Women Musicians in Large Iranian Orchestras


It is more than a century now that the sociologists consider the presence of women in different social domains as a benchmark for a society’s progress. They analyze the presence of women in society by the means of available statistics. Unfortunately, as with regard to the Iranian society, statistics related to women’s engagement, has not been available to the researchers, if they existed at all.

It is, however, important to estimate the presence of women in the domain of music. Therefore, this article seeks to estimate the number of women musicians in the large Iranian orchestras in the past three decades.

The first independent orchestra in Iran which was not affiliated to any music schools, and which complied with international standards was Baladieh (Municipality) Symphony Orchestra, established in 1934. This orchestra was conducted by Gholam Hossein Min Bashian (1907-1978). Some mistakenly consider this orchestra as Tehran Symphony Orchestra while Baladieh Orchestra’s independent activity was short-lived; it was moved to Tehran Higher Conservatory of Music in 1935. Out of forty members of this orchestra, three were ladies.

Tehran Symphony Orchestra commenced its professional performances in 1941 under the baton of Parviz Mahmoud (1910 – 1996). During the long and fruitful activities of this orchestra before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, four percent of its members were lady musicians.

After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, orchestras experienced a drastic fall in the number of their female members. This trend lingered up until the nineties when the membership of the ladies in orchestras boomed. This active engagement on the part of women in orchestras, which is estimated %18, overshadows the almost all-male musicians in orchestras in the years right after the Revolution.

Saba Orchestra was founded in 1957 simultaneously with the demise of its former conductor Abol Hassan Saba (1902-1957); the orchestra was a developed version of the Fine Arts Orchestra No. 1 which was affiliated to the Ministry of Culture and Arts.  Saba Orchestra experienced several pauses and the change of its members in the course of its activities which lasted up until 1980. Based on the surviving photos of the Orchestra, the presence of women is estimated at ten percent.

Iran National Radio and Television Large Orchestra experienced a four-percent presence of women musicians during its years of activities which covered 1972-1979. Fereydoun Naseri (1930-2005), Morteza Hananeh (1923-1989), Farhad Fakhredini (b. 1937) and Mohammad Shams (b. 1954) have conducted this orchestra.

In 1998, Farhad Fakhredini convened the National Orchestra consisting of several members of the dissolved Iran National Radio and Television Large Orchestra and several young musicians. Twenty eight percent of the orchestra, which was active until 2009, was ladies. This orchestra was resurrected by Bardia Kiaras in 2010 after a year of silence.

Shiraz Hengam Orchestra was founded in 2002by Rouzbeh Tabanded who also conducted it. Hengam Orchestra, with thirteen-percent female musicians, is regarded as a prolific orchestra with annual performances in either Shiraz or Tehran every year ever since its establishment.

Parsian orchestra is another large orchestra which was founded in 2003 as a string orchestra. The orchestra which is directed by Mazyar Zahireddini was transformed into chamber orchestra in 2011. The orchestra enjoys a twenty-one-percent presence of women musicians.

It can be concluded that the number of women in large orchestras has gone through a %15.5 increase comparing the pre-Revolution %5.5  with the post-Revolution %21.5. However, identifying the social causes of such a popularity remains at the hands of the sociologists.

 Translated by Mahboube Khalvati

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *
Your email is never shared.

Principles of Violin Playing (X)

Creating sound continuity between two notes in the source and destination positions when left hand position changes and “two different finger numbers” are involved is called portamento. Portamento can be performed on single string or two neighboring strings and with hand moving on fingerboard either upward or downward.

Musical Sense or Technique?

One of the most popular terms used by Iranian instrumentalists is the existence or a lack of musical “sense”. Both musicians and fans of music consider having “sense” while playing music as an important principle to the extent that they use it vis-a-vis having technique.

From Past Days…


Principles of Violin Playing (I)

The present series of training articles, “Principles of Violin Playing”, seek to help students, to appropriately understand this field, by gradually introducing, categorizing, and teaching the myriad relevant points. One of the principles of playing violin, which must be always kept in mind, is that the selection of the most natural position for the body parts while playing is the best and most appropriate solution. As a matter of fact, any unnatural body part position which requires lots of energy or unusual stretching to maintain, is wrong.


Principles of Violin Playing (IX)

4.3.1. To practice playing of doubles of notes involving two different fingers, each note is played at separate bows with slow tempo, each note is played perfectly regarding its bass and tenor sounds and then the considered double is played at another bow while considering the resulted sound of the double.


The Mystery of Messiah

Antonio Stradivari (1644 – 18 December 1737) was an Italian luthier and is considered the most significant and greatest artisan in this field.


Ali Rahbari & Recording Iranian Symphonic Compositions

In the few days prior to the New Iranian year (March 2015), the news of the revival of Tehran Symphony Orchestra under Ali (Alexander) Rahbari’s conductorship was announced. Ali Rahbari, who served as assistant to Herbert von Karajan in Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at a very young age, was also invited to conduct Tehran Symphony Orchestra in 2005; however, the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government put an end to his collaboration with this Orchestra. Recently, it was announced that Rahbari is invited to conduct an orchestra in the U.S.


Call for papers SIMF 1396

The Association of Iranian Contemporary Music Composers (ACIMC) and SHAHREAFTAB Art & Cultural Association are pleased to announce a call for papers for SIMF 1396.


Henry Cowell: “Persian Set”

Persian Set: Four Movements for chamber orchestra: Moderato; Allegretto; Lento; Rondo

Henry Cowell, one of the most innovative American composers of the 20th century, was born in 1897. Cowell and his wife visited Iran in 1956 and stayed there the whole winter, upon the invitation by the Iranian Royal Family, when he composed his album “Persian Set” in four movements for chamber orchestra. His composition is expressive of the characteristic quality of the Persian or the Iranian music.


Non-profit “Microtona” Project Released

Microtona is a sixty-eight-page Booklet with personal comments by the contributing microtonal artists. The booklet also includes a DVD which consists of 8 original video tracks and 9 original audio tracks. The project is an international one featuring unpublished pieces by composers from Iran, Japan, U.S., France, Austria, Germany and Belgium.


“Pledge of Love”

The “Pledge of Love” is the first album in a series composed based on the tasnifs by the renowned Iranian tasnif-maker Mohammad Ali Amir Jahed and recorded by Sahba Kohan Ensemble with Ramin Bahiraie as signer.


HarmonyTalk Celebrates 11th Anniversary

April 6 marks the anniversary of launching HarmonyTalk.com. Back in 2004, HarmonyTalk was rather a blog dedicated to music. Gradually, however, it found its way to becoming a more sophisticated journal with an intensive but not exclusive concentration on classical music.


Women Musicians in Large Iranian Orchestras

It is more than a century now that the sociologists consider the presence of women in different social domains as a benchmark for a society’s progress. They analyze the presence of women in society by the means of available statistics. Unfortunately, as with regard to the Iranian society, statistics related to women’s engagement, has not been available to the researchers, if they existed at all.