Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani becomes youngest recipient of Wigmore Medal

Mahan Esfahani, a 38-year-old Iranian-American harpsichordist, has become the youngest recipient of the Wigmore Medal. In recognition of his outstanding musical achievement and contribution to Wigmore Hall, Esfahani received the medal last night from Wigmore Hall director John Gilhooly. The presentation followed Esfahani’s performance of JS Bach’s The Art of Fugue, a landmark concert from his Bach cycle for Wigmore Hall which began in 2017.

The Wigmore Medal was inaugurated in 2007 and rewards great International artists and important figures from the world of classical music closely associated with the Hall. Mahan Esfahani made his London debut at Wigmore Hall in 2009 as a concerto soloist with The English Concert. His ongoing Bach cycle at the Hall spanned several seasons and persevered through a global pandemic. More recently, he presented Bach’s French Suites, Fantasies and Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier on the Hall stage.

Other recent performances at Wigmore Hall have seen him team up with oboist Nicholas Daniel, flautist Adam Walker, horn player Benjamin Goldscheider and cellist Isang Enders for an evening of 20th and 21st century rarities from Debussy, Elliott Carter and Thomas Ades. Esfahani gave the London premiere of Laurence Osborn’s Automaton for harpsichord and chamber ensemble with the Britten Sinfonia on the Wigmore Hall stage in 2019.

Mahan Esfahani returns to Wigmore Hall on February 25, 2023 with a performance of Book II of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier.

Mahan Esfahani says: “Wigmore Hall’s support of my ambitions and career has been crucial from the start of my professional life; it is a great honor for me to receive this sign of confidence in my work from one of the greatest venues in the world, in its largest city.

The citation for the Wigmore Medal award read: “Mahan Esfahani is now justly recognized for his exceptional qualities as one of the most eminent harpsichordists in the world. Mahan is particularly known for his outstanding performances across a very wide repertoire. He is a high-quality performer, whether playing old or modern works – many of which have just been commissioned by him. And he’s a musician with surprisingly broad intellectual interests: he challenges preconceived ideas about what a harpsichord recital can be. His unwavering advocacy for the instrument was nothing short of extraordinary.

Past recipients of the Wigmore Medal include Iestyn DaviesChristian Gerhaher, Angela Hewitt, Steven Isserlis, Dame Felicity LottMenahem Pressler, Thomas Quasthoff, Sir András Schiff and the Takács Quartet.

Whether re-establishing the presence of the harpsichord as an important concerto instrument with the major orchestras of the day, working with electronics and new media, or playing some of the earliest harpsichord recitals in places like China, Mahan Esfahani has established himself as a new pioneer of his instrument. After studying musicology and history at Stanford University, he completed his studies with Zuzana Růžičková in Prague. Several of his recordings – for Hyperion, Wigmore Hall Live and Deutsche Grammophon – have received major classical music awards. Recent seasons at Wigmore Hall have seen landmark concerts in his study of the complete keyboard works of JS Bach; elsewhere, its active command creates a new directory for the harpsichord. After a period as artist in residence at New College, Oxford, he continued his academic activities as a professor at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

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