GOODBYE TO A HAPPY FAMILY LIFE.”

Ayla Erduran’s eyes shine and she seems like she leaks art all over the living room. I still insistently ask her about what she remembers from her childhood in İstanbul.

“The red and green streetcar I used to get on when I went to the lessons of Berger, Abdullah Restaurant, Markiz Bakery…”

I wonder if she is pleased with the road she followed in her life, no matter what.

“When I look back if they had asked me my opinion about this sort of a career, I wouldn’t accept it. Becoming a soloist in an orchestra by the time you are 20 years old and moving your career forward mean waving goodbye to a happy family life.” Indeed, 84-year-old Erduran lives in her beautiful house in Taksim with her helper. In the frames, there are monochrome pictures of the violinists she played together and her nanny.

FROM THE ARCHIVES
FEASTS
FINDS
CASE SERIES
ALL ARCHIVES
FROM THE ARCHIVES
FEASTS
AN INGREDIENT: ZUCCHINI

With few and uncommon variations, zucchini come in two shades of green, one dark, the other pale.

FINDS
MARIA, BY CALLAS, UNCENSORED

In her own words, singing opera was reaching to heaven where those gardens of pure harmony reside… The documentary “Maria by Callas” opens new doors regarding her life. This time, through her own voice.

CASE SERIES
Sleepless Nights and Fly Buzz

Fly swatters might have been the only help to go to sleep in those nights that you struggled with fly buzz.

BLACKOUTS
COPENHAGEN

A snapshot of happiness, freedom, and Nordic coolness in the streets of Copenhagen.

LOVE LETTERS
GONCA VUSLATERİ

Actress Gonca Vuslateri puts her love to Istanbul beginning from her youth days down to paper.

SENSES
ERDİL YAŞAROĞLU

Cartoonist Erdil Yaşaroğlu is taking us on a funny and intellectual journey with his answers to the questions about his wide-open senses.

CITIZENS
AYLA ERDURAN

Ayla Erduran is telling us about her life and Istanbul childhood, which she had to give up in order to become a world-famous violin virtuoso.