Whether in the realm of re-establishing the harpsichord’s presence as a significant concerto instrument with leading orchestras of the day, working with electronics and new media, or playing some of the first harpsichord recitals in such places as China, Mahan Esfahani has established himself as a new pioneer of his instrument. Following studies in musicology and history at Stanford University he completed his studies with Zuzana Růžičková in Prague. He was the first and only harpsichordist to be a BBC New Generation Artist (2008-2010), a Borletti-Buitoni prize winner (2009), and a nominee for Gramophone’s Artist of the Year (2014, 2015, and 2017). His richly-varied discography includes ten critically-acclaimed recordings for Hyperion and Deutsche Grammophon – garnering one Gramophone award, two BBC Music Magazine Awards, a Diapason d’Or and ‘Choc de Classica’ in France, and two ICMAs. For BBC Radio 3, Esfahani recently recorded a three-part series entitled The Alternative Bach exploring rare recordings and interpretations of JS Bach’s music. This goes alongside his ongoing cycle at the Wigmore Hall in which he performs the entire collection of JS Bach’s works for keyboard. In 2022, he became the youngest recipient of the Wigmore Medal, in recognition of his significant contribution and longstanding relationship with the Hall. Born in Tehran in 1984 and raised in the United States, he lived in Milan and then London for several years before taking up residence in Prague.
Mahan Esfahani has made it his life’s mission to rehabilitate the harpsichord in the mainstream of concert instruments, and to that end his creative programming and work in commissioning new works have drawn the attention of critics and audiences across Europe, Asia, and North America. He was the first and only harpsichordist to be a BBC New Generation Artist (2008-2010), a Borletti-Buitoni prize winner (2009), and a nominee for Gramophone’s Artist of the Year (2014, 2015, and 2017). In 2022, he became the youngest recipient of the Wigmore Medal, in recognition of his significant contribution and longstanding relationship with the Hall.
His work for the harpsichord has resulted in recitals in most of the major series and concert halls, amongst them London’s Wigmore Hall and Barbican Centre, Oji Hall in Tokyo, the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, Shanghai Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall in NYC, Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Recital Centre, Los Angeles’s Walt Disney COncert Hall, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Berlin Konzerthaus, Zurich Tonhalle, Wiener Konzerthaus, San Francisco Performances, the 92nd St Y, Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Cologne Philharmonie, Edinburgh International Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Aldeburgh Festival, Madrid’s Fundacio Juan March, Bergen Festival, Festival Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Al Bustan Festival in Beirut, Jerusalem Arts Festival, and the Leipzig Bach Festival, and concerto appearances with the Chicago Symphony, Ensemble Modern, BBC Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, Auckland Philharmonia, Czech Radio Symphony, Orquesta de Navarra, Malta Philharmonic, Orchestra La Scintilla, Aarhus Symphony, Montreal’s Les Violons du Roy, Hamburg Symphony, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, the Royal Northern Sinfonia, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, with whom he was an artistic partner for 2016-2018.
His richly-varied discography includes seven critically-acclaimed recordings for Hyperion and Deutsche Grammophon – garnering one Gramophone award, two BBC Music Magazine Awards, a Diapason d’Or and ‘Choc de Classica’ in France, and two ICMAs.
Esfahani studied musicology and history at Stanford University, where he first came into contact with the harpsichord in the class of Elaine Thornburgh. Following his decision to abandon the law for music, he studied harpsichord privately in Boston with Peter Watchorn before completing his formation under the celebrated Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková. Following a three-year stint as Artist-in-Residence at New College, Oxford, he continues his academic associations as an honorary member at Keble College, Oxford, and as professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He can be frequently heard as a commentator on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 and as a host for such programs as Record Review, Building a Library, and Sunday Feature, as well as in live programmes with the popular mathematician and presenter Marcus du Sautoy; for the BBC’s Sunday Feature he is currently at work on his fourth radio documentary following two popular programmes on such subjects as the early history of African-American composers in the classical sphere and the development of orchestral music in Azerbaijan. Born in Tehran in 1984 and raised in the United States, he lived in Milan and then London for several years before taking up residence in Prague.
“Now he emerges as a superstar whose musicianship, imagination, virtuosity, cultural breath and charisma far transcends the ivory tower in which the harpsichord has traditionally been placed.”
“It would be hard not to be impressed by Iranian harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani. Young, suave, eloquent..he’s an inquisitive mind…a phenomenally accomplished performance.”
“Esfahani, in total control technically, clearly delights in exploiting the expressive possibilities of the harpsichord and its sheer variety of sounds.”
- "Fantasia" by Orlando Gibbons at WQXR
- Johann Sebastian Bach - The Toccatas - Mahan Esfahani
- Viktor Kalabis – Koncert pro cembalo a smyčcový orchestr
- Mahan Esfahani, Bach's Goldberg Variations. Aria da capo, Variatio 11 a 2 Clav.
- Johann Christian Bach - Sonata in C minor, Op. 5, No. 6
- Works by Kuhnau, J.S. Bach, W.F. Bach, and C.P.E. Bach at the Library of Congress.
- Mahan talks us through Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier and why he's working on it.
- Exclusive rehearsal footage and interviews, J.S. Bach, The Art of Fugue, arr. Mahan Esfahani
- Mahan Esfahani on Bach’s Toccatas
- In recitals and with orchestras with Mahan Esfahani
- Mahan Esfahani debuts at Aspen and Mostly Mozart, has a profile in The New York Times, and more