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About the Music


The Festival's Programming
"The musical heritage of Persia is very old and rich with its own style and character," says St.Clair. "It is music that stirs the heart and wakes the senses. Especially during the spring; this is a time to reflect and look forward."


ACF opens with "Nowruz—Celebrating Spring," which observes the Iranian New Year by exploring intersections between American and Persian music, and takes place on Thursday-Saturday, March 22-24, at 8 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Led by Maestro St.Clair, the performance features Grammy-winning soprano Plitmann, known for her astonishing musicianship and beautiful voice. Entertainment Today has raved, "Plitmann has a vocal instrument that is simply unreal in its beauty." Her ability to perform challenging new works makes her the ideal choice to perform, along with the Pacific Chorale (John Alexander, artistic director), the concert's centerpiece: Danielpour's "Toward a Season of Peace." Also on the program is Iran's preeminent conductor Mechkat, who takes turns with St.Clair on the podium, including conducting Kodaly's "Dances of Galanta."

Kodály’s Dances of Galánta exemplifies the link between ethnic musical sources and formal classical composition — and shows why it matters so much in today’s world. The exotic, copper-hued modes of this dance suite seem to echo with the sounds of the Romani people’s wanderings of many generations throughout the Indo-European region, yet they also sound distinctively Hungarian. They embody a distinct cultural heritage with ethnic sources that range from the Middle East to Western Europe; at the same time, they reflect a universal human desire to reach out and understand our neighbors through music.

"I've been known in my work for many years as an American and writing in an idiomatic American way, but my parents were born in Iran," says Danielpour. "I was first-generation American, born in the U.S., but our household was deeply steeped in Persian-Jewish culture. When my sister and I took the Stanford Achievement Test as kids, there was a place to state your race: Caucasian, Negro or Other. We wrote 'Other' because we didn't think of ourselves as white. Even though we were born in America and brought up that way, we definitely felt the otherness."

Having grown up with a keen sense of personal exclusion, inclusiveness has become a critical theme for the composer. And as his ancestral country becomes increasingly politically charged, Danielpour feels an urgency to bring what healing he can to a disjointed world. The ideas of conflict, transformation, forgiveness and peace are all at the forefront of Danielpour's consciousness, something that becomes vividly apparent during the ACF concerts that feature his "Toward a Season of Peace."

"We live in a sick world that needs a lot of healing," he says. "Over time, I've realized that has borne itself out more and more in the work I've written. I am not interested so much in politics as in humanitarian issues, but often times, what is political crosses over and becomes humanitarian. I'm interested in human beings, in fairness, in fair treatment, in justice, in people not being used as pawns for others' political games. And that, in that sense, when something crosses over that's where you'll find me."

The Symphony's Classical Connections concert, "A New Day—Celebrating Nowruz," takes place Sunday, March 25, at 3 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall and deeply probes Danielpour's new work. Written for orchestra, chorus and soprano solo, "Toward a Season of Peace" brings together sacred texts from different religious traditions, woven together with texts by the great Sufi poet Rumi. (Sufism is generally defined as the inner, mystical, esoteric dimension of Islam). Led by St.Clair, the performance features soprano Hila Plitmann and the Pacific Chorale, as well as the Shams Ensemble.


Concluding the festival on Tuesday, March 27, at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall is a concert devoted to the Shams Ensemble, which draws its influence from traditional Kurdish, Sufi and classical Iranian music. The group was founded by composer Kaykhosro Pournazeri in 1977 with a vision of bringing back the lost art of the tanbour through compositions that fused the tanbour and daf with other traditional classical instruments.