Master Persian Musician Kayhan Kalhor

Teams with Brooklyn Rider for UCLA Live Concert April 4

LOS ANGELES —Iranian musician-composer Kayhan Kalhor and the string quartet Brooklyn Rider have collaborated to create what critic Charles de Ledesma called “unforgettable music, overlapping Eastern and Western classical and folk modes in a wonder of world fusion.” With their UCLA Live concert April 4 at 8 p.m. at Royce Hall, these adventurous musicians will continue the cross-cultural explorations begun on their 2008 album “Silent City.”

Kayhan Kalhor and Brooklyn Rider by Amber Darragh

Tehran-born Kalhor is recognized as a virtuoso of the kemancheh, the four-stringed Iranian spike fiddle. One of the leading figures in modern Persian music, Kalhor has worked with a wide cross-section of ensembles including the Masters of Persian Music projects, and the Kronos Quartet, and he is a core member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble.

Kalhor, says National Geographic, “is undoubtedly one of the most exciting artists to emerge from Iran today. With his truly virtuosic command of the kemancheh, an emotional immediacy as a composer and a mesmerizing stage presence, it is no surprise that he has become a regular presence on the world’s most celebrated stages.”

Kalhor’s association with Brooklyn Rider began when they were all at Tanglewood with the Silk Road Project in 2000 and grew through their ongoing participation in the Silk Road ventures.

Brooklyn Rider (violinists Jonathan Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violist Nichols Cords and cellist Eric Jacobsen) is “recreating the 300-year-old form of string quartet as a vital and creative 21st century ensemble,” writes NPR’s “Performance Today” host Fred Child. The combination has been rewarding on many levels. “The personality and deep understanding of the players made this particular recording very special,” Kalhor said.

Reviewing “Silent City,” the prestigious magazine Gramophone said, "The chemistry comes to fruition: this is modern music informed by the past"

The concert will be built around the remarkable title piece of “Silent City” (World Village/Harmonia Mundi USA, 2008), written to commemorate the 5,000 people killed in Saddam Hussein’s 1988 attack on the Kurdish village Halabja. The powerful suite, written by Kalhor and arranged with Moscow-born, New York-based arranger/composer Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin, was described by Around the World columnist Steve Hochman as “a 29- minute musical ‘Guernica.’ ” It incorporates elements of a traditional Turkish melody and Persian classical music structures, mixing formal composition and group improvisation. The emotional journey transforms unspeakable horrors into hope in a manner that transcends politics and nations. Kalhor and Brooklyn Rider also will perform “Ascending Bird” (based on a traditional Persian tune and arranged by Brooklyn Rider violinist Colin Jacobsen) and “Beloved, Do Not Let Me Be Discouraged” (written by Jacobsen with inspiration from the medieval Persian romantic story “Layla and Majnun”).

The Royce Hall program also will incorporate selections from Brooklyn Rider’s individual album, “Passport” (In A Circle, 2008), including an arrangement of Armenian folk songs by iconic composer Komitas Vardipet and Jacobsen’s “Brooklesca.” The latter, says NPR’s Child, is a “tour de force” of “Gypsy-inflected improvisations.”

Guest artists Jeff Beecher on bass and Mathias Kunzli on percussion will join in for some of the concert.

Kayhan Kalhor was hailed as a child prodigy in Iran, performing with the National Orchestra of Radio and Television of Iran at age 13. Studies of Persian folk and classical styles, including music from his Kurdish heritage, took him on treks through the region, while interests in Western classical music led to studies in Rome and Ottawa. In 1991 he founded the esteemed Dastan Ensemble before initiating groundbreaking cross-cultural works with Iranian and Indian artists in the Ghazal and Masters of Persian Music projects, as well as the Silk Road Ensemble, which performs several of his compositions. He’s also been a featured soloist with renowned orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony.

Brooklyn Rider was “born out of the desire to use the rich medium of the string quartet as a vehicle for borderless communication,” per its official biography. That mission has seen the foursome perform with China’s Wu Man and Japan’s Kojiro Umezaki and team with an international array of composers, including Argentine Osvaldo Golijov. “Silent City” and “Passport” mark their debut albums, the latter covering a range that encompasses Armenian tunes and an arrangement of a ballad by Mexican rock band Café Tacuba.

“We like to think about the collaboration between Brooklyn Rider and Kayhan Kalhor as the direct result of great friendships,” says violist Cords. “We felt comfortable to explore music that reflects shared passions, spanning from Persian and Armenian folk melodies to early Italian sacred music to the urban sounds of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. Examining our bowed instruments' common ancestry through this process has been deeply fulfilling, not just because it allows us to discover more about each other's traditions, but because it has resulted in an entirely new body of music.”

Ticket Information

Tickets for Kayhan Kalhor and Brooklyn Rider are available for $55, $42 and $32. They can be purchased online at, via phone at 310-825-2101, in person at the UCLA Central Ticket Office at the southwest corner of the James West Alumni Center, and at all Ticketmaster outlets. UCLA students may purchase tickets in advance for $17. Student rush tickets, subject to availability, are offered at the same price to all students with a valid ID one hour prior to show time.

UCLA Live is an internationally acclaimed producer and presenter of music, dance, theater and spoken word, bringing hundreds of outstanding and provocative artists to Los Angeles each year.

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