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Records International, September 2018

This [Rumi], claimed by the composer to be “the first national opera of Iran”, is an odd, but original and appealing, stylistic hybrid. It is based on aspects of the life and philosophical writings and poetry of the great Sufi mystic and poet Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī.

The composer also makes use of Western compositional techniques, and the orchestral part is tonal-modal and neo-romantic, with echoes of Impressionism and New Spirituality, and sometimes veering into film music territory as in the opening historical scene-setting depiction of the Mongols’ attacks on Persia. So the work is thoroughly approachable despite its generous flavor of unfamiliar spices, much like Subramaniam’s treatment of South Indian music last month (08U054). © 2018 Records International

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2018

Born in 1973, Behzad Abdi graduated both in traditional music and Western classical writing, Rumi described as the first national opera to have come from Iran. It is an unusual mix used to recall a bloodthirsty period in the history of Iran that took place in the Thirteenth century. It was a time when wars raged between the Mongols and the indigenous Iranians, this story detailing the life and rise of Rumi who was to change the history of Iran. The score is certainly an unusual fusion with the orchestra providing the Western influence while the voices are responsible for the Iranian sounds, Abdi certainly a skilled and imaginative orchestrator. Likewise we have the traditional writing for Rumi, while the choral part is essentially Western. Inserted are dances that are Iranian, and early in the score we have the Iranian tenor, Mohammed Motamedi, who, as Rumi, has a very protracted aria as if sung by a folk singer. Though the heading to this review would appear to be for a large cast, most are minor roles and only the part of Shams, sung by Homayoun Shajarian, sharing the central roles, his voice more conventional to Western ears. Throughout the playing of the Ukraine orchestra—when in its Western guise—is very fine under the direction of Vladimir Sirenko, the soloists, in a recording made nine years ago, singing straight into close microphones with the orchestra largely providing a backdrop. © 2018 David’s Review Corner

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