Emre Gul / World Bulletin / History
Westernization and Europeanization in the Ottoman Empire began with Sultan Mahmud II’s reform and was first practiced in the military. With the aid of high government officials, scholars and public support, not to mention preparation that lasted 18 years, Sultan Mahmud II abolished the Janissary Corps in 1826 in a bloody manner.
Following the victory against the Janissary Corps and with the concept of it being “necessary to reciprocate to enemy forces and military training and practices is mandatory”, the orders for a coordinated and permenant central army was first executed on May 1826. Thus, a new army by the name of Asakir-i Mansure-i Muhammediye was established. It was by these means that Western music was introduced to the Ottoman Empire.
Under the administration of European military officers, it was envisioned to establish bands using Western musical instruments to play their anthems under the Asakir-i Mansure-i Muhammediye code of law. The newly constituted army’s needs, such as teachers and musical instruments, were being imported from Europe. The first set of musicians and musical instruments arrived from Geneva in 1827 and then a second time in 1831 as a gift from the Austrian Empire.
As the inclination towards Western music was supported by Sultan Mahmud II, this style of music, alongside the military, had started being practiced in the capital as well. In 1827, a concert in Goksu Meadow featured the likes of Mozart and Rossini. The new army began their Western practices with French, Italian and English anthems accompanied by bands. Among Sultan Mahmud II’s official and unofficial ceremonies, upon entry and exit, anthems written for European royalty such as 'God Save the King', 'La Marseillaise' and 'Vive Henri IV' were played.
God Save the King Anthem - Video
The Asakir-i Mansure-i Muhammediye army’s first battle was the Russian war between the years 1828 and 1829; the newly established bands made their appearances as well. One of these bands in the Rumelian army, under the command of grand vizier Mehmed Resid Pasha, was observed by English Major Keppel, whp made the evaluation that “it seemed the musical instruments were adapted to the juvenile recruits and, in order to establish these bands, they had looted a toy shop.”
An Italian by the name of Giuseppe Donizetti was later brought to Istanbul, made a Pasha and became the Instructor General of the Imperial Ottoman Music at the court of Sultan Mahmud II. He became the head of the Mizika-i Humayun band and the Mizika School which was established in 1831 in Uskudar, Istanbul. Donizetti then composed the Mahmudiye Anthem for the Ottoman Sultan just like they were for European kings. Giuseppe’s palace harmonica Mizika-i Humayun became an integral part of the Sultan’s official ceremonies. Donizetti’s Mahmudiye Anthem was played for 11 years. After the death of Sultan Mahmud II, his son Sultan Abdulmecid came to the throne and Giuseppe composed another anthem by the name of Mecidiye Anthem which was then played for another 22 years in the Ottoman Empire.
Giuseppe Donizetti’s Mecidiye Anthem - Video
Gültekin Yıldız, Neferin Adı Yok, İstanbul, 2009.