Early Music Now
Press Release

Rediscovered Music From Persia

Montreal-based ensemble focuses on research, performance

By - Mar 11th, 2016 08:20 am
Constantinople ©JM. Bouque

Constantinople ©JM. Bouque

The ensemble Constantinople came into existence in 1998 in Montreal, the product of two brothers who had been exiled from Tehran to Quebec as adolescents. Already steeped in classical Persian musical and poetic traditions, these young men grew to combine self-taught, academic, and traditional training into a plan to reinvent the heritage of their native land. Milwaukee audiences will have the opportunity to share the results of their travels and research at 5:00 on Saturday, March 19th at the UWM Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts, presented by Early Music Now.

Led by noted composer Kiya Tabassian (setar), the group includes Didem Basar (kanun), Mavrothi Kontanis (oud), Patrick Graham (percussion), Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba), and Persian classical singer Sepideh Raissadat, who was the first female vocalist to be permitted to have a solo public performance in Iran after the 1979 revolution.

The program presents rediscovered treasures of Persian classical music from the Safavid dynasty (1501-1736), when large numbers of Iranian musicians migrated to the neighboring Ottoman and Byzantine cultural centers. Members of Constantinople retraced this migration journey, and found these manuscripts of compositions by Iranian musicians from that era, much of which was preserved for centuries in the palace and monastery libraries of Turkey and Greece.

Much of this music is attributed to “Acemler.” a name that was used in the Ottoman empire and Ottoman language as a term for the Iranians who moved to Turkey during the first half of 16th Century. It literally means “stranger,” in the sense of a person who comes from abroad. This term has been used in musical manuscripts to attribute the compositions to Persian composers who moved or were brought from Persia to the Ottoman Empire (almost all to Constantinople).

This migration movement continued even until the mid- 17th Century, as Persian composers came to represent the most important part of the musical life of the Ottoman court and their names started to be recognized and mentioned in the manuscripts instead of just Acemler. Sources for this music range from university libraries in Istanbul and Turkey, the British Museum, and the Monastery of Leimonos on the Island of Lesbos (Greece).

This concert is scheduled on the eve of Persian New Year, and also celebrates the first national Early Music Month. Sponsored by Early Music America, this national, grassroots campaign is designed to raise awareness of early music throughout the larger North American music community.

Constantinople’s residency, including workshops on Persian Vocal Music, Non-Western Musical Improvisation, and Micro-Tonal Musical Practices, is sponsored by Darrell and Sally Foell, with additional support and outreach sponsorship by Rebecca J. Littman, and corporate support by Orley Shabahang, Whitefish Bay. Information and registration for the workshops is available at EarlyMusicNow.org.

The 5:00 concert at UWM’s Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, March 19th, is preceded by Early Music Now’s annual Silent Auction and Chocolate Reception beginning at 3:00.

Concert tickets may be purchased online at EarlyMusicNow.org, or by phone at 414.225.3113. Tier 1 seating is sold out. Tier 2 tickets are priced at $46 for adults/seniors and $15 for students. Tier 3 tickets are priced at $29 for adults/seniors and $10 for students.

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