Masters of Persian Music

Quartet of Iranian "Superstars,"- Including Living Legend Mohammad Reza Shajarian - Present Unique Musical and Poetic Treasures


The Los Angeles Philharmonic continues its World Music series with a rare U.S. presentation of Masters of Persian Music, a virtuosic quartet of Iranian superstars, at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Saturday, February 26, at 8 p.m. Noted for expanding the boundaries of Persian classical music and increasing its popularity around the globe, the Iranian group embraces the music's rich and ancient heritage as well as its deeply spiritual and meditative qualities, which are linked through poetry to Sufism.

Featured in the quartet are Mohammad Reza Shajarian, a living legend in Iran whose unique vocal style is immediately recognizable for its sweetness of tone and fluidity; tar (plucked lute) maestro Hossein Alizadeh, a ground-breaking composer who has scored numerous Iranian films; and kamancheh (spike fiddle) player Kayhan Kalhor, renowned for his creative collaborations with the Kronos Quartet and Yo-Yo Ma for his Silk Road Project, among others. They are joined by singer and tombak (goblet drum) player Homayoun Shajarian, Mohammad Reza Shajarian's 20-year-old son, already a commanding musical force.

Masters of Persian Music's two U.S. recordings, 2002's Without You and its new 2-CD set Faryad are remarkable not only for bringing together for the first time the best contemporary Iranian musicians, but for presenting new compositions with a modern approach to Persian classical music. The recordings are also two of only a handful of Persian classical recordings to be released outside of Iran. Notably, the group's 2001 North American tour sold out 14 concerts and received unprecedented media coverage, a breakthrough for music previously performed in Europe and North American to entirely Iranian audiences. From high mountain ranges to vast desert plains and fertile coastal areas, Iran is a land of contrasts. Iranians often explain the profound spirituality of their music and poetry as a response to this landscape as well as to the country's turbulent history, marked by successive invasions from the ancient Greeks onwards. The beauty of the country's refined and intensely personal music lies in the intricate nuances of the freely flowing solo melody lines, which are often compared with the elaborate designed found on Persian carpets and miniature paintings. Poetry has played a central role in Iranian culture for centuries, keeping alive the Persian language during times of assault. Poetry is also integral to the nation's music with vocal sections traditionally set to the poetry of such medieval mystic poets as Baba Taher and Sheikh Attar. Masters of Persian Music pay homage to the music's remarkable past while guiding it into the 21st century with grace and innovation. The Los Angeles Philharmonic's World Music series concludes on April 2, 2005, 8 p.m. with the renowned Kronos Quartet and vocalist Emil Zrihan performing the music of Osvaldo Golijov, who has collaborated on more than 30 works with Kronos Quartet.

Mohammad Reza Shajarian is the undisputed master of Persian traditional (classical) singing and is regarded as a national treasure by both musicians and music lovers. He is perhaps Iran's most diverse and prolific singer of all time and has a huge repertory of recorded works. In 1999 UNESCO presented him with the prestigious Picasso Medal in France and in 2000, the Ministry of Culture in Iran declared him "Best Classical Vocalist." In Persian classical music, singing is one of the most difficult arts to master. Shajarian is widely considered the embodiment of the perfect singer and a major source of inspiration to other musicians. Born in 1940 in the city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran, Shajarian began singing at the age of five under the supervision of his father and at the age of twelve he began studying the traditional classical repertoire (radif). He studied with the great masters Ahmad Ebadi and Esmaeel Mehrtash and learned the vocal styles of singers from previous generations. He also studied under the guidance of master Abdollah Davami, from whom he learned the most ancient tasnifs (songs). Shajarian's singing career began at Radio Khorasan in 1959 and he rose to prominence in the 1960s with his distinct style of singing, at once technically flawless, powerful, and intensely emotional. Since then, he has had an illustrious career that has included teaching at Tehran University's Department of Fine Arts, working at the National Iranian Radio and Television Organization, researching Iranian music, and making countless important recordings. He performs regularly in Iran and throughout the world.

