San Francisco Performances begins its second year of the concert series called “PIVOT: New Adventures in the Performing Arts” with Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, in the program ‘Time Present and Time Past.’ It brings together works from the 16th to the 20th Centuries, from William Byrd to Kaija Saariaho and Steve Reich.

There’s more information about the concert at the San Francisco Performances website.
Esfahani is less concerned with ‘period practice’ and ‘early music’ (a term he likens to root canal) and more with making his chosen instrument one that’s taken more seriously by all music lovers. “When I first heard the harpsichord on a recording, when I was a kid, I heard the harpsichord and I thought, I want to spend my life with this instrument. It doesn’t mean that I knew that I was going to be a professional harpsichordist, I mean, that was a very distant thing. I thought the best thing that I could do was maybe hear a harpsichord in concerts, maybe I could have the sort of job that would allow me to buy a harpsichord. I had that sort of obsession with the harpsichord.” With programming that includes Lou Harrison and Toru Takemitsu beside Bach, Scarlatti, and Byrd, he’s ruffled some feathers, but remains determined: “There’s something about the harpsichord where the jury is still out on what makes this instrument expressive. We have room, I think we have room, or I have room, at least to continue being innovative. My goal is to leave the harpsichord different from how I found it.”

 

 

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