Political dissension in Iran is nothing new. At a time when the freethinking people of the country keep making news for political protest while the repressive government greets dissension with crackdowns on the free flow of information and boastful nuclear claims to the West, it is sobering to remember that the geographical region called Iran in modern times (after Aryan, the Noble One) has a rich culture that is millennia old.
Most Iranians, especially expatriates, prefer the term Persian to Iranian, reflecting the ancient culture that so flourished there before the nation became a police state under a series of Shahs, only to be replaced by a series of ruling Shi’ite clerics that took careful notes upon—and have even expanded upon—the brutal tactics of the previously secular government.
Masters of Persian Music is a group begun by virtuoso instrumentalists of the classical music of the Middle East who are Iranian natives and who remain significant cultural ambassadors to an outside world that tends to think of Iran primarily in political terms.
Composer, tar master and group co-founder Hossein Alizadeh will be performing on a new instrument this tour called the shour angiz, his own expanded version of the Persian flute, while composer and group co-founder Kayhan Kalhor will debut a new, five-stringed version of the kamancheh, or spike fiddle. Hamid Reza Nourbakhsh, a student of legendary Iranian singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian, will be the vocalist, along with Siamak Jahangiry on ney, or Persian flute, Fariborz Azizi on bass tar, or Persian lute, Pezhham Akhavass on tombak, or Persian hand drum, and Hamid Reza Maleki, the newest and youngest member of the ensemble representing a third generation of the group on santur, the Persian version of the hammered dulcimer.
The program itself will include an extended introductory improvisational duet by Kalhor and Alizadeh, followed by a performance by the full ensemble. The featured pieces will include musical settings of ancient Sufi or Islamic mystic poets as well as settings of verses of Iran’s most important living poet, Shafi’I Kadkani. (Dennis Polkow)
February 23, Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, (312)294-3000. 7:30pm. $20-$70.