Hossein Alizadeh was born in Tehran in 1951. After graduating from the Tehran Music Conservatory, he entered the School of Music of the University of Tehran in 1975 where he received his degree in composition and performance. During the same period he studied with various masters of traditional Persian music. Alizadeh was awarded a position with the National Orchestra of Iran and later became the conductor and soloist of the Iranian National Radio and Television Orchestra. He founded the Aref Ensemble and performed with the Shayda Ensemble, both dedicated to the promotion and advancement of Iranian classical music. Alizadeh participated in the orchestra of the famous Bejart Ballet Company in a performance of Gulistan, a ballet by Maurice Bejart. In the early 1980s, he further expanded his formal education by studying composition and musicology at the University of Berlin. In 2000, the Ministry of Culture in Iran declared him the best contemporary artist. As a teacher he has trained many young musicians and has written and published a number of etudes for tar (plucked lute) and setar (lute). He has composed many works of contemporary and neo-classical Iranian music as well as several film scores including Gabbeh and A Time for Drunken Horses. In addition, Alizadeh has recorded the entire body of the radif based on the interpretation of Mirza Abdollah. He has performed extensively throughout the United States, Europe and Asia and has appeared on many radio and television programs around the world. He has taught at the University of Tehran, the Tehran Music Conservatory and the California Institute of the Arts.

Kayhan Kalhor was born in Tehran in 1963. A child prodigy on the kamancheh (spike fiddle), Kalhor began his musical studies at age seven, and at age thirteen was invited to work in the Iranian National Radio and Television Orchestra, where he performed for five years. At 17, Kalhor began working with the Shayda Ensemble of the Chavosh Cultural Center, at the time the most prestigious arts organization in Iran. While performing with Shayda, he continued studying the Iranian classical repertoire (radif) with different masters. In addition, he spent much time in different regions of Iran, including Khorasan in the northeast and Kurdistan in the west, and absorbed regional repertoires and styles. He studied Western classical music in Rome and at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, where he received a degree in music. Kalhor has composed works for Iran's most renowned vocalists, including Mohammad Reza Shajarian and Shahram Nazeri, and he has also performed with Iran's greatest masters, including Faramarz Payvar and Hossein Alizadeh. In 1991 he co-founded Dastan, the renowned Persian classical music ensemble, and in 1997 he formed the ensemble Ghazal with Shujaat Husain Khan, which performs improvisations based on Persian and Indian music. His recent commissions include works written for the Kronos Quartet, and for Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project, with whom he has toured since 2002. His latest release of Kurdish music, In the Mirror of the Sky, pairs him with Ali Akbar Moradi.

Homayoun Shajarian, born in 1975, is the son of master vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian. He began playing tombak (goblet drum) at the age of five and later attended the Tehran Conservatory of Music. In addition to tombak, Homayoun plays the kamancheh and studies the vocal tradition with his father. Since 1991 he has played in numerous ensembles, accompanying his father on tombak in concerts in Europe, Iran and North America. His 2001 tour with the Masters of Persian Music ensemble marked his debut as a vocalist. As a disciple of his father, Homayoun has developed many similar vocal qualities, the great Persian vocal tradition for another generation.


Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles

Masters of Persian Music
Mohammad Reza Shajarian, vocals
Hossein Alizadeh, tar (plucked lute)
Kayhan Kalhor, kamancheh (spike fiddle)
Homayoun Shajarian, singer/tombak (goblet drum)

Tickets ($25 - $80) are on sale now at the Walt Disney Concert Hall box office, online at, or via credit card phone order at 323.850.2000. A limited number of $10 rush tickets for seniors and full time students may be available at the Walt Disney Concert Hall box office two hours prior to the performance. Valid identification is required; one ticket per person; cash only. Groups of 12 or more may be eligible for special discounts for selected concerts and seating areas. For all information, please call 323.850.2000.

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