Amir Mahyar Tafreshipour: Persian Echoes
Commissioned by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 2006, Amir Mahyar Tafreshipour’s Persian Echoes for harp and orchestra was the first ever Iranian harp concerto. Persian Echoes brings together sounds from the East and West, incorporating traditional Persian music and folk melodies, with rich Western classical heritage.
Opening with a flourish from the harp, the initial atmosphere is mysterious and thin in texture. The harp takes the lead with experimenting with the main theme as the wind chimes and other auxiliary percussion decorate. Nearly 1.5 minutes in and the strings enter the mix with a response to the harp’s theme. The jaunty theme gains traction as the tempo fluctuates before hitting the ‘Allegro’ section. Tafreshipour’s use of percussion is particularly poignant in this opening movement as the relationship between the harp and percussion lays at the heart of this movement.
The big build ups to climaxes is effective and keeps the music intense and dramatic with the listener never sure where Tafreshipour will go next. The solo harp part is virtuosic and laden with fast finger movements, extended techniques, as well as soft and lyrical playing. Similarly to the opening, the final bars of the first movement are quiet and led by the soloist.
Marked ‘Tranquillo’, the peaceful second movement is initiated by the lower strings. The rich and woody timbres lay the foundation for the upper strings to develop on top. The theme is drawn out and based on a traditional Persian folk tune. It takes a while before the soloist arrives and declares their response to the opening string theme. Throughout this movement the strings and harp engage in musical dialogue based on the opening motif. Tafreshipour’s use of dissonance is more prominent in this movement, as passing phrases clash subtly to create colour within the harmonic structure. After a rise in dynamic and a change in pace, the reins are pulled once more as the second movement comes to its ethereal finish.
Opening with a pizzicato theme decorated by the harp and a closed snare, the quick tempo of the finale is full of energy and excitement. Short harp interludes challenge the orchestral theme with the two voices fizzing with drive. The intricate harp part sits on top of the lyrical string theme which creates a dichotomy between the voices. Similarly to the opening movement, Tafreshipour relies on the percussion to decorate and provide sounds and effects that no other section can. The lilting theme pushes forwards towards the big climax of the movement. A reprise of the main theme is heard once more before the concerto concludes triumphantly.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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