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Another Look at the Tehran Symphony Orchestra's Concert in Germany

By Pejman Akbarzadeh

Osnabrück - On Sunday, August 20, 2006, Tehran Symphony Orchestra performed in a concert in Osnabrück, Germany. This program, which in fact marked the opening of the oriental festival "Morgenland" was attended by about 1400 audience and was held in the main hall of the city of Osnabrück, "Stadthalle".

Before the Orchestra began its performance, Hans Jürgen-Fip, Mayor of the host city of Osnabrück, briefly talked about difficulties in holding this program and said: "Up until this night, I could not make myself believe that Tehran Symphony Orchestra would hold any concerts in Osnabrück!" His speech was followed by remarks delivered by Michael Dreyer, the Festival artistic director, and Mohammad-Mehdi Akhoundzadeh, Iran's Ambassador in Germany, who talked about the procedures for holding of the Concert and its importance from their own perspectives.

The programs of Tehran Symphony Orchestra (TSO) in the Morgenland Festival included pieces from Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet", Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, "Fih-e Maa Fih" composed by Nader Mashayekhi, "Persian Suite" (in four movements) by Hassan (Bahman) Riahi, and another work by Frank Zappa, the American composer.

The conductor and musicians of TSO had tried very hard in increasing the quality of their performance in Germany; however, some old shortages in their works such as lack of balance between wind and string instruments were still evident.

The "Persian Suite" (in four movements entitled Mazandarani Lullaby, Qashqayi Dance, Yek Hamoumi, and Turkmen's Dance) is for piano and orchestra and is inspired by Persian folk music. Amir Sarraf was the solo pianist in this part of the performance. "Fih-e Maa Fih" was composed for voice, Daf (a Persian percussion instrument) and orchestra, performed by Salar Aghili, young Persian vocalist, accompanied by his wife, Harir Shariatzadeh who played the Daf. Following the enormous applause drawn from the audience after the end of their performance, they performed another piece accompanied by Setar performance and singing of Salar Aghili, but the Orchestra did not play an additional piece.

In addition to the Persians (Iranians) who reside in Osnabrück, Persians who live in the nearby cities had also come to attend the Concert. They were contented to see the only symphony orchestra of their homeland perform in the country of their residence. A lot of them had also invited their German friends to the Concert. The non-Persians who attended the program mostly called the atmosphere created by Persian instruments "strange", albeit they described it as enchanting and interesting.

Besides the mass of reporters who had come to give coverage of the concert, a number of representatives from the European-based Persian language media, a considerable number of reporters from the German mass media such as Deutsche Welle, Tags Spiegel, and NDR were also present during the program. A press conference followed the concert which was very brief as not many questions were raised by the reporters. In the press conference, a Persian (Iranian) journalist who lives in Europe addressed Mashayekhi and said: "On the one hand, you have emphasized that your objectives are not political and are only meant to present art in the form of music; yet on the other hand, you mentioned in one of your interviews in Tehran that you are intending to bring the attention of the world to Israeli atrocities in Lebanon. Also, you included a piece in your program which was composed by the person who also composed the anthem of the Islamic Republic and has been active and involved in governmental organizations of Iran to a large extent. Don't you see these facts contrary to the claim that you have no political intention behind your program?" In response to this question, Mashayekhi said that he had only talked about a possible joint program with the Lebanese musicians and that what he had said in that interview was misunderstood by the reporters.

The interview was published by the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) in Persian:

In a short message sent to the concert which was also published in the concert program, Daniel Barenboim, famous pianist, conductor and peace activist, addresses the performance by Tehran Symphony Orchestra and says: "A friendly dialogue and cultural exchange between the nations, especially at a time when such discussions at a political level have encountered difficulties, has a special meaning. For this reason, meeting the musicians of Tehran Symphony Orchestra was a unique opportunity not only for music enthusiasts and those involved in the area of music in Germany, but also for all human beings, whether here or in Iran, who observe a common fate for humanity."

Published in German, this concert program also includes some information about the history of Tehran Symphony Orchestra, although some important parts regarding the history of the Orchestra is left out.

The conducting of Tehran Symphony Orchestra has been given to several conductors during the recent years, but they resigned one after the other as a result of lack of a proper planning as well as funding shortages. Last year, Ali (Alexander) Rahbari, the most outstanding Persian conductor in the world became the principal conductor of TSO; however, after only a few months and after conducting his last concert with the Symphony Orchestra in Roudaki (Vahdat) Hall, he stood on the stage, addressed the audience and announced that due to the minimal attention given to the Orchestra and its existing problems and the low income received by its musicians, he resigns from his position. Later on, the conducting of the Orchestra was taken over by the Vienna-based avant-garde Persian composer Nader Mashayekhi who has had limited career as a conductor. He has recently spoken of the increasing attention given to TSO. However, we must wait and see whether the conditions will improve upon his return to Persia (Iran) and continuation of his cooperation or he will fail just like the others in trying to eliminate the problems of the Orchestra, be it financial and/or professional.

Nearly 60 years have passed since Tehran Symphony Orchestra was founded. The Orchestra was conducted by Parviz Mahmoud and has its roots in Baladieh (Municipality) Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gholam-Hossein Minbashian. During the years that followed, conductors such as Rubik (Ruben) Gregorian, Morteza Hannaneh, Heimo Tauber, Heshmat Sanjari, and Farhad Meshkat took over as the conductors of the Orchestra. Following the 1979 Revolution, the large outflow of migration of musicians from Persia, and the decrease in the budgets and facilities granted to music, the Orchestra underwent many changes, both in the quantity and quality of its works; changes that it still suffers from despite passing of nearly three decades from the Revolution.

Persian translation of above article has been published in the Amsterdam-based Radio Zamaneh website:
(English translation by Maryam Tabeshian)
About the author: Pejman Akbarzadeh is a 26-year old pianist and writer. He is a member of "Artists Without Frontiers" ( ) and representative of "Persian Gulf Online Organization" ( ) in Tehran and Amsterdam. His book about 20th century Persian (Iranian) Musicians was cited as "an honor to Persian musicological circles" in the Maryland-based "Iranian Musicology Quarterly".

... Payvand News - 8/30/06 ... --

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