Harpsichord concerto - Digital EP
6 Sonatas for recorder
DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait) SACD: Selected Highlights
By Joshua Cheek
Harpsichordist, organist, scholar and musical gadfly Mahan Esfahani stands in the vanguard of the new generation of performers liberating instruments previously regarded as the provenance of the early music specialists and bringing them into 21st century concert halls with music to match.
Esfahani was born in Teheran in 1984 and raised in the United States. His first exposure to the sound of the harpsichord came from a bunch of cassettes an uncle had given him. Esfahani remembers: “One was of Karl Richter [the German conductor and harpsichordist] playing Bach. Well, I listened to it, and I thought: ‘This is what I’ve got to do.’ True to his word, he studied musicology and history at Stanford University and later, traveled to Boston where he studied harpsichord with Peter Watchorn before completing his artistic apprenticeship under the celebrated Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková.
Following his tutelage, Esfahani travelled to London to perform at a pri- vate event. This performance would be the first in a series of fortunate events moments for the young artist, for as it would happen, a staffer from the BBC was there and was impressed enough with Mahan to set the wheels in motion. In 2008 Esfahani became the first harpsichordist to be named a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist (2008-2010). Following a three-year stint as Artist-in-Residence at New College, Oxford, Esfah- ani continued to cultivate his academic associations, becoming an hon- orary member at Keble College, Oxford, and receiving a professorship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, but it is Esfahani’s work as performing artist and commentator that propelled him to the forefront of the classical music world. His creative programming and ad- vocacy of new works have drawn the attention of critics and audiences across Europe, Asia, and North America, earning him numerous acco- lades including the Borletti-Buitoni prize (2009), and thrice a nominee for Gramophone’s Artist of the Year (2014, 2015, and 2017).
Esfahani has performed solo recitals in most of the world’s major se- ries and concert halls, amongst them London’s Wigmore Hall and Barbi- can Centre, Oji Hall in Tokyo, the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, Shanghai Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Recital Centre, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Berlin Konzerthaus, Zürich Ton- halle, Wiener Konzerthaus, San Francisco Performances, the Edinburgh, Aspen and Aldeburgh Festivals, and the Leipzig Bach Festival. As satis- fying as solo performances are, Esfahani takes particular pride in show- casing his instrument in the concerto repertoire and has appeared as so- loist with the Chicago Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, BBC Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Melbourne Symphony, Auckland Philharmonia, Czech Radio Symphony, Orquesta de Navarra, Malta Philharmonic, Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Ham- burg Symphony, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, the Royal Northern Sinfonia, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, with whom he was an artistic partner for 2016-2018.
His richly-varied discography includes three critically-acclaimed record- ings for Hyperion – the C.P.E.Bach Württemberg Sonatas, a 2014 Gram- ophone Award winner, and the Complete Pièces de Clavecin of Rameau which was both nominated for a Gramophone Award and included on the New York Times Critics’ List of Top Recordings of 2014. His first al- bum for DG, Time Present and Time Past, earned a ‘Choc de Classica’ in France, while his 2016 release of Bach’s Goldberg Variations was named to the long list for the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik and won the BBC Music Magazine 2017 Instrumental Award. Esfahani’s work as a chamber music partner have proven equally magical, his 2016 recording of Corelli’s Op. 5 Sonatas in period arrangements for recorder with the legendary Michala Petri was awarded an ICMA Award in 2016.