Mahan EsfahaniHarpsichord

Mahan Esfahani

PIVOT: New Adventures in the Performing Arts

Saturday, October 8, 2016 | 8:30pm

A.C.T.’s Strand Theater | Rembe Stage

$25 General Admission


WILLIAM BYRD: Pavan and Galliard “The Passing-Measures” (Nevell MS, 1591)
KAIJA SAARIAHO: Le Jardin Secret II (1987)
TORU TAKEMITSU: Rain Dreaming (1986)
J.S. BACH: Toccata in C, BWV 911
LOU HARRISON: Six Sonatas (1943)
W.F. BACH: Sonata in D, F3 (1745)
STEVE REICH: Piano Phase (1968)

The program will be 60-75 minutes long, without intermission.

About This Performance

The PIVOT series opens with the SF debut of Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani. Esfahani studied musicology and history at Stanford University, and is now based in Prague. His one-man campaign to prove the continuing relevance of an instrument often seen as a polite and delicate antique has elicited outsized responses: he nearly caused a riot in Germany with a performance of the electronic work Piano Phase by minimalist master Steve Reich. Time Present & Time Past pairs baroque and contemporary music, deftly relating the received tradition of Byrd and Scarlatti to the fresh airs of Lou Harrison and Kaija Saariaho. His Deutsche Grammophon album of the same title is the storied label's first release of a harpsichord album in over 30 years.

“Now he emerges as a superstar whose musicianship, imagination, virtuosity, cultural breath and charisma far transcends the ivory tower in which the harpsichord has traditionally been placed.”

—The Times

Performer Biography

Since making his London debut in 2009, Mahan Esfahani has ushered the harpsichord into the mainstream of concert life performing in leading venues around the globe such as the Tonhalle in Zurich, Cologne Philharmonie, Vienna Konzerthaus, and Berlin Konzerthaus, and London's Wigmore Hall, where over the next five seasons he explores Bach’s works for harpsichord beginning with the Goldberg Variations in December 2016.

Esfahani was born in Tehran in 1984, and emigrated to Washington, D.C. four years later. He studied musicology and history at Stanford University, and completed his formation as a harpsichordist with the celebrated Zuzana Růžičková in Prague, where he now resides.

Mahan has achieved several firsts for a harpsichordist, just some of which include being a BBC New Generation Artist from 2008–2010, a Borletti-Buitoni Trust prizewinner, being shortlisted both for the Royal Philharmonic Society “Instrumentalist of the Year” and Gramophone “Artist of the Year” two years in a row, and performing the first harpsichord recital in the history of the BBC Proms in 2011.

In North American following acclaimed appearances last season with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, in the 2016–2017 season Esfahani becomes the ‘Baroque Conversations’ Artistic Partner with LACO for the next three seasons. He will then give recitals at Duke University, the McCarter Theater in Princeton, the Isabel Bader Center in Kingston, Ontario, and New York’s 92nd Street Y, and joins Montreal’s Les Violons du Roy for concerti by Bach and Gorecki. Following two successful albums for Hyperion Records, garnering a 2014 Gramophone Award and BBC Music Magazine’s “Newcomer of the Year”, Esfahani signed as an exclusive artist with Deutsche Grammophon. His first album for DG/Archiv, Time Present and Time Past—combining baroque and modern music—was released in Spring of 2015 to great critical acclaim. His recent recording, Bach: Goldberg Variations, was released by DG in August 2016.

Mahan Esfahani—Time Present And Time Past (Trailer)