Posted: 10 Mar 2015
The Ottoman Imperial Archives does not identify Tanburi Isak as a Jew. But, there's something about the portrait (photography did not exist in his day). Maybe it is his name Isak, maybe his beard, maybe his turban which is similar to the one still worn by Sephardi chief rabbis of Israel. Research proved the hunch correct.
From the Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World:
Isaac Fresco (İsak Fresko) Romano was born in the Ortaköy district of Istanbul in 1745. Known to Ottomans as Tamburi İsak Efendi because of his mastery of the tambur, a bowed or plucked long-necked lute used in Ottoman court music, he was perhaps Turkey’s most famous composer of both Jewish synagogue songs and classical Turkish music. He also played the keman, a traditional Turkish violin. He became a teacher of the tambur in 1795, and the sultan at the time, Selim III, was his star pupil.
Listen to one of Tanburi Isak's works here.