Mahan Esfahani’s name has become synonymous with the harpsichord. The 33-year-old Tehran-born musician was raised in the U.S. from the age of four, building his first harpsichord from a kit before he even turned 16. Clearly, there is an intimate relationship here between an artist and a tool which some might consider archaic or primarily of-its-time.
It’s a touchy subject, which Esfahani routinely addresses in interviews, as well as through his performance’s programs. Tomorrow, the performer will debut the full set of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos at the Musco Center for the Arts in Orange, a selection of six pieces rarely played sequentially in full, with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. And while a recent interview with the LA Times finds Esfahani singing the praises of the ubiquitous German composer, he is also known for performing work by modern, avant-garde explorers like Toru Takemitsu, Luciano Berio, and Steve Reich. Meeting the classical expectations of the instrument with continuous curiosity has done more to define Esfahani and his work than a purely nostalgic appreciation.
“The first idea I got rid of was that I’m on some sort of historical or moral mission. I play harpsichord because it’s beautiful…because I think it’s worth your time,” he says.
Esfahani lives in Prague and has taught harpsichord in Oxford and London, but he travels to the U.S. frequently to perform, including a well-received run at the 92 Street Y back in March.