Mahan Esfahani becomes youngest ever recipient of Wigmore Medal
The medal, whose previous recipients include Iestyn Davies, Christian Gerhaher, Angela Hewitt and Steven Isserlis, recognises international artists who have made a great contribution to Wigmore Hall
The 38-year-old Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani has become the youngest recipient of the Wigmore Medal, an award that - since its inauguration in 2007 - has recognised outstanding international artists who have made a great contribution to Wigmore Hall. The medal, whose past recipients include Iestyn Davies, Christian Gerhaher, Angela Hewitt and Steven Isserlis amongst others, was presented to Esfahani following his performance of JS Bach's Art of Fugue – part of his Bach cycle for the venue which began in 2017 and continued even through the pandemic.
Esfahani, who studied at Stanford University and with Zuzana Růžičková in Prague, is renowned for his pioneering work as an advocate of the harpsichord. As comfortable working with electronics and new media as he is with ancient repertoire, he has performed all over the world and, following a period as Artist in Residence at New College, Oxford, is currently a professor at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
‘Mahan Esfahani is now quite rightly recognised for his outstanding qualities as one of the world’s pre-eminent harpsichordists,' read the citation for the medal. 'Mahan is particularly known for his exceptional performances across a very wide range of repertoire. He is a performer of star quality, whether playing ancient or modern works – many of them newly commissioned by him. And he is a musician of strikingly broad intellectual interests: he challenges preconceptions of what a harpsichord recital can be. His unstinting advocacy for the instrument has been nothing short of extraordinary.’
On receiving the medal Esfahani said: ‘Wigmore Hall’s support of my ambitions and career has been crucial from the very beginning of my professional life,' said Esfahani on receiving the medal. 'It is a great honour for me to receive this sign of confidence in my work from one of the great halls of the world, in its greatest city.’
Photo: Richard Cannon
Hannah Nepilova is a regular contributor to BBC Music Magazine. She has also written for The Financial Times, The Times, The Strad, Gramophone, Opera Now, Opera, the BBC Proms and the Philharmonia, and runs The Cusp, an online magazine exploring the boundaries between art forms. Born to Czech parents, she has a strong interest in Czech music and culture.