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Persian Composer Makes Music in Petersburg

Published: August 15, 2012 (Issue # 1722)



  • Composer Mehdi Hosseini runs the reMusik Contemporary Music Center.
    Photo: REMUSIK.ORG

  • Hosseini observes a St. Petersburg Academic Philharmonic Orchestra rehearsal.
    Photo: REMUSIK.ORG

Running a contemporary classical music center in Russia may seem an unlikely occupation for a Persian composer brought up in the traditional and extremely intricate Oriental musical culture. This, however, has been the exact mission of 33-year-old Tehran-born composer Mehdi Hosseini for the past 10 years.

Hosseini arrived in town in 2002 to study at the St. Petersburg State Conservatory under composer Sergei Slonimsky and music historian Tatyana Bershadskaya, making Russia’s northern capital his second home.

Hosseini, who originally studied drama, switched to classical music relatively late, already in his teens. He took private lessons from Farhad Fakhreddini, the man behind the Iranian national orchestra, for five years, and it was through his mentor that Hosseini came across his first-ever piece of the Russian classics — Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.”

Since that time, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Stravinsky have become Hosseini’s favorites. It is these composers that he would bring to Iran, if he were to introduce the local audiences to the Russian classics, he said.

“I would be interested in building up an evening of pieces by Shostakovich — a string chamber quartet, a symphony and a concerto all performed during the same evening,” he said. “Some would criticize this approach for “overindulging the audiences,” but for me this approach feels right because it allows the listeners to get a full scope of the legacy of a master.”

In St. Petersburg, Hosseini made supporting new music festivals one of the key priorities of his reMusik Contemporary Music Center, which he founded in 2010 and which runs new contemporary academic music festivals and publishes an Internet magazine on contemporary music in Russian and English (www.remusik.org). Through his work, the composer has established extensive contacts with St. Petersburg classical music ensembles and local musicians are also keen to play Hosseini’s original works.

The composer, whose opuses have been performed during some of the city’s most respected cotemporary academic music festivals, in the caliber of St. Petersburg Musical Spring, Sound Ways, Contemporary East and West and Contemporary Past, is now working on a new piece that will premiere during the forthcoming edition of the annual international Sound Ways festival in November.

“The orchestras simply need to play new music, otherwise there will never be an audience for it,” Hosseini said. “The human soul is curious — during rehearsals I can feel the curiosity, which is much stronger than any prejudice or skepticism.”

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