Persian Folklore

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New Albion
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Persian Folklore

Many composers of the late nineteeth and early twentieth centuries used the folk music of their native countries as a source of inspiration for their compositions. For some composers, such as Stravinsky, this was a short-lived infatuation soon to be followed by neoclassicism, or, for others, one of several different forms of modernism. Among the major European composers, Bela Bartok, Manuel de Falla, and Zoltan Kodaly remained significantly committed to using folk music as primary sources for their works. In the present generation Reza Vali is a leading exponent of this practice and one of the few using Persian folk songs as a basis for composing Western classical music.

As a student at the Teheran conservatory, Vali began to collect Persian folk music, an activity he continues today. He soon began composing music based on the actual melodies he had collected as well as writing music in the style of these songs - 'imaginary' folk music, to borrow a phrase from Bartok. In 1978 Vali completed his first set of folk songs for voice and piano. The next three sets, composed in the early 1980s, were also written for voice and piano, but in 1984 Vali began to write folk songs for different combinations of instruments. This recording includes Set No. 9 for flute and cello, Set No. 11B for string quartet, and Four Movements for string quartet and string orchestra.

CARPE DIEM STRING QUARTET; David Korevaar; Dariush Saghafi


This sixth album from the Iranian composer Reza Vali is dedicated to love and longing as heard through a lavishly coloured, musically exhilarating kaleidoscope of Persian and Western forms and content. It is the improvisational nature of the three works written for and performed by the Carpe Diem Quartet with great gusto and an emphasis on exotic folk and Eastern influences that produces the most powerful effects, as in the eight intriguing meditations of Ormavi, told, the composer says, ‘from a solely Persian perspective’.

The 18-minute Raak, No 15 in the composer’s ‘Calligraphy’ series based on a Persian system of modes similar to Indian ragas, is even more unpredictable in its mood and movement; the wealth of evocative sounds and sources Vali uses to achieve his many climaxes include a melody of Brahms-ian breadth and beauty and, at the end, a stunning, brief fragment from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Vali generously and provocatively provides two different versions of Âshoob, No 14 in the ‘Calligraphy’ series. In its original form for quartet and the Persian hammered dulcimer known as a santoor it is a tangibly otherworldly experience; arranged for string quartet alone it is hypnotic in another way, reminiscent at times of Bartók’s use of folk sources for melody and energy.

To fill out the disc, the Carpe Diem violinist Charles Wetherbee and the pianist David Korevaar play Three Romantic Songs, written for the composer’s wife, paying homage to Brahms and concluding with a ‘Tango Johannes’ which Vali describes as Brahms ‘trying to dance the tango with Clara Schumann’, and Love Drunk, consisting of four pleasantly inebriated folk songs.

Gramaphone Reviews, Laurence Vittes