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From Italy to Persia

Aryan Gheitasi (oboe), Soroush Sadeghi (piano) (Ars Produktion)

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

From Italy To Persia
Works by Askari, Pasculli, Rouhani, Vali and Yahya
Aryan Gheitasi (oboe), Soroush Sadeghi (piano)
Ars Produktion ARS38604   47:41 mins

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The liner note’s first paragraph suggests that Persian music is ‘primarily performed on historical instruments’, while this recording uses ‘modern’ instruments. Nonsense! Traditional Persian music – as the classical music of Iran is still called by Iranian musicians today – is alive and well, and played on instruments which may have a long history, but which are every bit as ‘modern’ as the piano and oboe. I’m speaking primarily about the sorna oboe and the breathy, caressingly sweet ney flute, and it’s the latter which usually takes the melodic role which Aryan Gheitasi’s oboe takes here.

Apart from the Pasculli pieces (entirely European, and rather out of place here), and from the Rouhani pieces (which sound like latter-day Shostakovich), most of the pieces on this release purport to draw their inspiration from Persian folk melodies. But despite Gheitasi’s virtuosity, these extremely short arrangements simply don’t evoke that provenance at all.

It is indeed a tall order to translate microtonal songs into a diatonic soundworld, but it can be done. Listen to Komitas’s arrangements of Armenian dances as played on the piano by Lusine Grigoryan or Grigory Sokolov: subtle shades of colour and delicate rhythmic inflections really can conjure up an ambience which is refreshingly non-European. There is plenty of potential in the music of these composers, but it should be allowed to fly free and be itself, rather than being lumbered with a label which doesn’t fit.

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Michael Church