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Cal Performances

Mahan Esfahani

April 2, 2023
Hertz Hall

Kaja Smith

Performances by the Iranian-born harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani leave critics breathless and audiences rapt—his light touch and superhuman agility conjuring interpretations that are “exquisite beyond measure” (Los Angeles Times). Esfahani—a highlight of the 2020–21 Cal Performances at Home streaming series—bristles at many of the conventions of historical performance, and enjoys programming Baroque works alongside contemporary compositions. Here, in addition to music by Bach and Scarlatti, he pairs three of William Byrd’s pioneering and virtuosic 16th-century keyboard works with a new composition by Australian composer Brett Dean. Dean’s ByrdSong Studies, for solo harpsichord with prerecorded voices, celebrates Byrd’s unique and influential style, and the transgressive mass settings Byrd wrote for clandestine Catholic services during the Protestant Reformation.