With all the political posturing in the Persian Gulf these days, it’s easy to forget Iran’s long cultural history. That legacy was very much in evidence last week at an extraordinary performance at Carnegie Hall by Hossein Alizadeh, one of Iran’s best-known musicians.
Born in 1951 in Tehran, Alizadeh graduated from the music conservatory in 1975 and entered the school of fine arts in the University of Tehran where he studied composition and Persian music. He continued his education at the University of Berlin in composition and musicology. He plays the tar and setar, and has recently derived the sallaneh and shoor-angiz from the ancient Persian lute barbat. He was nominated for the 2007 Grammy award along with Armenian musician, Djivan Gasparyan, for their collaboration album, the Endless Vision.
Last week, the mostly Iranian-American crowd listened with evident enjoyment as Alizadeh and his ensemble played variations on traditional Persian music. Many said they had been waiting for years to hear Alizadeh play in the United States. The songs, influenced by the hypnotic rythms of sufi music, were determinedly non-religious. As translated by an audience member who happened to be a Persian poet, one of the most haunting songs was about green grass. —Sascha Brodsky