Classical Album of the week in London Newspaper "Times".
May 10, 2022
Classical album of the week: Mahan Esfahani, the dynamic harpsichord star.
Mahan Esfahani review — think you know the harpsichord? Think again
Danish composer Poul Ruders (left) with Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani JES VANG
Mahan Esfahani Poul Ruders, Our Recordings ★★★★☆
A century ago, harpsichords were generally regarded as interesting silvery creatures pushed out of history by the rise of the piano. That’s scarcely true today, not with the growth of the period instrument movement, nor with the rise of Mahan Esfahani, the dynamic Iranian-American who believes the harpsichord should stop at nothing, not even a minimalist milestone such as Steve Reich’s Piano Phase.
Esfahani particularly welcomes new concertos for his instrument, though it usually needs a little amplifying to make itself heard against a full orchestra. Here, on a digital-only release, we find him bustling through a recent concerto by the Danish composer Poul Ruders, best known here for his abrasive opera The Handmaid’s Tale, revived last month in London. The new work, a modern twist on the baroque concerto model, is a far easier listen, though you wouldn’t imagine from the headlong dash of its outer movements that the harpsichord can also delight in suave melodies; decorative flourishes, too.
Matters calm down in the worried beauties of the magical slow movement, where Ruders’ ear for colour and texture is particularly acute. Elsewhere in this live recording of the work’s 2020 premiere, Esfahani’s sparkle and energy meet their match in the spry sounds of the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the Finnish maverick Leif Segerstam. All in all, I emerged from listening feeling refreshed and very clean, as if I’d just stepped out of a hot shower. Geoff Brown, May 11th 2022