Mahan Esfahani - Reviews


Return to Mahan Esfahani

(Five Stars) "Everyone wants to record Bach’s Goldbergs, but not many show as much piercing insight as harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani. The surprises begin at once with a slightly simplified Aria and then some unusual tempi – the canons at the unison, third and octave are slow – and an unevenly tempered tuning for the harpsichord. Esfahani shows amazing rhythmic freedom at times, sometimes teasing us with a long pause before a repeat starts. The final sequence of variations 26 to 29 accumulates brilliant excitement, after which the folk songs of variation 30 are a touching relaxation, and the Aria finally emerges intact. A hugely stimulating account of one of the peaks of western music." - Bach: Goldberg Variations CD review, THE GUARDIAN, September 18, 2016

"After a couple of name changes (it was, for a long time, the Lufthansa festival), the London Festival of Baroque Music now has a clear identity as a platform for ambitious exploration of the 17th and 18th century beyond the Monteverdi, Bach and Handel mainstream, though with plenty of that ilk too. This year’s theme is “The Word” and the way instrumental repertoire reflected the lyrical qualities of the human voice. This allowed the harpsichordist extraordinaire Mahan Esfahani to construct a quirky programme with help from the tenor Thomas Hobbs. Esfahani, if you don’t know him already, approaches concerts with an impromptu flourish and some in-built randomness: not in his virtuosic playing but in the rest of the proceedings. It keeps you alert, which is not always true of an evening of harpsichord music. From a rich offering of the largely unfamiliar, the Sonata II, “Of Saul, Whom David Cured by Means of Music” (1700) by Johann Kuhnau stood out: flamboyant, expressive and ingenious." - Frescobaldi to Froberger and Cabezón to J. S. Bach at the London Festival of Baroque Music, THE GUARDIAN, May 22, 2016

“A model recording for any instrument, not just the harpsichord... Exhaustingly brilliant.“   - CD: Time Present and Time Past, THE NEW YORK TIMES, May 20, 2015

“Now he emerges as a superstar whose musicianship, imagination, virtuosity, cultural breath and charisma far transcends the ivory tower in which the harpsichord has traditionally been placed.“   - CD: Time Present and Time Past w/ Deutsche Grammophon, THE TIMES, May 8, 2015

“Mahan Esfahani’s second Hyperion recording comprises Rameau’s keyboard works. This is stylish playing but rarely showy, firm but never heavy in dance movements, imbued with a natural wit in the character pieces. I could easily have picked his delightful disc of C. P. E. Bach’s Württemberg Sonatas as well.“   - NEW YORK TIMES Classical Critics Pick the Top Music Recordings of 2014, December 18, 2014

“More rewarding was Mr. Esfahani’s excellent performance of five Scarlatti sonatas, beginning with an elegant rendition of the Sonata in F minor. Mr. Esfahani demonstrated impressive technique during the Sonata in G and again during the rapid-fire Sonata in D minor.“   - Recital at the Frick Collection, THE NEW YORK TIMES, April 2, 2012