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, Jiří Rožeň, 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), Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Michala Petri (recorder), 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, Brett Dean, Bent Sørensen, Miroslav Srnka, Poul Ruders, Anahita Abbasi, Laurence Osborne, Gary Carpenter, Miroslav Srnka, Elena Kats-Chernin, Oscar Jockel, 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 Deutsch 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 programmes 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 programmes on such subjects as the early history of African-American composers in the classical sphere and the development of orchestral music in Azerbaijan. Likewise, he is a regular contributor of cultural commentary and reviews for such publications as The Critic, Engelsberg Ideas, The New Yorker, Guardian, Times, and other print media.
Born in Tehran in 1984, Esfahani grew up in the United States and studied musicology and history at Stanford University and worked as a repetiteur 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.
In recognition of his contributions to the classical music field, Mahan Esfahani was awarded the 2022 Wigmore Hall Prize.
Works commissioned by and premiered by Mahan Esfahani:
Brett Dean: TBA 2023-24
Gavin Bryars: TBA 2023-24
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
Orchestre de Lyon
Miroslav Srnka: Standstill, concerto for harpsichord and orchestra (2022)
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
Bent Sørensen: Sei Anime, concerto for harpsichord and orchestra (2021)
Bergen Philharmonic, Norway
Odense Symphony Orchestra
Oscar Jockel, honig.meer.licht for harpsichord and tape (2021)
Southbank Centre, London
Jinwook Jung, Les Lotophages (2020)
Arshia Samsaminia: Alarm Fatigue, for solo harpsichord (2021)
Frederiksberg Chamber Music Festival, Copenhagen
Southbank Centre, London
Daniel Kidane: Movements for Strings and harpsichord (2021)
New World Symphony (USA)
Laurence Osborn: Coin Op Automata (2021) for harpsichord and string quartet
Michael Berkeley: Insects (2020) for solo harpsichord
Poul Ruders: Concerto for harpsichord and orchestra (2020)
Aarhus Symphony Orchestra
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Gary Carpenter: Mondrian (2019), concerto for harpsichord and chamber ensemble
Ensemble 10/10 (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic)
Laurence Osborn: Automaton (2019), concerto for harpsichord and chamber ensemble
Sunleif Rasmussen: Quadroforone #1 (2019), for harpsichord and quadraphonic electronics
Barbican Centre, UK
George Lewis: Timelike Weave, for solo harpsichord (2018)
Miller Theatre, NYC
Anahita Abbasi: Intertwined Distances, for solo harpsichord and electronics (2018)
Fundacio Juan March, Madrid
Miroslav Srnka: Triggering, for harpsichord and two E-Bows (2018)
Festival Contempuls, Prague
Elena Kats-Chernin: Ancient Letters (2017), concerto for harpsichord and orchestra
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Francisco Coll: Concerto for harpsichord and orchestra (2016)
Marc Yeats: rhêma, for solo harpsichord (2010)
Daniel Kidane: Feuersturm (2010)