Turkish music evolved from the original folk form into classical through the emergence of a Palace culture. It attained its highest point in the 16th century through the composer “Itri”. Great names in Turkish classical music include “Dede Efendi”, “Hacı Arif Bey” and “Tamburi Cemil Bey”. It is a form that continues to be professionally performed and one that attracts large audiences. Turkish music, locally called Turkish Classical Music, is a variation of the national musical tradition, played with instruments such as the tambur, kanun, ney and ud.
Folk music has developed gradually over the centuries in the rural areas of Turkey. It is highly diversified with many different rhythms and themes. Musical archives contain almost 10,000 such folk songs. Turkish religious music, mostly in the form of songs, is centuries old and rich in tradition, embodied most perfectly by Sufi (Mevlevi) music.
The Turks were introduced to western classical music through orchestras, which were invited to the Sultan's Palace to celebrate occasions such as weddings. The great Italian composer, Donizetti, conducted the Palace Orchestra for many years. The first military band was founded in the 19th century. During the Republican era, the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1924, and the Orchestra of the Istanbul Municipality Conservatory played a leading role in introducing and popularising classical music in Turkey. Turkish composers drew their inspiration from Turkish folk songs and Turkish classical music. Today, conductors such as Hikmet Şimşek and Gürer Aykal, pianists like İdil Biret and the Güher and Süher Pekinel sisters, and violinists like Suna Kan are internationally recognised virtuosos. Leyla Gencer was one of the leading sopranos of La Scala Opera, wildly acclaimed whenever she performed in her native Istanbul.