Kronos Quartet Featuring Mahsa Vahdat Performs in Zankel Hall February 8
In Music for Change: The Banned Countries-a program that highlights the rich diversity of artistic voices from Muslim majority countries-Kronos Quartet explores musical traditions and soundscapes from more than ten predominantly Muslim nations, including Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The concert on Friday, February 8 at 9:00 p.m. in Zankel Hall features Iranian vocalist and activist Mahsa Vahdat.
"My goal for Kronos has always been to be a revolutionary force," says Kronos Quartet Artistic Director David Harrington, "not just in making music, but in exploring the ways that music can increase our understanding of our times and our connection to people around the world."
The program also features the world premiere performance of Ya Mun Dakhal Bahr Al-Hawa (Hey, Who Enters the Sea of Passion?) by Fatimah Al-Zaelaeyah (arr. Jacob Garchik), commissioned by Carnegie Hall as part of its 125 Commissions Project and Islam Chipsy's Zaghlala (Blurred visioncaused by strong light hitting the eyes) (arr. Jacob Garchik) co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall both as part of its 125 Commissions project and as part of Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire.
Mahsa Vahdat is one of the most important performers of Persian vocal music in the world today. Her career has given a deeper knowledge about Iranian poetry and music to large audiences in Europe, America, Asia, Oceania and Africa. Vahdat has developed her personal style based on the Persian vocal tradition of classical and regional folk music, but with a contemporary expression. She has always searched for ways to make her music relevant to the present world. Even if the origin of her styles is Iranian, she believes in her music's ability to express a universal message of humanism and freedom. Her collaboration with musicians from Iran and many other parts of the world has contributed to the development of her personal expression.
Born in Tehran in 1973, Vahdat entered Tehran Arts University in 1993 and graduated with a B.A. in Music in 1995. Since then, she has performed as an independent singer and musician in many concerts and festivals in Asia, Europe, America, and Africa together with musicians from Iran, Europe, and the US. She has also appeared on stage with her sister Marjan Vahdat, who has also been involved in several of her recordings.
Vahdat composes most of her songs herself, often with poems by classical Persian poets like Hafez and Rumi or contemporary ones like Fourogh Farokhzad and Mohammad Ibrahim Jafari. Her husband Atabak Elyasi, a composer and setar player, often takes part in arranging her music.
Without being visible in her own society due to restrictions of female solo voice after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 in Iran, Vahdat and her sister Marjan have had continuous contact with a large audience who appreciates their art, both in Iran and abroad.
Following her participation in the album Lullabies from the Axis of Evil (2004), Vahdat started a long-lasting collaboration with the Norwegian record label Kirkelig Kulturverksted (KKV) and its leader Erik Hillestad, who has produced most of her albums. This collaboration led to a worldwide release of a series of records and a number of tours and concerts in many countries.
Since 2007, Vahdat has been one of the ambassadors of Freemuse Organization, an independent international organization that advocates freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide. In 2010, she was granted the Freemuse Award.
For 45 years, San Francisco's Kronos Quartet-David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Sunny Yang (cello)-has pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually reimagine the string quartet experience. In the process, Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential groups of our time, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 60 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, collaborating with many of the world's most intriguing and accomplished composers and performers, and commissioning more than 1,000 works and arrangements for string quartet. Kronos has received over 40 awards, including both the Polar Music and Avery Fisher Prize, two of the most prestigious awards given to musicians. In 2018, they became the first US-based musicians to receive the WOMEX (World Music Expo) Artist Award.
Kronos's adventurous approach dates back to the ensemble's origins. In 1973, David Harrington was inspired to form Kronos after hearing George Crumb's Black Angels, a highly unorthodox, Vietnam War-inspired work featuring bowed water glasses, spoken word passages, and electronic effects. Kronos then began building a compellingly eclectic repertoire for string quartet, performing and recording works by 20th-century masters (Bartók, Webern, Schnittke), contemporary composers (Vladimir Martynov, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Sahba Aminikia), jazz legends (Charles Mingus, Maria Schneider, Thelonious Monk), rock artists (Jimi Hendrix, The Who's Pete Townshend, Sigur Rós), master musicians from around the world (Wu Man, R.D. Burman, Tanya Tagaq, Trio Da Kali, Mahsa Vahdat, Astor Piazzolla), and artists who truly defy genre (performance artist Laurie Anderson, visual artist Trevor Paglen, spoken-word poets from Youth Speaks).
In addition to its role as a performing and recording ensemble, the quartet is committed to mentoring emerging performers and composers and has led workshops, master classes, and other education programs with Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute, Kaufman Music Center's Face the Music, Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and through the Embassy Adoption Program (a program of Washington Performing Arts and District of Columbia Public Schools), among other institutions in the US and overseas. Kronos has recently undertaken extended educational residencies at UC Berkeley's Cal Performances, Holland Festival, Texas Performing Arts Association at the University of Texas at Austin, New York University Abu Dhabi, and Mount Royal University Conservatory.
The nonprofit Kronos Performing Arts Association manages all aspects of Kronos' work. In 2015, KPAA launched Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, a string quartet commissioning, performance, education, and legacy project of unprecedented scope and potential impact. Drawing on more than 40 years of collaboration with prominent and emerging composers from around the world, KPAA is commissioning a library of 50 works designed to guide young amateur and early-career professional string quartets in developing and honing the skills required for the performance of 21st-century repertoire. Scores and parts, recordings and learning materials for 25 string quartets composed by Philip Glass, Wu Man, Trio Da Kali's Fodé Lassana Diabate, Rhiannon Giddens and others are available for free on kronosquartet.org. Joining KPAA as Lead Partner for Kronos's Fifty for the Future project is Carnegie Hall. In conjunction with the launch of its 125th Anniversary celebration in 2015-2016, Carnegie Hall will present Kronos concerts, produce community performances, and host educational workshops featuring this new repertoire during the five years of the project.
Tickets, priced $63 and $75, are available at the Carnegie Hall Box Office, 154 West 57th Street, or can be charged to major credit cards by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800 or by visiting the Carnegie Hall website, carnegiehall.org.
Photo by Steve Sherman