Monday, February 29, 2016

The harpsichord riot

Mahan Esfahani, the Iranian-American harpsichordist giving a Sunday matinee performance with the period-instruments ensemble Concerto Köln in Cologne, Germany, leavened a baroque-rococo program with a harpsichord version of Steve Reich’s “Piano Phase” (1967), only to find that the piece provoked a near-riot in the audience.

In a missive to Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc blog, Esfahani writes that he’s “fairly sure that the harpsichord has never been in a situation which has inspired total order breaking down in a concert hall. For me, that’s indescribably awesome. If this instrument can inspire opinions, then we are on to something. Of course, I wish people would express themselves in more respectful ways, but who am I to judge? My brain hurts to think what would have transpired had I played something really new.”