Masters of Persian Music | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Masters of Persian Music

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Mohammed Reza Shajarian, widely considered the greatest singer of Iranian classical music today, is the center of this immodestly named group; his intense vocals can be both gorgeous and sorrowful, calm ruminations or soaring, melismatic declamations. Hossein Alizadeh is a virtuoso of the tar--a dry, twangy lute--as well as a prolific and skilled composer who's written classical pieces and sound tracks for noted Iranian films like Gabbeh and A Time for Drunken Horses. The third member, Kayhan Kalhor, plays kemence, or spike fiddle, and is best known here for his Ghazal project with Indian sarod player Shujaat Hussain Khan, which explores the common ground between Indian and Persian classical music; he's also played in Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble. Homayoun, Shajarian's son, plays the tombak (hand drum) and shadows his father's vocals with his own lovely voice. The basic form of Persian classical music is the dastgah, which directs the musician to add layers of modulations and melodic patterns before looping back to the origin. Dastgahs are essentially monophonic, but the players improvise brilliant lattices of contrapuntal lines, fill in spaces with delicate curlicues and trills, and take round-robin solos. On the group's most recent album, Faryad (World Village), they set classic poetry to their own stirring, mournful melodies. Individual members have performed here before, but this marks their first local show together. Sun 3/20, 7:30 PM, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $15-$48.

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