A Promising Concert by National Instruments Orchestra

The National Instruments Orchestra of Iran performed its first concert amid much hope and anxiety on July 18, 2015. The Orchestra is founded by Roudaki Cultural and Arts Foundation which is a semi-private foundation in Iran. The Arts Director for the National Instruments Orchestra of Iran is Ali (Alexander) Rahbari and the Orchestra Executive Director is Sadjad Pourghand.
The National Instruments Orchestra of Iran can be considered as an evolution upon Faramarz Payvar’s Orchestra, established in 1968, and the Plectrum Orchestra which was founded by Hossein Dehlavi in 1993. The feature which these three orchestras share with each other is the support they received from state organizations.
One of the most significant orchestras on such a large scale, as the National Instruments Orchestra of Iran, was Simorq Orchestra founded by Hamid Motebassem an Iranian composer and Tar and Setar player. Simorq Orchestra, a private one, could stage several performances in Iran and even embarked on a concert tour in Europe. Hamid Motebassem also served as the concert soloist for his own piece entitled “Vanoosheh.”
Hossein Alishapour and Vahid Taj were the concert singers whose performance drew the audience’s admiration.
The National Instruments Orchestra of Iran includes both plucked, bowed, wind and percussion instruments: Tar, Bam Tar, Setar, Santour, Qanoon, Oud, Kamancheh, Gheichak, Bass Gheichak, Alto Gheichak, Ney, Dayereh, Daf, Tonbak.
The Orchestra was conducted by Iranian conductor Esmaeel Tehrani. Tehrani who is in his late 60s was born in Tehran and is a graduate from National Music Conservatory of Iran. He plays santour and is a composer as well.
The concert repertory included compositions by five generations of composers who follow Ali Naghi Vaziri’s school of thought. One of the most prominent composers of Vaziri’s school of though is Hossein Dehlavi. For this reason, the concert was opened with Dehlavi’s “Nokhost Golbang-e Mezrabi (for plectrum orchestra)” as a tribute to the composer.
Given the disputable belief that the Iranian classical music is unison by nature, the National Instruments Orchestra of Iran was convened to perform polyphonic Iranian pieces composed for all the above-mentioned Iranian instruments.
The concert brochure reads:
Based on ethnomusicological evidences, Iran is one of the few countries which possess national classical music. In all the years that the Iranian classical music has been developing in terms of performing and composing techniques, need for a state-owned orchestra which would be capable of performing polyphonic Iranian music was highlighted.
However, the issue was never addressed in a sustainable manner. In other words, orchestras which were established for performing the Iranian classical music had brief existences due to different problems such as budget shortage, lack of state support.
One of the challenges this orchestra is dealing with is the lack of pieces composed for an orchestra with such a capability in terms of versatility and inclusiveness of Iranian musical instruments as an instance.
Although the National Instruments Orchestra of Iran still has to walk a long way to attract its audience from the public, its goal and path is well understood and appreciated among the majority of the Iranian musicians including those who deny it

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Iranian Fallacies – Global Performance

One of the most important criteria for measuring the quality of a piece of classical music is number of times the piece has been performance by different ensembles and orchestras in different eras. This belief has become so pervasive in some societies, such as Iranian society, that it is considered the only criterion for measuring the quality of a piece of classical music.

Iranian Fallacies – School of Vaziri

The term “School of Vaziri” is often used in writings on Iranian music, but the exact meaning of the term is not clear; some of the authors have used the term to only refer to the group of Vaziri’s students, including a large group of his conservatory students and his Tar students such as Abolhassan Saba, Rouhollah Khaleghi, Ahmad Foroutan Rad, Hossein Sanjari, Heshmat Sanjari and others. But can we consider all Vaziri’s students as followers of his school of thought? This is definitely a mistake, because we know that some of Vaziri’s students have chosen a completely different path than that of Vaziri.

From Past Days…

Polyphony in Iranian Music (VI)

Torqeh or jal is the same bird (Bimaculated lark) and is the name of a muqam which is well-known in Torbate Jam and those areas. Jal muqam is called Torqeh in Esfarayen and Bojnourd. This muqam which was used to be played by Bakhshis/Bagşies (dutar-players) in the past is seldom performed today.

Parviz Meshkatian’s Heart Beat for People (I)

Amidst the popularity of traditionalism in the Iranian music, Parviz Meshkatian (1955- 2009) moved from Neyshabur to Tehran. He learnt to play Santour and became educated in the Radif of Iranian music at the Centre for Preservation and Promotion of Music which was at the forefront of promoting the return to musical traditions. Despite his studies at a centre which promoted the use of the phrase “traditional music” in Iran, Parviz Meshkatian emerged as a creative artist whose innovative and unique ideas attracted the admiration of Iranian artists and people from different walks of life. This article studies the reason behind Meshkatian’s deviation from the wrong approach of traditionalism strongly promoted by the Centre and argues that apart from the issue of theory of Iranian music, he can be considered as Ali Naqi Vaziri’s successor.

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.

Ashoura Opera

Ashura Opera was composed by Behzad Abdi, the Iranian composer, in 2008 based on librettos compiled by Behrouz Gharib. The main source for the libretto is poems by Mohtasham Kashani, a sixteenth century Iranian poet.

Avaye Naerika Percussion Orchestra

Avaye Naerika Percussion Orchestra is an Iranian percussion orchestra featuring 40 lady percussionists. The Orchestra was established as Iran’s largest all-female percussion orchestra in 2008 by Ms. Minoo Rezaei under the title Naerika Percussion Orchestra and changed its name to Avaye Naerika in 2017.

Polyphony in Iranian Music (I)

Despite the fact that Iranian folk music (regional music of Iran), like the Radif of Iranian traditional music, is monophonic and follows heterophony in principal, we experience polyphonic forms, albeit, majorly unconscious.

Behzad Abdi’s opera Rumi was physically released by Naxos

Composing a traditional Iranian opera using the Iranian modal system, dastgāh, has always been my dream. I first approached this by composing an opera called Ashura followed by the operas Rumi and Hafez. I believe that in order to attract an international audience for Iranian opera, it is essential to fuse dastgāh with Western classical forms.

Developments in Iranian Music Since Qajar Era (III)

Developments in Composing

Along with developments in the Iranian instruments, composition of the Iranian pieces developed as well. As a matter of fact, the developments of the two, mutually affected each other. In other words, instrumental developments led to developments in composition and vice versa.

Polyphony in Iranian Music (II)

With regard to each polyphonic form, only one specific and distinguished example is analyzed. These polyphonic forms are as follows:

Principles of Violin Playing (II)

Since for playing violin, it’s necessary that the player’s palms and fingers be inclined toward the fingerboard, therefore, the player, while bringing up his hand, should turn it toward the fingerboard.