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 prizewinner (2009), and a nominee for Gramophone’s Artist of the Year (2014, 2015, and 2017).
His work for the harpsichord has resulted in recitals in most of the major series and halls, amongst them London’s Wigmore Hall and Barbican Centre, Oji Hall in Tokyo, the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, Shanghai Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Recital Centre, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Berlin Konzerthaus, Zurich Tonhalle, Wiener Konzerthaus, San Francisco Performances, the 92nd St Y and Miller Theater in New York, Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Cologne Philharmonie, Edinburgh International Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Aldeburgh Festival, Madrid’s Fundacion 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, BBC Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Ensemble Modern, Concerto Köln, La Follia Barockorchester, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Kammerphilharmonie Potsdam, Melbourne Symphony, Auckland Philharmonia, Czech Radio Symphony, Orquesta de Navarra, Malta Philharmonic, Aarhus Symphony, Hamburg Symphony, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
Recent and future composer collaborations include solo and concerto commissions from Francisco Coll, Elena Kats-Chernin, Bent Sørensen, Miroslav Srnka, Daniel Kidane, Anahita Abbasi, Gary Carpenter, Sunleif Rasmussen, Harold Meltzer, and George Lewis.
His richly-varied discography includes two critically-acclaimed recordings for Hyperion – the C.P.E. Bach Württemberg Sonatas garnering a 2014 Gramophone Award and the Complete Pièces de Clavecin of Rameau being nominated both for a Gramophone and being named in the New York Times Critics’ List of Top Recordings of 2014 – and two albums for Deutsche Grammophon. The first for DG, ‘Time Present and Time Past,’ garnered a ‘Choc de Classica’ in France, while the latest of Bach’s ‘Goldberg’ Variations was released in August 2016 to praise from the British and foreign press, most notably being named to the long list for the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik and winning the BBC Music Magazine 2017 Instrumental Award. He also has recorded Dutilleux with the Seattle Symphony under Ludovic Morlot and an album for Wigmore Hall Live, which again was honoured with a Gramophone nomination. A recording of Corelli’s op. 5 sonatas with the legendary Michala Petri – a particularly important duo to his own heart – was awarded an ICMA in 2016.
Esfahani studied musicology and history at Stanford University, where he first studied harpsichord with Elaine Thornburgh; he then studied harpsichord intensively with Peter Watchorn in Boston before completing his formation under the celebrated Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková in Prague. 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; for the latter programme he is currently at work on his third radio documentary following two popular programs on such subjects as the history of African-American composers in the classical sphere. 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.”
- 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
- 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