Choral music from Persia

Edition 28 June 2018

Rare Persian Choral album released in the Netherlands

In autumn 1978 the Farah Choir went to Austria to record its debut album. Seven Persian folk songs were recorded in Vienna, and the album was planned to be released in Tehran. However, the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Persia (Iran) disrupted those plans. The choir, supported by Queen Farah Diba (Pahlavi) was dissolved, and its conductor Evlin Baghcheban, went into exile. The recording and the choir were forgotten in the wake of the revolution. After 40 years, the never-before-heard recording has been released as a CD in the Netherlands. The history of Farah Choir returns to 1973; when the Farah Pahlavi Charity Foundation commissioned Evlin Baghcheban to establish a conservatory of music in Tehran for orphan children. In this school, Ms. Baghcheban organised a choral group called the Farah Choir. In the years before the fall of the monarchy the choir gave regular concerts throughout the country. Recently in an interview, Queen Farah said, “I am delighted that the recording still exists. We created this choir to mentally support the orphan children, but within few years, following the efforts of Evlin Baghcheban, it became a professional choral group which was dispatched to Austria for recording projects as well.” Persian choral music is quite unknown to the world. Farah Choir’s album is the first CD of this genre of music which is distributed internationally.

The album contains folk songs which have been arranged for the choir by two iconic composers of Persia in the 20th century: Roubik Gregorian (1915-1991) and Samin Baghcheban (1925-2008). Gregorian’s arrangements, in 4-parts harmony, were published as a book in 1948. This was a pioneering work and showed that Persian folk melodies can be compatible with the harmonic system of western music. However, Gregorian has been quite faithful to the original structure of the songs. In Baghcheban’s compositions, folk melodies are not used in a literal fashion. They are sources for inspiration and are subjected to varied compositional devices including the use of drones and imitations. Three of his arrangements are included in the recently discovered recordings that can be heard in the album “Choral Music from Persia”. The CD is released by the Persian Dutch Network in Amsterdam. It is accompanied by a bilingual booklet which contains historical information on choral music in Persia and rare photos of the Farah Choir in the 1970s.