Iran’s premier conductor returns home

Alexander (Ali) Rahbari, former principal conductor in Brussels and Zagreb, has announced his return as artistic director of the Teheran Symphony Orchestra, which he left ten years ago.

At a press conference staged by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Rahbari did his best to say all the right things: ‘We should be proud of a president [Rouhani], who talked about the restoration of orchestras in the country during his official speech after winning the presidential election, even if his wish is not fulfilled.’ Some will read Rahbari’s return as a further softening of the Islamist regime’s line on western culture.

Ali-Rahbari-returns-to-Tehran

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  • In practice Western culture has never been away. The Teheran Symphony Orchestra has been intermitted for about one and a half to two years. Its main conductor for a while, Armenian-Iranian conductor Loris Tjeknavorian, has been conducting there for many years. During the years I have been to the Fajr festival with Dutch (avantgarde) pianist Marcel Worms, the Yuri Honing (jazz) Trio, the Storing (piano) Trio, (early music) violinist Johannes Leertouwer, Dutch world jazz ensemble Arifa and others. During the years I heard Prokofiev, Tsjaikofsiki, Orff (for a while Carmina Burana’s opening choir was amn alerttune in the Tehran metro), Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Brahms IV. In the last Fajr festival the Dutch Yuri Honing (now) Quartet performed, and an American musician Bob Belden http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/24/world/rebirth-of-the-cool-american-music-makes-a-return-to-iran.html?_r=0 plus the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra with Mussorgski, Tsjaikofski, Mozart, Piazzola and more. The Teheran Big Band did things like the Pink Panther theme. Chris de Burhg, if that is a benchmark, performed. And during the recent two years Gianni Schicchi, Sound of Music, My Fair Lady and Hänsel und Gretel were staged. Yes, often the official ‘party’ lines are ambivalent. But this is what was has happened.

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