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Tolga Atalay Ün - Piano


One of the sought after musicians of his generation, Turkish-American conductor, historical keyboard player and pianist Tolga Atalay ÜN was born in 1995. He studied piano with Sibel Özgün at the Hacettepe University Ankara State Conservatory, from where he graduated with the “Top of the School Award”; piano with Prof. Norma Fisher and Prof. Niel Immelman; and Historical Performance and Historical Keyboard Instruments with Prof. Terence Charlston and Prof. Robert Woolley at the Royal College of Music London, where he received his Bachelor of Music (Honours) with First Class, Master of Performance (MPerf) with Distinction and Artist Diploma. During his studies in London he obtained the titles ‘Mills Williams Junior Fellow’, ‘C. Bechstein Scholar supported by a Christopher Hogwood Scholarship’ and ‘Kenneth and Violet Scott Scholar’ at the RCM. He studied conducting with Orhun Orhon, İbrahim Yazıcı, Burak Tüzün, Peter Stark and Howard Williams, as well as attending Lior Shambadal and Peter Gülke’s masterclasses. He was generously supported by Sevda-Cenap And Music Foundation and Talent Unlimited for his studies. From 2016 to 2021, Tolga Atalay ÜN was a scholar in the ‘Young Musicians on World Stages’ (YMWS) system created and mentored by Güher & Süher Pekinel with financial support of TÜPRAŞ.

Playing as a soloist with the Ankara Youth Symphony Orchestra, as well as conducting them from the keyboard in the opening concert of 33rd International Ankara Music Festival in April 2016 won him a great recognition amongst the musical authorities. In March 2019, he played piano in the concert organised for the annual President’s Visit from His Majesty King Charles III to the RCM. In February 2022, he conducted the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in Turkey from the harpsichord, in his first concert with them, and became one of the youngest conductors to do so. After that, he performed as a conductor, harpsichordist and pianist with Izmir State Symphony Orchestra, Bursa Regional State Symphony Orchestra, Istanbul State Opera and Ballet Orchestra, Orchestra Academic Başkent and Karşıyaka Municipality Chamber Orchestra. Previously he had conducted Ankara Youth Symphony Orchestra, Bodrum Chamber Orchestra, Hacettepe Youth Symphony Orchestra and Hitit Philharmonic Orchestra (a volunteer orchestra that he formed with his friends). Hitit Philharmonic Orchestra’s first performance was at the annual celebrations for the foundation of Ankara State Conservatory, in which he also conducted his own orchestral work which he composed for the orchestra. His recent prizes and medals include the ‘Service in Profession Award’ for 2022-2023 by Ankara Beysukent Rotary Club, the 2021 ‘Mills Williams Medal’ at the RCM, the ‘Beethoven Medal’ from the Worshipful Company of Musicians as a result of winning the First Prize and the ‘Thomas Harris Beethoven Award’ at the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe’s 2017 Senior Intercollegiate Piano Competition; the First Prize, as well as the Prize for the Best Performance of A.A.Saygun and the Audience Prize at the 4th Ahmed Adnan Saygun Piano Competition in Turkey, 2017; the First Prize at the Kendall Taylor Beethoven Competition at the RCM in 2017, the Second Prize at the Broadwood Horniman Harpsichord Competition in November 2015, the ‘Jury’s Special Award’ at “The National Chopin Piano Competition” in 2010, which was organized jointly by Başkent University and Bahçelievler Rotary Club in Ankara, Turkey under the auspices of the Polish Embassy, to commemorate Chopin’s 200th birthday and the ‘Honourable Mention Prize’ at the Fourth International Istanbul Pera Piano Competition in 2009. He played numerous concerts in many different countries, such as Turkey, United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Greece and Romania; and in prestigious concert halls such as London Royal Festival Hall, Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room, Cadogan Hall, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, St. James’s Piccadilly, Drapers’ Hall, Steinway Hall London, Regent Hall, Handel House London, St. Mary’s Perivale London, RCM Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall, Embassy of Turkey in London, London Abbey Road Studios, London Conway Hall, Salzburg Mozarteum, Bayerische Musikakademie Marktoberdorf, CSO Ada Ankara, İzmir Ahmed Adnan Saygun Cultural Centre, Istanbul Atatürk Cultural Centre, Boğaziçi University Albert Long Hall, German Consulate General in Istanbul, Istanbul Arter Museum, Istanbul Notre Dame de Sion High School, Embassy of France in Ankara, Ankara MEB Şura Concert Hall, Bilkent Concert Hall, Antalya Cultural Centre and Mersin State Opera and Ballet. He participated in masterclasses given by renowned pianists and harpsichordists such as Ton Koopman, Carole Cerasi, Pawel Siwczak, Janina Fialkowska, Rolf Plagge, Daniel Shapiro, Jonathan Plowright and Gülsin Onay. He took lessons on Modern Music History and Contemporary Music Techniques given by a famous Turkish composer İlhan Baran in 2009-2013. In 2004, he was accepted as a member to the Polyphonic Children’s Choir of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, conducted by Ahter Destan and Atilla Çağdaş Değer. During 2004-2009, he participated in many concerts and tours as a choir member and accompanist, including a concert tour in the Czech Republic with The Prague Bonifantes Boys’ Choir, singing in Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker’ and being one of the three chorists in the opening concert of Samsun Opera. In 2007, he was offered a place to start his professional piano studies with Sibel Özgün at the Hacettepe University Ankara State Conservatory. During his seven-year conservatory education; he gave many concerts, premiered many pieces and made many radio recordings (including recordings with TRT, the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation) as a pianist, conductor, chamber musician, accompanist and chorist. Having taught at Ankara Music and Fine Arts University for a term starting from October 2021, Ün still continues his professional work as a conductor, pianist and harpsichordist, and as of 2022, he started working as a conductor at the Ankara State Opera and Ballet.

To read the interview: - CV

updated June 2023