"What a pity!" A phrase we have repeatedly used in the past few months mourning the loss of Persian musicians and singers. And now the same phrase is repeated for Mostafa Kasravi, bassoon player and great Persian composer; the composer of "Arbor Day Hymn," "Shoustari Overture," "Goftegoo Kon, Jostejoo Kon," etc.
Kasravi departed from this world in the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006 at the age of 83.
Unlike his work, Kasravi's name is not much known for his countrymen. He was an adept instrumentalist in bassoon and former professor at the Tehran Conservatory of Music, and also conductor of Nakisa Orchestra in Radio Tehran.
Exhausted, Kasravi had long been residing in Lost Angeles, California, keeping himself secluded in a self-imposed expatriate exile while occasionally making short visits home. Before death, he went to Mecca to pay pilgrimage, intending to go to Tehran shortly after that but eventually died in Saudi Arabia. His daughter, Nazi Kasravi, speaks of his father's departure:
"My father was completely healthy when he was going to Mecca for pilgrimage and according to what the tour director told my brother, he had even finished the ritual of tavaf when he returned to his room in the hotel and left shortly to go to the bazaar. However, his health suddenly declined. He was taken to a hospital for medical examination but apparently none of the tests showed any physical malfunction. This had even puzzled the doctors, trying to find out the reason that seemed to exacerbate his physical deterioration which eventually led to his death. "
- Has the cause of death been determined yet?
Not yet. I have even asked for the death certificate to be sent to me, but since it is the time of the Hajj it is hard to establish any kind of connection to Mecca and it takes time to receive a more precise report. As far as I knew, he was extremely happy and healthy when he was going to Mecca and was planning to come to Iran from there. Many people were expecting him in Iran . He had many plans when coming to Iran but could not fulfill any of them. My father was buried in Mecca on the day he passed away.
- Are there going to be any funerals in Tehran?
For now, I have tried my best to inform my relatives for a gathering. Since we have missed the third and seventh days of his passing away, we decided to get together on Dec. 30. Iran's national broadcast has also made an announcement and those who are interested are more than welcome to attend his memorial. Otherwise, I hope with the help of Iran's House of Music we can bring together my father's colleagues, friends, and fans at some more appropriate time.
- How did the IRIB and other media in Tehran react to the news of your father's passing away?
Not much is seen till now! I could only have the national TV announce the news since I was asked by family members to let the public know what happened to avoid future complains. Until now, no one has contacted me except for you. During the years my father paid occasional visits home and was insisting to get in touch with his fellow colleagues, his abilities were not used as much as they could have while he had lots of potentials to the time of death.
- What is to happen to your father's compositions? Who is keeping his music notes now?
Part of it is in the U.S. and a lot of his handwritten notes are with me. I have all his works, including the arranged works along with a communiqué from the radio station. I have asked one of my friends who is in contact with the national radio and television to ask what to do with the scores and how they must be kept but I still not made any conclusive decision. However, I am open to any kind of suggestion or advice. The works no longer belong to us and rather belong to the Iranian nation.
- Are any of Late Master Kasravi's children active in the fields of music?
No! Unfortunately, my father was not interested in getting any of us involved with music. He did not even allow us to learn how to play an instrument. He had totally separated his work from home life.
- Why do you think he did not want his children to get involved with music?
He believed it is painstaking. He used to tell us how hard it is to keep one's soul healthy in this field. It is hard to remain righteous, maintain a healthy character and at the same time be able to carry through in the realm of music.
* * *
Born in 1924 in Torbat Heidariyeh, Mostafa Kasravi earned his diploma in bassoon from Tehran Conservatory of Music and for several years studied music in Santa Cecilia Conservatory of Rome and the Pontificio Istituto Ambrosiano di Musica Sacra (The Pontifical Ambrosian Institute of Sacred Music) in Italy. He played with Persian National Music Society Orchestra conducted by Rouhollah Khaleghi and between 1946 and 1954 played at the Tehran Symphony Orchestra.
In 1977, Kasravi left Persia (Iran) for the U.S. with his family. For a period of 7 years starting from 1986, he played bassoon in the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra in Bellingham, WA. During those years, one of his compositions called Mahour, deeply inspired by Persian music and written for large orchestras, was included in one of the performances of the orchestra conducted by Paul Featherstone.
