Join Mahan Esfahani a day before his Cosmopolis Festival solo recital as he discusses the harpsichord, an instrument popular in the 18th century, its role in the modern concert hall, and keeping the repertoire and the music fresh for today’s audiences. Presented in collaboration with Premiere Performances Hong Kong.
Since making his London debut in 2009, Mahan Esfahani has established himself as the first harpsichordist in a generation whose work spans virtually all the areas of classical music-making from critically acclaimed performances and recordings of the standard repertoire to working with the leading composers of the day to pioneering concerto appearances with major symphony orchestras on four continents. He was the first and only harpsichordist to be a BBC New Generation Artist (2008–2010), a Borletti-Buitoni prize winner (2009), a nominee for Gramophone’s Artist of the Year (2014, 2015, 2017), and on the shortlist as Instrumentalist of the Year for the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards (2013, 2019).
As a concerto soloist his partners at the podium have included leading conductors such as Leif Segerstam, François Xavier-Roth, Ilan Volkov, Riccardo Minasi, Ludovic Morlot, Alexander Liebreich, Martyn Brabbins, Thomas Dausgaard, Antoni Wit, Thierry Fischer, Jiří Bělohlávek, and Andris Poga with major symphony and chamber orchestras and contemporary music ensembles. He also varies his solo engagements with meaningful chamber music partnerships alongside artists such as Antje Weithaas (violin), Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Michala Petri (recorder), Adam Walker (flute), and Hille Perl (viola da gamba).
Esfahani’s work with new and modern music is particularly acclaimed, with high-profile solo and concertante commissions from George Lewis, Bent Sørensen, Poul Ruders, Anahita Abbasi, Laurence Osborne, Gary Carpenter, Miroslav Srnka, Elena Kats-Chernin, Daniel Kidane, Michael Berkeley, and other contemporary voices in forming the backbone of his repertoire. His commitment to exploring the contemporary voice for the harpsichord is reflected in his 2020 Hyperion release ‘Musique?’ – a compilation of electronic and acoustic works including the modern revival of Luc Ferrari’s 1974 Programme commun for harpsichord and tape.
His richly varied discography for Hyperion and Deutsche Grammophon – including an ongoing series of the complete works of Bach for the former – has been acclaimed in the English- and foreign-language press and has garnered one Gramophone Award, two BBC Music Magazine Awards, a Diapason d’Or and ‘Choc de Classica’ in France, and an ICMA, as well as numerous Editor’s Choices in a variety of publications including a spot in the Telegraph’s compilation of essential classical music and the New York Times List of Top Recordings.
He can be frequently heard as a commentator on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 and as a host for such programs as Record Review, Building a Library, and Sunday Feature, as well as in live programs with the popular mathematician and presenter Marcus du Sautoy; for the BBC’s Sunday Feature he is currently at work on his fourth radio documentary following popular programs on such subjects as the early history of African-American composers in the classical sphere and the development of orchestral music in Azerbaijan.
Born in Tehran in 1984, Esfahani grew up in the United States and studied musicology and history at Stanford University and studied in Boston with Peter Watchorn before completing his studies in Prague with the celebrated Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková. Following several years spent in Milan, Oxford, and London, he now makes his home in Prague.