Istanbul Music Festival Cancels Opening Ceremonies Due to Protests

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Three days of clashes between protesters and riot police in Istanbul have prompted the Istanbul Music Festival to call off its opening night gala concert, scheduled for Tuesday.

"We feel great sorrow for the events that began at Taksim Gezi Park," the festival said in a statement. "The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts has decided to cancel the 41st Istanbul Music Festival's opening ceremony due to the current climate of heightened social sensitivity and has postponed the opening concert."

The concert, featuring the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic, will be rescheduled for later in the festival, which will continue as planned, organizers said.

The biggest classical music event in Turkey, the Istanbul Festival brings together Turkish and international artists in venues around the city. This year's program includes violinists Vadim Repin and Maxim Vengerov, pianist David Fray, violist Kim Kashkashian, Jordi Savall, and a duo of cellist Gautier Capuçon with pianist Gülru Ensari.

Elif Obdan, a spokeswoman for the festival, said that while the festival is "seriously concerned" about the political climate, she stressed that the majority of protests have been peaceful and festival organizers believe it's important to carry on as a statement of artistic freedom.

The anti-government protests initially targeted plans to bulldoze a treasured Istanbul park but have spread into nationwide unrest.