Harpsichordist: Mahan Esfahani
Mahan Esfahani has made it his life’s mission to rehabilitate the harpsichord in the mainstream of concert instruments, and to that end his creative programming and work in commissioning new works have drawn the attention of critics and audiences across Europe, Asia, and North America. He was the first and only harpsichordist to be a BBC New Generation Artist (2008-2010), a Borletti-Buitoni prize winner (2009), and a nominee for Gramophone’s Artist of the Year (2014, 2015, and 2017).
His work for the harpsichord has resulted in recitals in most of the major series and concert halls, amongst them London’s Wigmore Hall and Barbican Centre, Oji Hall in Tokyo, the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, Shanghai Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall in NYC, Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Recital Centre, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Berlin Konzerthaus, Zurich Tonhalle, Wiener Konzerthaus, San Francisco Performances, the 92nd St Y, Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Cologne Philharmonie, Edinburgh International Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Aldeburgh Festival, Madrid’s Fundacio Juan March, Bergen Festival, Festival Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Al Bustan Festival in Beirut, Jerusalem Arts Festival, and the Leipzig Bach Festival, and concerto appearances with the Chicago Symphony, Ensemble Modern, BBC Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, Auckland Philharmonia, Czech Radio Symphony, Orquesta de Navarra, Malta Philharmonic, Orchestra La Scintilla, Aarhus Symphony, Montreal’s Les Violons du Roy, Hamburg Symphony, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, the Royal Northern Sinfonia, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, with whom he was an artistic partner for 2016-2018.
Recent and upcoming highlights include his Vienna Musikverein debut, a tour with the Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields, and residencies with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Royal Northern Sinfonia. Building on the successes of two full evenings of new music for harpsichord and electronics at the Tectonics Festival and at the Barbican, he continues this work at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste and Prague’s Contempuls and Autumn Strings Festivals, including continuing work in promoting the modern re-discovery of the late Luc Ferrari’s Musique socialiste: Programme commun (1972) for harpsichord and tape. Particularly renowned for his championing of contemporary music, Esfahani has commissioned and premiered solo works and concertos from such composers as George Lewis, Bent Sorensen, Anahita Abbasi, Sunleif Rasmussen, Daniel Kidane, Laurence Osborne, Gary Carpenter, Harold Meltzer, Elena Kats-Chernin, and Miroslav Srnka.
His richly-varied discography includes six critically-acclaimed recordings for Hyperion and Deutsche Grammophon – garnering one Gramophone award, two BBC Music Magazine Awards, a Diapason d’Or and ‘Choc de Classica’ in France, and an ICMA.
Esfahani studied musicology and history at Stanford University, where he first came into contact with the harpsichord in the class of Elaine Thornburgh. Following his decision to abandon the law for music, he studied harpsichord privately in Boston with Peter Watchorn before completing his formation under the celebrated Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková. Following a three-year stint as Artist-in-Residence at New College, Oxford, he continues his academic associations as an honorary member at Keble College, Oxford, and as professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He can be frequently heard as a commentator on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 and as a host for such programs as Record Review, Building a Library, and Sunday Feature, as well as in live programmes with the popular mathematician and presenter Marcus du Sautoy; for the BBC’s Sunday Feature he is currently at work on his fourth radio documentary following two popular programmes on such subjects as the early history of African-American composers in the classical sphere and the development of orchestral music in Azerbaijan.
Born in Tehran in 1984 and raised in the United States, he lived in Milan and then London for several years before taking up residence in Prague.
Renowned for her “dazzling interpretative flair and exemplary technique” (Classic FM), violinist Jennifer Pike has taken the musical world by storm with her unique artistry and compelling insight into music from the Baroque to the present day. In demand as soloist and recitalist all over the world, she is known as an artist of exceptional integrity and depth, whilst her ability to “hold an audience spellbound” (The Strad) and “luminous beauty of tone” (The Observer) have established her as one of the most exciting artists performing today.
Born to British and Polish parents in 1989 she first gained international recognition in 2002, when, aged 12, she became the youngest-ever winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year and the youngest major prizewinner in the Menuhin International Violin Competition. Aged 15 she made acclaimed débuts at the BBC Proms and Wigmore Hall, and her many subsequent Proms appearances have included the role of 2009 “featured artist”. She was invited to become a BBC New Generation Artist (2008-10), she won the inaugural International London Music Masters Award and became the only classical artist ever to win the South Bank Show/Times Breakthrough Award. Passionate about helping young people from all backgrounds enhance their lives through music, she was recently invited to become an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust and Foundation for Children and the Arts, and patron of the Lord Mayor’s City Music Foundation.
