Ranjbaran has had mixed fortunes with this CD. On the plus side
he has had approaching eighty minutes of his most sumptuous
orchestral music professionally recorded in sound of extraordinary
refinement and vibrancy. On the negative side the recording
came out on Delos when their operation seemed to come to a staggering
halt outside the USA.
is not the end of the accounting although pretty well everything
else tells in its favour. The notes which are in English only
are very full - perhaps rather small - but we do get every wrinkle
of the three stories that form the basis for this Persian orchestral
triptych. These tales are drawn from the Iranian national epic,
the Shahnameh (or Book of Kings) written by Ferdawsi
(c.940-c.1020). Although the language is quite other we can
see the partnership of Ranjbaran and the Shahnameh in
the same light as Sibelius and the Kalevala and Holbrooke
and the Cauldron of Annwn. The Shahnameh includes
among its talismanic figure the hero Rostam who some of you
may know from the Matthew Arnold poem Sohrab and Rustum.
outcome of this inspiration is music
of shimmering exoticism, luxury and
voluptuous indulgence are at play
here. I heard many echoes - but then
I always do and these do not detract
from the distinctive identity of the
music. Think in terms of Rimsky’s
Antar, Borodin’s Prince
Igor, Stravinsky’s Firebird,
Griffes’ Pleasure Dome, Liadov’s
Baba-Yaga, Balakirev’s Tamara
and once or twice the dreamily
irresistible indulgence of Silvestrov’s
psychedelic Fifth Symphony. The music
is not at all hard going and is full
of interest and intrigue - engaging
at so many levels.
is Iranian and was born in Tehran in 1955. He attended the Tehran
Conservatory at the age of nine to study violin. He moved to
the USA in 19784 following graduation. There he attended Indiana
University and the Juilliard School where he currently teaches.
His works are published by Theodore Presser and he has a am
n impressive line-up of musicians who have pioneered his music.
These include Gerard Schwarz, Joshua Bell, JoAnne Falletta and
glistening and shimmering orchestration of Seven Passages
announces a composer who has learnt much from Rimsky-Korsakov
- especially Sadko and Antar- try 8:12 onwards.
Ranjbaran makes free with the complete Russian-Orientalist palette
gypped up with infusions of deafening quasi-Stravinskian stamping
figures (9:01 and the last three minutes of the work) and quaking
eruptive climaxes. Other parallels include Szymanowski and Griffes
such is the imagination of this music. The music is not in the
dissonant vein of some Tjeknavorian (try his first two symphonies!)
who might erroneously be thought of as a comparator - until
you hear the music. The sense of fantasy-nightmare is strong
at 10:03 onwards which seems to describe fearful landscapes.
This is not out of place as the story which forms its fons
et origo tells of the seven epic encounters endured by Rostam
in rescuing his king and countrymen from an alien realm. It
was the last of the trilogy to be completed and was premiered
by the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra conducted by JoAnn Falletta
at Long Beach, CA on 25 March 2000.
Seemorgh is sometimes shown as Simorgh. The latter
was the title Loris Tjeknavorian gave a ballet recorded by Unicorn
in the 1970s. The Simorgh is the Iranian phoenix which here
serves as a protector of Zaal and Rostam. There is a stunningly
thunderous fanfare that proclaims something both regal and awe-inspiring.
The mix is very similar to that of the Seven Passages.
This work was first performed on 27 March 1993 by JoAnn Falletta
and her Long Beach orchestra.
to three quarters of an hour the single largest component of
the trilogy is The Blood of Seyavash. This is
a ballet in seven scenes and seven is clearly a significant
number in the Shahnameh mythology. The Young Prince
and Heir is explosive and gaudily colourful. Seduction
by Betrayal has a sinuous beguiling sway that partly recalls,
in more intense colours, Balakirev’s Tamar. There is
even a Sheherazade-style violin solo. Trial by Fire
is a thunderous display piece which hammers away in punishing
salvos with wonderfully gritty brass work and splendid bass
response. It is rather like Mossolov’s Iron Foundry but
more humane. Tormented Loyalties is a lower-key character
piece with a memorably plaintive bassoon solo. Seeds of Envy
includes a delicate dancing music with much subtle soloistic
work including for harp. This leads naturally into Idyllic
Love where again the harp provides exotic silver-points
and where the high woodwind touching in the picture with gorgeous
bird song (‘high piping Pehlevi’ from Omar Khayyam, perhaps)
and exotically seductive waves of string sound. Prophecy
Fulfilled is black with ominous brass and Shostakovich style
clamour (2:03) and passing echoes of Stravinsky’s Rite.
disc was issued in 2004 - the same year as Albany’s CD of Ranjbaran’s
Cello Concerto on TROY648 (see review).
That same year also saw the disappearance outside the USA of
much of the Delos catalogue which cannot have helped to spread
the good news. This disc is in fact easily available on both
amazon.co.uk and amazon.com. As I write, amazon.com offer a
special deal if you buy both the Albany and Delos discs together.
to the generosity of the composer I have been able to audition
various other of his works. None of them are as Orientally exotic
as the Persian Trilogy but all are tonal, accessible
yet by no means bland. I was particularly struck by the Violin
Concerto (premiered down the road in Liverpool) by Joshua Bell
and the RLPO (9 January 2003). Gerard Schwarz is the conductor
there as he is also in the premiere of the voluptuous song cycle
with orchestra Songs of Eternity. This was sung at the
premiere by Renée Fleming. I trust that we will receive commercial
recordings of these works along with the luminous First Symphony.
not miss this disc. It is a natural for everyone who appreciates
the eternal exotic-legendary strand recorded in sensational
sound. While not as hothouse as Szymanowski this is music akin
to his writing as well as to that of such masters of gorgeous
and gaudy suggestion and mysterious fantasy illusion as Rozsa
Information about Ranjbaran