Mehteran and Beethoven

It’s said that Beethoven was inspired by Turkish Janissary band (Mehteran in Turkish)  when he composed his famous Turkish march.

It is believed that individual instrumentalists may have been mentioned in the 8th century Orkhon inscriptions, the oldest written sources of the people who would eventually become the modern Turks[citation needed]. Such military bands as the mehters, however, were not definitively mentioned until the 13th century[citation needed]. It is believed that the first “mehter” was sent to Osman Gazi by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin III as a present along with a letter that salutes the newly formed state. From then on every day after the afternoon prayer; “mehter” played for the Ottoman ruler. The notion of a military marching band, such as those in use even today, began to be borrowed from the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. The sound associated with the mehterân also exercised an influence on European classical music, with composers such as Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven all writing compositions inspired by or designed to imitate the music of the mehters.

In 1826, the music of the mehters fell into disfavor following Sultan Mahmud II’s massacre of the Janissary corps, who had formed the core of the bands. Subsequent to this, in the mid and late 19th century, the genre went into decline along with the Ottoman Empire. In 1911, as the empire was beginning to collapse, the director of Istanbul’s military museum attempted a somewhat successful revival of the tradition, and by 1953—so as to celebrate the 500-year anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople to the forces of Sultan Mehmed II—the tradition had been fully restored as a band of the Turkish Armed Forces.

Today, the music of the mehters is largely ceremonial and considered by many Turks as a stirring example of heroism and a reminder of Turkey’s imperial past.

Today, Mehter Troop (Mehter Bölüğü) is a band of the Turkish Armed Forces and it performs at the Military Museum (Askeri Müze) in Istanbul.

And The Ministry of Culture Istanbul Historical Music Ensemble

Author: Levent

Errrm, ummm, well. Darn!

21 thoughts on “Mehteran and Beethoven”

  1. They have an impressive style and music but a funny walk. Two steps ahead one to the left, salute. Then again…
    It’s one of our national jokes.
    “Did you believe we would conquer Vienna by this walk? It takes ages” 🙂

  2. Interesting Levent. Haydn and Mozart also apparently were inspired too. A hasty Google on the subject suggests that this influence was to do with the constant hostilities between Austria and the Ottoman empire, and apparently interest in all things Turkish was fashionable because Austria by this time has gained the upper hand!

  3. I’d have trouble marching to some of this – even with two steps ahead and one to the side!

  4. I like the top one better, I tripped over the rug though trying to march. Did you know that marching is very, very difficult, in any language.

    Hey Levent, when are you going to introduce us to Yuksek Sadakat Ben Seni, I love their music. Also Kavak Yelleri.
    I think I must have been Turkish in a former life 😉

  5. Hello Val,
    🙂 Yes marching is hard. I know 😉

    Re the music, I’m not sure my blogs are liked so I’m a bit hessitant.

    I can’t view videos at work. Which one have you inserted here?

  6. 25 years hence, I was lucky enough to see the opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Glyndbourne which featured Turkish military band music. Willard White sang the part of Osman, the guard. What an experience!

  7. I should have said it was a Mozart opera. I mentioned it to Willard White when I met him after a performance two years ago. He was amazed that I remembered it. The modesty of the man was quite moving. What a voice!

  8. Hello Levent, thanks for this. I can definitely hear parallels with the 9th, more so than the 5th actually. I bet you know it, but hey, any excuse to trot out the Beethoven. Gets me every time.

  9. Hi Levent. yes, it is good. I don’t know much about Turkish music, so thanks for sharing that one Val. 😉

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