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Iran’s National Orchestra set to re-launch - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Members of Iran's National Orchestra perform at a concert during the 27th Fadjr International Music Festival in Tehran on February 16, 2012. (Xinhua/Ahmad Halabisaz)

Members of Iran’s National Orchestra perform at a concert during the 27th Fadjr International Music Festival in Tehran on February 16, 2012. (Xinhua/Ahmad Halabisaz)

Tehran, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iran’s National Orchestra is set to be heard again after years of setbacks and internal strife, having been suspended in 2012 over financial issues.

In the last few years, the work of Iran’s National Orchestra was suspended, which was the same fate of many other similar cultural institutions activities. However, there are rumors which say the orchestra is about to launch itself onto the music scene again again following the appointment of two directors, Pirooz Arjmand and Farhad Fakhreddini.

Conductor Farhad Fakhreddini has been appointed to coach the orchestra to renewed success. Fakhreddini was one of the founders of the National Orchestra in 1998, but he left in 2009 due to what he described as “excessive intervention” by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat about taking the helm of the National Orchestra once again, Fakhreddini said: “We have to wait and see how the planning stage goes. We need to establish an arts council to make decisions regarding the first concert and the annual program of events. I agreed to help re-launch the National Orchestra, and I heard recently that [director] Arjmand announced my appointment as conductor of the orchestra, but I am awaiting the meetings to be held and decisions to be made in this regard.”

Not to be confused with the Tehran Symphony Orchestra, Iran’s National Orchestra plays traditional Iranian instruments and scores, with the introduction of Western instruments only when it won’t conflict with the traditional Iranian sound.

A former pianist in the orchestra, Maziar Heidari, describes the orchestra as “unrivalled in the world because of the instruments used.”

“There may be other orchestras where traditional and contemporary instruments are mixed together,” he said, “but I doubt that those orchestras would provide a mix like the one we have in Iran. For example, the National Orchestra in Azerbaijan plays traditional [Azeri] instruments, but does not use classical [i.e., Western] instruments.”

Despite its musical pedigree, its recent history has been a troubled one.

In 2009, Fakhreddini resigned from the orchestra after 11 years of service, following the cancelation of a performance in which Mohammad Reza Shajarian was due to take part as a vocalist by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Fakhreddini said he resigned because art had been politicized, and because the rights of musicians were neglected.

In his time with the orchestra, Fakhreddini and his colleagues worked on a number of major joint projects with other international musical institutions, such as the the Swiss Orchestra in Geneva, and performances with musicians such as Azeri string player Ramiz Guliyev and opera singer Lutfiyar Imanov.

It remains to be seen if the orchestra will be more successful this time around, and if it will be given the space and funding it needs to act as a custodian and ambassador of Iran’s musical heritage.