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Iran marks Mahler Day

Press TV, official outlet of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has announced a concert tomorrow at Jalil Shahnazi Hall in Tehran for what is described as ‘the 101th death anniversary ceremony’ of Gustav Mahler. Actually, they are a day early, but never mind. Read on…

‘As a part of the commemoration program, several remarkable works of Mahler are scheduled to be reviewed by the master artists,’ we are told.

And ‘Mahler (1860 -1911) was a composer who acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. ‘

Make of this what you will.

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  1. Andrew Powell says:

    This is the “civilization” that hangs teenagers for being gay and stones women for resisting marital violence. It needs more than Mahler. Maybe Machaut could nudge them forward?

  2. Peter Freeman says:

    Surely this is a case of double standards on their part? At least Hitler had the (in)decency and consistency to ban the playing of music by any composer with the remotest familial connection to a Jew, alongside burning books by such authors. How can Ahmedinajad face himself in the shaving mirror each morning, let alone sleep at nights? What hypocrisy!

  3. I’m amazed really that they have any time for classical music in Iran at all. An Iranian music student told me recently that the religious police stopped a friend of hers for singing “in a Western operatic style”

    I hope there will come a time when Iranians have the artistic and academic freedom they deserve

  4. Neil van der Linden says:

    The Iranian regime may often be at the wrong side of history, if not worse, but the three reactions here, each completely misinformed and easily falsifiable, demonstrate that there is lot to be gained on the Western side in the fight against willfully wrong information, something that we in the West boast of having free access to. In the US you could for instance read the articles in the Washington Post and the New York Times by Thomas Erdbrink, correspondent in Teheran, or visit the Leila Heller art gallery. This is not to ignore that the Iranian regime is oppressive and crude, and out of touch with its people and time.

    • Nicely put Neil. I am one of the very few westerners to have conducted the Tehran Symphony Orchestra in recent times. It was a wonderful experience, the musicians had a great attitude and willingness to learn. Westerners forget that despite the Islamic government Iranians pride themselves on being the most culturally secular society in the Middle East after Israel. And Iran, prior to the Islamic Revolution was the only ally of Israel in the region. Derek Gleeson

  5. Neil van der Linden says:

    Of course I thank Mr Lebrecht for his column, Mr Lebrecht, and I appreciate very much the way you deal with the topic, as you tackle the paradox. I go regularly to Iran for cultural exchange, and although there are enough issues that can only be met with an outright rejection, anyone who has ever seen an Iranian movie, like for instance A Seoaration, whicih won an Oscar, rightly so, plus anyone who reads about such an event such as a Mahler commemoration may know that sometimes we should be grateful that life and humankind can be complex. Apart from the fact that Iran as general is a cultured nation and apart from the fact that there is a music conservatory in Teheran, and a Teheran Symphony Orchestra, and another orchestra is conducted by a young Iranian former assistant in Berlin of Daniel Barenboim, the message of this commemoration of Maher might be read as: look our problem is not with Jewish peoplle at alll (Shiraz, Isfanan and Teheran have a palpable Jewish community by the way) but our problem is with the Israeli regime. ‘Our’ problem in this case is the Iranian regime’s stance, the general stance of the regime is often not reflected in what many people think. But in this Iran is not unique.

  6. James Inverne says:

    Hmm, yes Neil, that must be why they hold conferences denying the Holocaust. And the Iranian Jewish community lives in fear.

  7. E Heinze says:

    The error we constantly make is to see the West solely as the former empire and Islamic states solely as the former (or, in Palestine’s case, current) colonies. That story only makes sense if we see history beginning in the 19th century. Yet Muslims themselves insist on a longer timeline, reaching even as far back as the Crusades. Within that longer history, Christian Europe and Islam were both playing imperial politics, even if they often did so by different means.

    Insofar as Iran sees itself as Islamic, it perpetuates its own imperial perspective. For the most part (although history certainly includes horrific exceptions) the aim of empire is not to eliminate but to subordinate through appropriation. From that perspective an Iran which desires simultaneously to destroy the Jewish state, yet to exhibit Jewish art and music, is not contradictory — no more than it ever was for imperial Europeans to exhibit artifacts of conquered peoples.

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      It is better to be precise: the exact official wordings of the regime are not to destroy the Jewish state, but to abolish or put an end to the ‘Zionist regime’, and you can think of that what you like, but it is a difference. And although all things are not equal, these wordings are comparable to the official wordings of many Western powers, who want to put an end to the Iranian regime. So in this respect it is an eye for an eye, tit for tat. In fact in the mindset of many Western people and populist politicians the phrasings are less subtle, and they seem not to mind to wipe Iran including its people from the map. Although it was mainly meant as a wordplay joke, we remember McCain singing the words Bomb bomb Iran on the melody of the Beachboys’ Barbara Ann. In daily practice McCain is much more sensible, but Palin, Bachman and Santorum might not have been, almost proud of their ignorance and lack of sense for subtlety.

  8. Joel V. says:

    I heard a performance of Verdi’s opera in Teheran back in 2007.


    • Neil van der Linden says:

      Probably that was one of the puppet opera performances by Behrouz Gharibpoor and his company. They overcome the rule of females not to be seen singing in public as solo by staging musicdrama’s as marionet opera, which then leads to a striking new genre by itself. They have once done Verdi’s Macbeth. The other opera’s were Rostam e Sohrab, based on an episode of the Shahnameh, the national epic, composed and conducted by Armenian-Iranian Loris Tjeknavorian, not unknown in the West for his extensive catalogue of Russian and Armenian composers (Terterian!) on ASV plus some Borodin, Tsjaikofski, Strawinsky and others here and there on Philips and RCA in the past, but now somewhat forgotten, and after all this three striking opera’s based on a symphonic musical score mixing with traditional classical Iranian singing style, by young composer Behzad Abdi, including a Rumi opera and soon to come a Hafez opera.

      • Neil van der Linden says:

        About what is permitted and not, and what the boundaries for art are in Iran, and how such boundaries can lead to new forms and standards in art, this clip is instructive, and it includes a female solo singing in the end, accompanied by male choir.
        The making of Kiarostami;s film Shirin with some of the most renwned actresses of Iranian cinema and theatre

        This is not to say that we should praise oppressive regimes because they stimulate new forms of subversive but in many respects autonomous, innovative art.

        But it is to say that in these time of information wars it is important to use the exact correct arguments, because otherwise, although the popular sentiments sometimes may seem to less receptive to nuances, the value of the arguments and the right to argue are being corrupted. And in these times of wide access to information, it is easy to to look up things on something as valuable as Wikipedia, and to check some of the more balanced investigative journalists like the aforementioned Thomas Erdbrink in the NYTimes, and not just the opEd-ists, be it pro or contra.

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