Fight of the day: Mahan Esfahani is back in the wars

Fight of the day: Mahan Esfahani is back in the wars


norman lebrecht

May 26, 2017

The combative harpsichordist has been warned by Damian Thompson in the Spectator that he’s committing career suicide by picking fights.

The 33-year-old has been starting small wars since he launched himself a decade ago as the harpsichord’s global ambassador-cum-saviour. His modus operandi — damning his fellow musicians as racist snobs — is pointlessly offensive, but he can rely on the arts establishment for covering fire. A young Middle Eastern ‘baroquestar’ who supports #BlackLivesMatter? What’s not to like?

I have replied with a defence of Mahan:

The point about Mahan is that he will pick a fight in an empty room if he thinks it will make a passing telephone engineer pay attention to the harpsichord. He is determined to push the instrument back to front of stage for the first time in two centuries and if he has to shred a few tinklers to get there, so be it. In a milieu led by tweedy academics in a fine cloud of dandruff, Mahan is a blast of fresh air in a flatulent cloister.

Read the full article here.


  • John Borstlap says:

    “In a milieu led by tweedy academics in a fine cloud of dandruff, Mahan is a blast of fresh air in a flatulent cloister.”

    I like the picturesque descriptions of a milieu that up till now has been generally considered the pinnacle of respectability. I only hope the monks’ diet will be reviewed, for the sake of the harpsichord reputation.

  • Will Duffay says:

    Starting a scrap just to get the harpsichord attention is puerile and ineffective. All it does is make him look undignified and take attention away from the playing and the music, and focus is on personalities. And there’s enough of that in the music world as it is.

    • Anon says:

      It’s a tactic that could work, and it’s done for the right reasons. But then along comes Jean Rondeau and shows the harpsichord can be interesting and front-stage without any need to be combative.

  • 18mebrumaire says:

    He does act as if he has reinvented the harpsichord single-handed. A rather incomplete list of others who have made some contribution to the instrument’s 20th-21st cent revival comes to mind as I type this, including: Christie, Curtis, Dart, Dreyfus, Fuller, Gilbert, Hogwood, Kirkpatrick, Koopman, Landowska, Leonhardt, Pinnock, Puyana, Ross, Sempe, Staier, Tilney.

  • David Boxwell says:

    Mahan Esfahani vs. Jean Rondeau. Cage Match. Only One Comes Out Alive.

  • John Borstlap says:

    An old acquaintance of mine, running the School of Advanced Early Music Studies at Camford, gave me a call tonight, saying he got very upset about this SD post since it had been read by most of the current students and staff. Since the School is situated in an old cloister wing from the 14th century, and the lunch offerings had given reasons for some complaints, when he entered the building on friday he was countered with a multiple ‘Yes, now it’s out! DO something about those lunches!’ They don’t have a budget for master classes so my acquaintance had to resist the demands for inviting Mahan for the much-needed breath of fresh air, to compensate for the results of the bad lunches, but he will now be forced to at least have the kitchen examined and the lunches reviewed and improved. SD has a wide readership, also in HIP circles (Historically Informed Performance).