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Sorting out Iran’s remaining orchestras

We reported on Sunday that the Iranian National Symphony Orchestra has been abolished. The following day, Associated Press said it was the Teheran Symphony. So which was it?

Iranian blogger Pejman sets the position straight here.

We also hear that a young American violinist, William Harvey, was engaged early this year to play an Iranian concerto in Teheran, but later cancelled. He teaches at the National Insitute of Music in Kabul, Afghanistan.


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  1. Does the Teheran Symphony exist? In 1977 Farhad Mechkat the conductor was performing in Canada when music was outlawed. He couldn’t return. I thought the orchestra was disbanded at that time. I would be interested to know if it still exists. Ann Summers Dossena

  2. William Harvey says:

    The reasons for the cancellation of my performance were not clear to me. I regret that the performance was cancelled and look forward to my next opportunity to perform in the Islamic Republic of Iran as a gesture of peace and friendship.

    William Harvey
    Violin/Viola Teacher
    Afghanistan National Institute of Music
    Ministry of Education
    Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

  3. Neil van der Linden says:

    Comment from a friend in Iran who by no means has particular reasons to just follow the official opinion: He wrote that one of the two symphonic orchestras has been disbanded due to budgetary problems. No mentioning of Mullah interferences. And he wrote that it was the Iranian National (not with Symhony added) Orchestra, not the Teheran Symphony Orchestra. Note that the Iranian National Orchestra is a mixed Western/Oriental instrument orchestra, so in principle closer to a national traditional culture, while the Symphony Orchestra is strictly Western classical instruments. It plays new works by Iranian composers, often with a nationalist or religious theme, but also just Wagner, Beethoven, Tchaikovski, Orff, Mendelssohn, Prokofieve or Armenian/Iranian composer Loris Tjeknavorian, who is knonw outside Iran and Armenia as a conductor too, having recorded for Philips, RCA and a lot for ASV.

  4. Neil van der Linden says:

    To Mrs Summers: at some point in the nineties it was revived, with several conductors including Loris Tjeknavorian, mentioned in my previous posting.
    An interesting conductor of the Iran National Orchestra but very well versed in the classical repertoire is/was Bardia Kiaras, a young excellent conductor, for a while involved Barenboim’s West-East Divan Orchestra and trainee with Barenboim in Berlin.
    A Fox (of all!) news item on this topic had it mostly right.
    Except that they also inadvertedly added the denominator symphony to the name of the orchestra, and add something about criticism from the most conservative clerics on the immoral Western values would propagate. Certainly such opitions exist, but is the most Western of the two orchestras, the Teheran Symphony Orchestra, that survives.

    • Now, Neil, let’s not give too much credit to Fox News … :-P

      That article is one of the two AP articles I mentioned. (Peer closely at the tiny little byline/dateline in gray italics under the headline – if you can make it out :-P you’ll see that it says “Associated Press”.)

      Thanks very much for helping sort this out for us English-speakers!

      • Neil van der Linden says:

        Thanks. No I would not give too much credibility to a Foxnews message. Yet I m surprised that they write quite in detail and about music at all.

  5. Such confusion!

    I spoke via Facebook today to two members of the Tehran Symphony Orchestra. And yes indeed this is the orchestra that is having all the financial trouble reported by AP and not the Iranian National Orchestra.

    I asked point blank “Has the Tehran Symphony Orchestra been disbanded” the reply from one musician was “Officially NO but in reality yes”!!!! from another, “We haven’t been paid, but we still show up to play, but there are no projects”

    The Tehran Symphony Orchestra has survived from the revolution till now and has been written off many times before within Iranian society. I hope somehow that they manage to keep some semblance of an orchestra together while they wait for better times ahead.

    Here is yet another article with a picture of myself conducting the Tehran Symphony Orchestra in 2010. I am very saddened with these developments. The musicians of the orchestra are truly wonderful people.

  6. This man might know more about what’s going on over there right now:

    Manuchehr Sahbai, according to his biography, has been the “prancipal condutor” [sic] and “artistic director of Tehran Symphony Orchestra” since 2007. I never met him personally, but I remember him as an outstanding principal oboist of the orchestra in St. Gallen, Switzerland when I used to live there.

    • Sahbai resigned from the Tehran Symphony Orchestra about 2007/2008. Shardad Rohani an Iranian conductor living in Los Angeles has been working with them a lot since Sahbai left. :)

      • Neil van der Linden says:

        As far as I know Nader Mortezapour is or was the chief conductor, but for a long while Loris Tjeknavorian (I mentioned him before) kept the orchestra running.
        In fact he was the one, international, Armenian and modernist as he is, to plead personally with Ahmadinejad to keep the orchestra, it seems. I attended a later concert where Ahmadinejad attended. Maybe that was with Manucher Sahbai, because I remember orchestra members criticising the conductor as a conductor and a composer but praising him as oboist.

        • Hi Neil, Nader was made chief conductor in about April 2011. After he conducted a concert for an International Arab/Persian conference at which Ahmadinejad as well as ten other heads of state of the Arab world were in attendance. I know this as I was the conductor originally engaged for this prestigious concert event, but at the last minute there was suddenly “a problem” getting my visa! (long story! politics for sure!) :)

          • Neil van der Linden says:

            The pieces of the puzzle start to match…
            It would be also interesting to wee the repertoire developing.
            In the first years I was there, the Khatami years, certainly Tchaikovski, Prokofiev, Tjeknavorian (a good post-Prokovievian), but also Wagner, Mendelssoh, and even Carmina Burana (for a while Carmina Burana was the sort of welcoming tune in one of the main metro stations too).
            But for a while the repertoire moved to Revolution symphonies and the Sacred Defence symphonies (the Iraq Iran 80 to 88 war) and things about Islam (even Armenian and so Christian Tjeknavorian wrote s symphony about the Prophet).

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