first things first
In 2008, for the first time in BBC history, a harpsichordist was named a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist. That harpsichordist is Mahan Esfahani, who appears with LACO for one night only on November 12 at Zipper Concert Hall. In 2011, Mahan made history again as the first-ever harpsichordist chosen to give a solo harpsichord recital in the history of the BBC Proms.
In 2014, Mahan broke new ground as the first harpsichordist to be nominated for both the Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist of the Year and Gramophone Artist of the Year. To add to his long list of musical accomplishments, Mahan received the BBC Music Magazine ‘Newcomer of the Year’ award in 2015, and was nominated for Best Baroque Instrument, Best Instrumental, and Artist of the Year for the Gramophone Awards. Just recently, his album Rameau: Pièces de clavecin was nominated for Limelight’s Recording of the Year. Not bad, not bad at all.
how to annoy your father…
Mahan, who studied piano with his father growing up in Washington DC, reports, “I thought, ‘How can I annoy Dad? I’ll play the harpsichord.’ So you know, it was a bit of teenage rebellion..But the harpsichord I just always had a love for.”
Mahan Esfahani makes his case for his chosen instrument in this NPR interview with Robert Siegel. As Peter Lynan writes in the International Record Review, “[his playing] holds the attention with ease and is a pleasure to hear…the harpsichord may never quite be mainstream material, but you sense that, if it were ever to get there, Esfahani might just be the man to make it happen.”
Decide for yourself at Baroque Conversations on November 12.
“…a brilliant player…dashingly eloquent, dizzyingly skilled, Esfahani makes the harpsichord seem an instrument reborn.”(The Times, London)
And in the world of academia, he is no slouch either. He pursued a double degree in musicology and history at Stanford, where he was mentored by George Houle before studying intensively with Peter Watchorn in Boston and the celebrated Zuzana Růžičková in Prague. Mahan was also the Artist-in-Residence at New College, Oxford from 2008 to 2010. Just this year, Mahan— became professor of harpsichord at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.
an oboist (allan vogel) and a harpsichordist (mahan esfahani) walk into a bar…
… and talk about goose feathers. Yes, goose feathers. Turns out that goose feathers are essential to both instruments. For oboes, goose feathers are used to distribute the moisture inside the instrument, and for harpsichords, the plectra (the hook that plucks the strings) is actually made from the quill of the feather. If you have more questions about goose feathers, the oboe or the harpsichord, come hear LACO principal oboe Allan Vogel perform Bach’s Sonata in G minor for Oboe and Harpsichord with Mahan Esfahani on November 12. Both Vogel and Esfahani will take questions after the performance. FYI, Esfahani, reputedly quite the raconteur, will also share his thoughts about the music to introduce the works on the program in LACO’s popular Baroque Conversations format. And, btw, all ticket holders are invited to a free wine reception before the concert. What’s not to like?
cello or harpsichord? here’s one good reason to choose the latter.
Cellists spend a fortune on flying their instruments to gigs. Will Mahan Esfahani buy a plane ticket for a harpsichord when he travels to Los Angeles? Luckily, no. He’ll get to choose the harpsichord he wishes to play from the collection housed in the basement studio of Curtis Berak in the warehouse district. You can read the back story of this premier supplier of harpsichords up and down the California coast here. And to hear Berak’s explanation of the saying often painted on Flemish harpsichords, “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi” (“Thus passes the glory of the world”), watch this video. Hint, it’s a double entendre which refers both to the harpsichord’s inability to sustain a note and the ephemeral brevity of life.