Kasravi used to say: "The young musicians who intend to do something for their country's music must have patience and study hard. However, learning the harmony and counterpoints is not everything. Harmony by itself has numerous subdivisions. We must find out which one is practical for Persian music. Once passion and interest come into play, one must not fear the problems that arise. The westerners have come to the conclusion not to teach anything to the easterners. Once one of my masters drew a painting based on the composition of my notes instead of correcting them. Considering all these problems, we must step forward firmly to find delicacies and different approaches. Once studies are completed to a certain degree, we may extract more from the rich sources of Persian music ..."
In 1993, Kasravi decided to leave the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra and return to Persia to continue his activities in his homeland. On the other hand, the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra played a new version of Kasravi's "Shoustari Overture" to honor his seven years of contributions. Performance of this piece which was full of elements of Persian music received interesting feedbacks from Bellingham's media. Nick Brassard, principal conductor of the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra who also conducted Kasravi's piece, says: "Performance of this piece by us is just like asking the New Orleans jazz group play traditional Chinese music!"
In addition to an interview with Kasravi, the Bellingham Herald Newspaper put his photo on its cover page and called on Kasravi as an artist lost by Iran and won by America.
Following his last concert at Bellingham, Kasravi left the U.S. for Persia. However, during his stay in the country, he only wrote a short piece by the commission of Channel 3. He said: "No one remembered me anymore and I had no choice but to return to the States after a while."
During the years that followed, Kasravi found not much opportunity for his artistic activities. Every once in a while, the Persian TV channels and media based in Los Angeles would invite him for an interview; and he only succeeded in releasing limited numbers of two tape records of his works in LA with an interesting note to the audience which reads: "These works are not meant for dancing. Please listen to them when you found a proper time."
Training bassoon players was another side to Mostafa Kasravi's artistic endeavors. The most outstanding musician who was trained by Kasravi in the Conservatory of Tehran is Khosrow Soltani who later resumed his music activities in Austria. I had a chance to have a short talk with him from afar on the occasion of his master's passing away:
"Hearing that Mr. Kasravi passed away brought back the same feeling I experienced when my own father died since Mostafa Kasravi was both my maestro and father. I was in his music class ever since I started learning music at the age of 12. He taught me both music lessons and lessons of life. We were constantly in touch with each other until lately; this means 40 years of close connection with Mr. Kasravi. This is why his death was extremely sad for me."
- Do you have any particular memory of Master Kasravi in mind during the time you were learning bassoon in the Conservatory?
When we entered the conservatory, no one knew what type of an instrument to play. We needed an advice as to which instrument we could play. Te first day I went to the Conservatory, a four-member jury (consisting of Gholam-Hossein Gharib, Morteza Hananeh, Hossein Nassehi, and Mostafa Kasravi) was assigning each applicant to a particular instrument. As soon as Mr. Kasravi saw me, he asked to put me in his class to learn bassoon. Since then, I have neither changed the instrument I play nor have I ever had any problem with it. The path of my life was indeed determined by his selection.
- Once you finished your studies in bassoon playing at the Tehran Conservatory, you continued in Vienna Music Academy in the same field. What differences did you see between the teaching style of Mostafa Kasravi who was a Persian maestro and that of your masters in Austria?
Of course from a technical point of view his teaching method was different from that of Non-Persian masters, but as far as the music content is involved, there were not much difference. Such differences are unavoidable when changing schools. I always adored him since he had learned a lot during the short period he studied abroad. Not only was Kasravi proficient at western music, he had also mastered classic Persian music. The music of one of the most striking songs by the prominent Persian vocalist Moahmmad-Reza Shajarian (Which nation do we belong to, Which faith ...) is one of Mr. Kasravi's works. I do hope that the young generation comes to appreciate such masters we are now becoming deprived of. Of course these people are gone and we can do nothing about that, but we can learn from the paths undertaken by them. My condolences to his family and all Persian musicians ...
- Persian translation of above article and audio link of Kasravi's works have been published in Radio Zamaneh website:
About the author: Pejman Akbarzadeh is a 26-year old pianist and writer in Amsterdam. He is a member of "Artists Without Frontiers" ( www.artistswithoutfrontiers.com/pakbarzadeh ) and representative of "Persian Gulf Online Organization" ( www.persiangulfonline.org ) in the Netherlands. His book about 20th century Persian (Iranian) Musicians was cited as "an honor to Persian musicological circles" in the Maryland-based "Iranian Musicology Quarterly".
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