|Rumi symphony project
You knew that anticipation ran high for the Rumi Symphony Project, assembled by the Iranian composer Hafez Nazeri, long before you set foot inside Carnegie Hall on Saturday night. Shortly ahead of curtain time, ticket lines still extended to the sidewalk. Even after the start was delayed for 20 minutes, dozens of audience members (and at least one reviewer) missed an opening section of the performance.
Mr. Nazeri’s ambitious attempt to fuse musical idioms in an expression of peaceful coexistence went smoothly by comparison. Mr. Nazeri — the son of Shahram Nazeri, a celebrated Iranian Kurdish singer — trained in Persian music almost from infancy, and later studied Western classical music. His “Cycle One” has set to music verses by the 13th-century poet Rumi and a portion of “Shahnameh,” an epic by the 11th-century poet Ferdowsi.
The violist Paul Neubauer and the cellist Fred Sherry played sinuous lines and chugging cadences; a tidy melding of the Persian Nava mode and the Western key of G minor also enabled them to harmonize behind Shahram Nazeri’s powerful singing. Hafez Nazeri plucked delicate asides on a customized setar (a Persian lute). Two skillful percussionists, Hussein Zahawy and Shane Shanahan, were propulsive and flashy. The cellist Matt Haimovitz, the violinist Ida Kavafian and the double bassist Timothy Cobb made potent contributions in later sections.
Accommodating a harmonious mix meant smoothing over the distinctive microtonal complexities characteristic of Persian music. Still, a large audience that included many Iranian-Americans voiced its approval with repeated ovations, and sang along when Shahram Nazeri offered a brief tantalizing passage from his album “Gol-e Sad Barg” during the encore.
Nov 16, 2009.