Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra’s roots goes back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 1827, Ottoman Sultan Mahmut II invited the famous Italian opera composer Gaetano Donizetti’s brother, Guiseppe Donizetti, and awarded him “Pasha” title. Donizetti Pasha founded Mızıka-i Humayun (Imperial Ottoman Orchestra), which is the predecessor of the Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra, and remained as its musical director for over twenty five years until his death in 1856. Then many Italian conductors; such as Angelo Mariani, Pisani and Callisto Guatelli followed the path which Donizetti Pasha opened. After having its first Turkish musical director Saffet Atabinen, the orchestra made his first European tour to Vienna, Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Budapest and Sofia in 1917, which included Beethoven’s Eroica, Wagner’s Parsifal Prelude and Weber’s Oberon Ouverture.
After the foundation of the Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923, Mızıka-I Humayun has moved to Ankara, newly founded Republic’s capital. At that time, in Istanbul, some members of the famous “Turkish Five Composers” namely; pianist/composer/conductor Cemal Resit Rey, Hasan Ferit Alnar and Ahmet Adnan Saygun were organizing concerts with the remaining members of the orchestra. In the mid-thirties top-notch artists such as Alfred Cortot, Zino Francescatti and Jascha Heifetz visited Istanbul and gave numerous concerts with the orchestra. In 1945, the orchestra started to be subsidized by the municipality, changed its name to “Istanbul Municipality Symphony Orchestra” and gave its first concert under the baton of Cemal Resit Rey. For over twenty years, the orchestra established a high reputation for its versatility and artistic excellence. Giving weekly concerts, making radio recordings, accompanying stars like Kempff, Thibaud, Iturbi, Cassado, Prihoda and Cortot, who were regular visitors of the city at that time. The orchestra was named Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra in 1972 after it had been assigned to Ministry of Culture.
During the period of Prof. G. E. Lessing, the conductor of the orchestra and Mükerrem Berk, the manager of the orchestra, the orchestra has gained considerable progress in a very short time and the concerts have been organized on a regular basis. In the next years, besides the domestic tours in Istanbul and Ankara, the concerts in Bratislava and Patras international festivals were also held.
Between the years 1983-2000, Prof. Erol Erdinc had been the permanent conductor of the orchestra and as from 2009, Naci Ozguc has assumed this position. The orchestra accompanied many soloists like Sabina Cvilak, Krzystof Jablonski, Kenneth Radnofsky, Gilles Appap, Sophia Jaffe, Massimo Quarta, Burak Bilgili, Esen Demirci, Aydın Uştuk, Birgül Su Ariç, Andre Navarra, Leonid Kogan, Vaclav Hudecek, Heinrich Schiff, Yehudi Menuhin, Luciano Pavarotti, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Sabine Meyer, Gidon Kremer, James Tocco, Lazar Berman, Nataila Gutman, Güher-Süher Pekinel, Fazıl Say, İdil Biret, Suna Kan, Ayşegül Sarıca, Ayla Erduran, Verda Erman, Leyla Gencer, Gülsin Onay, Hüseyin Sermet, Antje Withaas, Cihat Aşkın, Daniel Shafran, David Geringas, Truls Mork, Pierre Amoyal, Alexander Rudin, Alexander Melkinov, Milan Turkovic, Efe Baltacıgil, Luis Bacalov, Alexander Markov, Jose Carreras, Ida Kavafian, Tedi Papavrami, Ilya Gringolts, Antonio Meneses, David Helfgott, Radu Lupu and our soloist artists like Gülşen Tatu, Burçin Büke and Tuncay Yılmaz under the conduct of many conductors like Andrew Greenwood, Ola Rudner, Antonio Pirolli, Patrycja Pieczara, Dorian Wilson, Anatole Fistoulari, Aaron Copland, Mircea Basarab, Ilarion Ionescu-Galati, Tadeusz Strugala, Alexander Schwinck, Vladimir Fedoseev, Erich Bergel, Jean Perrisson, Alexander Rahbari, Cemal Reşit Rey and Ender Sakpınar.
Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra performed many of the works of Turkish composers for the first time and recorded radio and TV programs. To introduce the works of Turkish composers and the performance of Turkish musicians to the world, IDSO performed many concerts in Germany (2009), Egypt (2008), Spain (1993 and 1990), Italy, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Greece, in the exhibition of “Suleyman the Magnificent” held in USA, Memphis (1992), in “Europa Musicale” Festival held in Munich (1993) and in Athens Festival in Greece (2000). Along with the 15 days tour to Bulgaria in 2002, the orchestra was also invited to perform the opening concert of Asia Orchestras Week that was organized in Japan in October 2003 and the concert performed by IDSO in Tokyo Opera Hall achieved great success.
After successful performances in Cairo and Alexandria in 1998, our orchestra carried out a Spain tour of five concerts in October, 2012/2013 concert season.