Amir Mahyar TAFRESHIPOUR (b.1974) Persian Echoes: Concerto for harp and orchestra (2005) [21:17]
Alas: Quintet in two movements for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and piano
Lucid Dreams: Trio for harp, violin and cello [8:21]
in C [9:25]
Christopher O’Neal (oboe); Helen Pierce (clarinet); Richard Skinner
(bassoon); Katie Pryce (horn); Adi Tal (cello); Gabriella Dall’Olio (harp);
Mary Dullea (piano)
Crash Ensemble/Darragh Morgan (violin)
English Chamber Orchestra/Alexander Rahbari
rec. 12 April 2016, Henry Wood Hall, London; 16 December 2014, The Forge,
London; 28 June 2015 All Saints Church, London; 6 and 2 September 2016 St
Peter’s Church, Drogheda
World premiere recordings.
I’m normally reticent about trying music by living composers, partly out of
fear that it may all turn out to be an avant-garde crash-bang experience,
and partly because my tutors 50+ years ago forbade anything more ‘modern’
than Swinburne and Tennyson in an English degree syllabus1 and
the concept remains in the back of my mind that it’s impossible to judge
Throw in the exotic-sounding Persian Echoes – the title not just of
the first work but of the whole CD – by a composer whose name sounds
exotic, too, and I’ll give it a try. In this case I started by dipping a
toe in via
Naxos Music Library,
a most valuable aid if you are not sure whether to buy the CD or the
download and would like to try it first. Choose the ‘premium’ stream at
320kbs and you have a fair idea of how the CD will sound, though the 24-bit
outdoes even the disc in that respect and can be obtained for a very
reasonable $8.83. (16-bit CD-quality for an even more reasonable $5.80).
Both the NML streamed version and the eclassical.com download come with the
In the event, Persian Dreams, billed as the first-ever Iranian harp
concerto, turns out to be both exotic and avant-garde to a degree, the
presence of the harp both mitigating the modernity and reminding the
listener of Debussy and Ravel. At times the music is almost as magically
enticing as the latter’s entrancing Introduction and Allegro for
harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet, at other times more challenging.
It’s good, too, to see fellow Iranian Alexander Rahbari conducting; it’s
some time since he made several worthwhile orchestral and opera recordings
for Naxos, including a sensitive account of Debussy’s Images and Martyre de Saint Sébastien (8.550505 – stream from
Naxos Music Library)
and a Madama Butterfly with a very fine heroine in Miriam Gauci
(8.660015/6 – stream from
Naxos Music Library).
The ‘vast landscape’ of Alas, as the blurb describes it, is
certainly more challenging and I didn’t find anything here on which to hang
my coat. In fact, ‘vast landscape’ would not be my description, not by
comparison with, say, Aaron Copland. This particular landscape is to be
found in the desert region of Kavir e Lut in central Iran where ‘the only
music is total silence’. I need longer to come to terms with this work –
if I ever do.
The presence of the harp again in Lucid Dreams grounds this work
rather more, but don’t expect anything as enticing as Debussy’s Trio for
flute, viola and harp, coupled with the Ravel in classic performances from
the Melos Ensemble (Decca 4211542, mid-price, with Franck and Debussy
Violin Sonatas, Kyung-Wha Chung and Radu Lupu).
Overall, I found the music challenging rather than amenable. It’s good to
be challenged and I shall persevere, especially with the title work, where
I can’t deny the accuracy of the description of the ‘evocative modes and
the lively rhythms of the region’s folk music’.
I take the well-recorded performances to be authoritative. The composer’s
note in the booklet are brief but to the point.
I do recommend, however, streaming or sampling first if possible before
buying the CD or download.
At least they were more enlightened than Robert Graves’ tutors, who rebuked
him for preferring some works to others.
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