G”ker and Jenkins revisit Turkey

Amelia Perron

Violinist Burcu G”ker and pianist Eric Jenkins have already begun their international performing career: the two Lawrence seniors spent their winter break in Istanbul, Turkey preparing for and giving a recital at the Austrian Embassy.
The two musicians are no strangers to Turkey. G”ker – an Istanbul native – and Jenkins performed in Turkey last winter, and it was their success then that led to this winter’s recital.
“The performance last year was televised live,” G”ker explained, “and the director of music at the Austrian Embassy saw us and called to invite us to play this year. We had most of our program decided already last January.”
The program lasted just over two hours and featured works by Mozart, Schumann, Prokofiev, Ravel, Medtner, Rachmaninoff, as well as two encores.
“It was great to perform a recital with only us, instead of being part of a larger program as last year’s concert was,” said G”ker.
“We did a large amount of Mozart repertoire partly because it was a Mozart year,” remarked Jenkins. “But it was also because of the atmosphere of the Austrian Embassy – representing the country of Mozart.”
“The Medtner “Three Nocturnes” is an obscure and rather unplayed piece,” added Jenkins. “We couldn’t even find an published version of it, and had to rely on a handwritten score.”
Jenkins and G”ker have had plenty of time to put together programs: This is their fourth year playing music together. “We met early freshman year,” said Jenkins. “We both liked sightreading, and so we started playing duos and trios together.”
Since then, they have done numerous performances and competitions together, including a performance in Turkey; recitals in Jenkins’ hometown of Portage, Wis.; and a joint junior recital last spring at Lawrence.
Aside from the excitement of a new recital, G”ker and Jenkins had the thrill of a dramatic performance venue. “The embassy is over 250 years old,” G”ker noted. “It was once an Austrian boarding school, and it later became an embassy and cultural office where they now have concerts and expos.”
The performance hall where they played was different from American halls, such Lawrence chapel, in another significant way.
“It’s a German-style hall,” G”ker explained, “with the audience on three sides of the performers. There’s a lot of pressure performing in such a hall, because there is also an audience behind you. The close proximity of those behind you makes you very conscientious to do everything right.”
The standing-room-only audience must have enhanced the pressure of the performance. “There were diplomats, politicians and professors there,” G”ker said. “We had the opportunity to meet some of them after our performance.”
With all the pressure of a big recital, it’s no surprise that their time in Istanbul was hardly a vacation. “I didn’t even get to see much of my family until after the recital,” G”ker said. “We were rehearsing more than eight hours each day.”
The business-trip approach was fine for Wisconsin native Jenkins, though. “This is my fourth time in Istanbul,” Jenkins said, “so I’ve seen all the major cultural sites already.”
It won’t be his last time in Istanbul, either. “Right after the recital, the Austrian Embassy asked us back for next year,” G”ker said.
“Another such opportunity arose after meeting the dean of Bogazici University of Istanbul, when he invited us to play a concert at his university, as well as a few other concerts at different universities and venues throughout Turkey.”
Although G”ker and Jenkins have many exciting prospects for their performing career, finishing school comes first. “There are so many recitals opportunities for the future,” G”ker said. “We need to focus on academics and completing our university studies now.”
After they graduate from Lawrence this June, they plan to continue together to graduate school.
“After we’ve completed graduate school,” G”ker said, “we hope to continue giving recitals throughout the world.”
“I’m looking forward to expanding our repertoire, mixing well-known classics for violin and piano along with lesser-known but well-deserving works,” said Jenkins.