”It would be hard not to be impressed by Iranian harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani. Young, suave, eloquent…he’s an inquisitive mind…a phenomenally accomplished performance.” (The Guardian, July 2012)
”elegant…impressive technique.” (New York Times, April 2012)
”Esfahani, in total control technically, clearly delights in exploiting the expressive possibilities of the harpsichord and its sheer variety of sounds….” (Gramophone, July 2011)
Praised by The Times for his “daring and fiery performances” and by Opera Today as “the leading harpsichordist of his generation,” Mahan Esfahani (b. 1984) was born in Tehran. He first studied the piano with his father and as a teenager went on to explore an interest in the organ and harpsichord. He is the first harpsichordist to be named a BBC New Generation Artist and to be awarded a fellowship prize by the Borletti-Buitoni Trust. Recent highlights have included performances of of Kalabis’ Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra (1975) with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Martinu’s Concerto for Harpsichord and Orchestra (1935) with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Jiri Belohlavek, and Poulenc’s Concert Champetre (1928) with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Martyn Brabbins. During his time as a BBC New Generation Artist, he also gave his solo debut at the Wigmore Hall (broadcast on BBC Radio 3), about which the Daily Telegraph exclaimed “the harpsichord comes out of hiding…magnificent.” In addition, his recording of the Poulenc concerto was issued in May 2010 with BBC Music Magazine, and he has been featured as a “Hot Property” by Classic FM magazine. His recent New York recital debut at the Frick Collection was praised by the New York Times for its ”impressive technique…soulful flair and sense of spontaneity.”
With a repertoire that spans four centuries, Esfahani works to take the harpsichord beyond the realm of ‘early music’ and to major festivals and series in the mainstream of Classical Music across Europe, Canada, and the United States. Highlights of the past season have included, in addition to numerous solo recitals, appearances as a director and soloist with The English Concert at the Lufthansa Festival, Montreal’s Arion Baroque Orchestra, and the Manchester Camerata, recitals with such singers as Paul Agnew and James Bowman at Spitalfields and the Wigmore Hall, and his debut in the Far East with the Malaysian Philharmonic. In July of 2011 he sold out London’s Cadogan Hall with the first solo harpsichord recital in the 116-year history of the BBC Proms, and next season sees appearances as a director, harpsichordist/fortepianist, or concerto soloist with the Academy of Ancient Music, the Hamburger Symphoniker, the Prague Symphony chamber concerts, the Istanbul Bach Days, the Hanover Band, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Musica Antiqua Festival at Bruges, New York’s Frick Collection, and across the United Kingdom. July of 2012 sees a triumphant return to the Proms with his own arrangement of Bach’s Art of Fugue for the Academy of Ancient Music, and the 2012-2013 sees a solo tour of Japan and appearances across the Low Countries, Scandinavia, Germany, Canada, and his first solo recording – of C.P.E. Bach’s complete ‘Württemberg’ Sonatas (1744) – for Hyperion Records.
Esfahani studied as a President’s Scholar at Stanford University where his principal mentor was the musicologist George Houle; he went on to pursue his performance studies under the supervision of the Australian harpsichordist Peter Watchorn (Boston) and the Italian organist Lorenzo Ghielmi (Milan), and currently benefits from the advice and guidance of the celebrated Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková. In 2008 he was appointed Artist-in-Residence at New College, Oxford, and came to make his home in the United Kingdom. As a guest instructor he has given lectures and taught at the University of York, the Royal Welsh College of Music, and the Royal Northern College of Music. In the autumn of 2010 he was made an honorary member of the senior common room at Keble College, Oxford. In his free time he enjoy exploring Persian cuisine, the study of etymology, and a deep interest in Czech culture and history.