Performing extensively as soloist with major orchestras worldwide and appearing frequently on radio and television, recent highlights include concertos with all the BBC orchestras, London Philharmonic, Brussels Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony, Strasbourg Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Hallé, Rheinische Philharmonie, Tampere Philharmonic, Malmö Symphony, Auckland Philharmonia, Singapore Symphony and Nagoya Philharmonic orchestras. She recently performed Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending live on BBC Two at a special service commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of WWI in Westminster Abbey, with the Philharmonia orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall and at her Carnegie Hall debut with the Chamber Orchestra of New York.
Highlights of the 2015/16 season include a tour to Mexico with the London Philharmonic (Saint-Saëns, Alondra de la Parra), Sibelius Concerto with the Oslo Philharmonic and Jukka-Pekka Saraste as part of the Sibelius Festival 150th year celebrations, Prague Symphony Orchestra (Beethoven, Pietari Inkinen), Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra (Tchaikovsky, Fedoseyev), Orquesta Clásica Santa Cecilia (Brahms, Ken-David Masur), and the BBC Philharmonic (Vivaldi) as director and soloist. Special appearances also include performing to an audience of 11,000 at the Atlas Arena in Łódź, Poland as part of the ‘Night of the Proms’ tour broadcast on Polish TV, a broadcast performance of Schindler’s List as part of BBC Two’s Holocaust Memorial Day tribute and a live broadcast on Classic FM at the Queen’s 90th Birthday celebration concert. Next season she will perform concertos by Dvorak, Elgar, Sibelius, Bruch, Tchaikovsky and Mozart with orchestras including the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic (Saraste), BBC Philharmonic (Juanjo Mena), BBC Concert Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic and European Union Chamber Orchestra. She has worked with many eminent conductors including Andris Nelsons, Richard Hickox, Sir Mark Elder, Christopher Hogwood, Leif Segerstam, Tugan Sokhiev, Jiří Belohlávek, John Storgårds, Sir Roger Norrington, James Gaffigan and Martyn Brabbins. She has collaborated as soloist and chamber musician with artists including Anne-Sophie Mutter, Nikolaj Znaider, Adrian Brendel, Nicolas Altstaedt, Maxim Rysanov, Igor Levit, Martin Roscoe, Tom Poster and Mahan Esfahani.
A sought-after recitalist, she recently appeared at the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival, Musée d’Orsay, Musashino Foundation and LSO St Luke’s, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. In 2017 she curated an unprecedented event at the Wigmore Hall with three concerts in one day celebrating Polish music, in which she gave the UK premiere of Penderecki’s Capriccio for solo violin and a specially commissioned new work by Paulina Zalubska. An enthusiastic promoter of new music, she has had many works written for her, including Hafliði Hallgrímsson’s Violin Concerto, which she premièred with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Charlotte Bray’s Scenes from Wonderland which she premièred with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall and Andrew Schultz’s Violin Concerto and Sonatina for solo violin, for which her recording was nominated for ‘Best Performance of an Australian Composition’ at the Australian Classical Music Awards.
Her prolific and widely-acclaimed discography on Chandos, Sony and ABC Classics includes the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Bergen Philharmonic and Sir Andrew Davis, described as “superb” (The Times) and “violin genius” (Mail on Sunday), Miklós Rózsa Violin Concerto with the BBC Philharmonic and Rumon Gamba, Bach with Sinfonietta Cracovia and Schultz with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. She recently recorded the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony and Edward Gardner on Chandos, acclaimed in the Observer for her “innate musicality and mercurial technique” and as “breathtakingly beautiful” by the Sunday Herald. Her recordings of Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending with the Chamber Orchestra of New York on Naxos (The Strad Recommends, 2017) and David Bednall’s new works for violin and organ for Regent Records (Editor’s Choice, The Gramophone) were released recently.
In recognition of the impact she made in the performing arts, she was awarded a postgraduate scholarship by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama at the exceptional age of 16. She has studied with David Takeno and Robert Jacoby, and in 2012 she graduated with First Class Honours from Oxford University, where she was subsequently invited to take up the position of Artist-in-Residence. She plays a 1708 violin by Matteo Goffriller.