Turkiye mourns the passing of one its greatest musicians, violin virtuoso Suna Kan

Tributes have been paid to one of Turkiye’s greatest musicians, violinist Suna Kan, who died at the weekend aged 86. The virtuoso enjoyed a celebrated solo, orchestral and teaching career in Turkiye and abroad.

Kan was described as “The symbolic name of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s ‘music revolution’” by Andante Magazine.

Paying tribute with a series of posts on social media, renowned concert pianist Gülsin Onay said Kan was, “A great musician, close friend and our irreplaceable precious violinist,” adding that “her unique memories and records will always live in our hearts.”

Speaking at Kan’s funeral, Ömer Faruk Belviranlı, the General Director of Fine Arts at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said the virtuoso violinist had numerous achievements in her incredible musical career, and that as one of the ‘brightest stars of the arts universe’, she would continue to ‘illuminate the path of many young people who set their hearts on music.’

Born in Adana in 1936, Kan began playing the violin at the age of five under the guidance of her father, Nuri Kan, who was a viola player in the Presidential Symphony Orchestra.

Suna Kan gave her first concerto performances of Mozart and Viotti with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra at the age of nine. Her incredible performance in the concert hall of the Ankara State Conservatory led her to be called the “wonder child”. She continued her classical violin studies in Ankara with Walter Gerhard, İzzet NezihAlbayrak, and Gilbert Back, while learning contemporary music pieces with Licco Amar.

In 1949, Kan won a state scholarship to study abroad through a law she inspired, and which was passed in 1948, to support child prodigies like her.

The young musician attended the Paris Conservatory, where she excelled under the tutelage of Gabriel Bouillon. She graduated with distinction in 1952, coming first among her violin peers.

After her graduation, Kan continued her studies with Gabriel Bouillon. She went on to win the first medal at the 1954 Geneva Contest, the first prize at the 1955 Viotti Contest, the second prize at the 1959 Munich Contest, and was awarded the Long-Thibaud Contest “Paris City Award” in 1957.

Turkish violin maestro Suna Kan. Photo via Instagram / Gulsin Onay


When she returned home, she was appointed soloist of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, with which she performed and recorded numerous times during her long career.

Kan founded the TRT Ankara Chamber Orchestra in the 1970s with conductor Gürer Aykal and her husband, music critic Faruk Güvenç. As a recitalist, she collaborated with the pianists Ferhunde Erkin, Gülay Uğurata and Cana Gürmen.

Her international concert career saw her perform all over the world, including in the USA, Germany, Belgium, China, France, South America, Netherlands, the UK, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Canada, Norway and Russia.

She has played with the world’s best orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Moscow Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Bamberg Symphony, collaborating with conductors including Arthur Fiedler and Zubin Mehta, as well as artists such as Yehudi Menuhin, Igor Bezrodny, Pierre Fournier, André Navarra and Frederick Riddle.

Kan was recognised for her outstanding talent, receiving many prizes and honours during her long career. She became the first female musician to receive the title of State Artist from the Turkish government in 1971. The French government awarded her the Chevalier del’ordre National de Merite French Order award in 1976.


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She received a Gold Medal from the Sevda-Cenap and Music Foundation in 1996 – awarded to outstanding classical musicians in Turkiye. In 2012, she was presented with the Lifetime Achievement award at the  Donizetti Classical Music Awards organised by Andante Magazine – Turkiye’s biggest classical music publication.

Müşerref Hekimoğlu’s book Suna Kan: The Violin Announcing His Song was published by Sevda-Cenap and Music Foundation in 1997. Her legacy also continues with a violin competition in her name, held annually at the Ankara Music Conservatory.

The virtuoso was keen to share her musical knowledge and teaching became a major part of the latter part of her career. She gave master classes in the violin at Ayvalık International Music Academy and served as a professor of violin at the Music and Performing Arts Department of Bilkent University in Ankara from 1986.

She was forced to stop performing in 2017 due to health problems.

Turkish violin maestro Suna Kan.

Suna Kan, born 21 October 1936, died 11 June 2023. She was laid to rest at Karşıyaka Cemetery in Ankara on Monday. She leaves behind a son, Ömer Üstel.