Credit: Kaja Smith

World-Leading Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani To Perform In Brno This Week

World-renowned harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani will perform in two special concerts with Filharmonie Brno this week, in Brno’s Besední dům. In 2008-2010, he became the first and only harpsichord player to be awarded the title of New Generation Artist by the British BBC Radio 3,  and has a number of other prestigious music awards under his belt. He will perform with Filharmonie Brno in a program entitled “Mahan Esfahani: harpsichord”. 

“The harpsichord will appear in each piece of the evening, first as the leading voice of a larger chamber orchestra, then as a solo instrument accompanied by a symphony orchestra and finally in the concert ensemble,” said the director of Filharmonie Brno, Marie Kučerová. Esfahani will thus perform in all the pieces of the evening, each time in a different role.

The evening will open with ‘Chamber Music for harpsichord and seven instruments’ by Hans Krása, whose chamber work, as noted by contemporary critics, combines old art with new, serious with banal, sober with sentimental. “It consists of two contrasting movements, one of which is motoric and virtuosic working with mainly playful themes, the other is variational,” said the dramaturg of Filharmonie Brno, Vítězslav Mikeš, adding that the harpsichord will be accompanied by four clarinets, a trumpet, a cello and a double bass.

“I wanted to use the harpsichord in a way that sounded French and modern, not pastiche. I wanted to show that it is not an outdated, ineffective instrument that has only historical significance,” Francis Poulenc said of his Concert champêtre (Country Concert). The composition of the orchestra also corresponds to this intention, which seems to be oversized due to the limited dynamic possibilities of the harpsichord. 

“Poulenc, however, as an excellent composer with a clear idea of sound and instrumentation, knew why he decided on this apparent disproportion: from the dialogue between the solo instrument and the orchestra, from the contrast between quiet and gentle, or from the opulent sound, he extracted the soulful tension that makes the Country Concert a truly unique work,” added Mikeš.

World-Leading Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani | Credit: Kaja Smith

Mieczysław Weinberg’s powerful Symphony No. 7 will be heard in the second half of the evening. The work of the author known as “Shostakovich, but without a smile” has only begun to be discovered and appreciated globally in recent years. His symphony is conceived as a baroque concerto grosso filled with current content and built on a dialogue between a string orchestra and concertante harpsichord. 

“It is difficult to judge whether the symphony has any hidden non-musical content, as was common with anti-regime Soviet authors. All the more surprising is the final Allegro, which seems almost straightforwardly descriptive: in the toccata attack of the harpsichord, you can’t help but hear the threat of a ringing telephone, a symbol of the dark Stalinist times,” Mikeš noted.

Mahan Esfahani will perform a concerto on the Ammer Philharmonic Harpsichord. “It’s an excellent German instrument from the 1980s,” said Kučerová. “Later, production moved to replicas of old instruments, which sound different and are more suitable for music from older periods, so ours is becoming relatively rare.” 

The concert takes place this Thursday and Friday at 7pm in the Besední dům. One hour before the performance, dramaturg Vítězslav Mikeš will give an introductory talk presenting the compositions which will be performed during the concert. Conductor Alexander Liebreich and Esfahani will also take part in the talk.

The last few tickets are available at the Filharmonie Brno presale or online at Half an hour before the concert, students will be able to buy tickets for CZK 50.

Brno Daily Subscribe
Sign up for morning news in your mail