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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From Past Days…
Simorgh (Simorq) Orchestra was founded by the renowned Iranian composer, Hamid Motebassem, in 2011. Simorgh Orchestra is the largest orchestra featuring Iranian national instruments. Although the orchestra established by Master Hossein Dehlavi, the great Iranian composer, in 1993 was larger than Simorgh Orchestra, it only featured the Iranian plucked string instruments unlike the latter one. The first album which was recorded by the Orchestra, conducted under Motebassem’s baton, was his Simorq based on Zal story from Shahnameh by Ferdowsi, the great Iranian poet.
Nine-bridge and twelve-bridge Sanours were both used until the early Pahlavi dynasty. However, as Faramarz Payvar devised new methods for playing the nine-bridge Sanour, this variety of the instrument which was hammered by felted sticks became popular.
In the tradition of classical music, it is generally tried to use the same technical terms related to music in all countries. Even in the cultures in which native terms exist to refer to musical terms, usually the better known universal terms are employed.
Gholam Reza Khan Minbashian, a.k.a Salar-Mo’azez, was a pioneer in several domains in the history of the Iranian music. He is recognized as the first Iranian musician who was educated in classical music. He is also the first Iranian the score of whose works were published in Europe. He is the first Iranian to have launched courses on Western classical music and was also the first Iranian teacher of classical music. Moreover, he is the first founder of a string orchestra in Iran, the first author of the Iranian Radif which was available in oral form. Minbashian is also the first Iranian who studied music in Europe.
Mohsen Renani in the preface of his book entitled “The Political Economy of nuclear conflict; an introduction to traversing the civilizations” writes:
No introduction is needed when talking about the position of the late Houshang Zarif (1938-2020) in the Iranian music. His character and personality are so well-known among musicians that his name per se is a symbol and role model for the Iranian youth. “Becoming Houshang Zarif” is the dream of many young people who enter the world of music in Iran and many of whom retire regretting the realisation of this dream.
In addition to the above-mentioned, polyphony can be also formed when a melody is performed by several singers in different ambiances or different sound registers according to their physiologic abilities. An example of this has been performed in rituals of Khanqah of Ghaderi darawish of Mahabad[i].
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.
Gholam Hossein Banan was born in 1911 in Tehran. He was born in an affluent art-loving family who were Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (1848-1896)’s relative. The Qajar King was his mother’s uncle on her father’s side. He learnt his first lessons in music while his father sang Iranian avaz (improvised rhythmic-free singing), he then attended classes by the renowned Iranian composer, Morteza Neydavoud (1900-1990) along with his sisters; the composer is, therefore, considered as his first teacher. He then learnt Iranian avaz under the supervision of Mirza Taher Zia Resaee (Zia-o Zakerin) and Naser Seif in an oral manner.
On occasion of the 8th anniversary of launching HarmonyTalk Online Journal on 6 April 2012, Reza Ziaei, master luthier and researcher on classical music instruments (violin family), announced that the first phase of the project to improve Qeychak has borne fruit. The new instrument would feature a bowl of ribs and the material used for the surface would be wooden. Carrying out the second phase of the project took more than 7 years engaging the new members of Reza Ziaei’s Workshop. In this phase, new researches were conducted from different aspects on the Qeychak and the modern versions of the instrument which were introduced previously by other instrument makers. The available versions of the instrument were studied in terms of their weak and strong technical features.