On Saturday 16th July, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani will be awarded the prestigious Wigmore Medal, honouring his extraordinary achievements in his field, and his longstanding relationship with the Hall. The presentation will follow Mahan’s performance of JS Bach’s Art of Fugue, a landmark concert in his Bach cycle for Wigmore Hall which began in 2017. You can read more about the concert here.
The Wigmore Medal was inaugurated in 2007, and recognises major international artists and significant figures in the classical music world who have a strong association with the Hall, with previous recipients including Sir András Schiff, Christian Gerhaher and the Takács String Quartet. Mahan made his London debut at the Wigmore Hall in 2009 as a concerto soloist with the English Concert. He has since enjoyed an especially close relationship with the Hall, who have given him the much-valued opportunity to explore and advocate for the harpsichord’s role in solo and chamber music, old and new.
His ongoing Bach cycle at the Wigmore Hall has spanned several seasons, and persevered through a global pandemic. Most recently he has brought to the Hall’s stage JS Bach’s Suites, French Suites, Fantasias, and book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, with the latter livestream broadcast from an empty hall during the height of the pandemic described as “a mighty achievement” and “a gripping experience”. This survey of Bach’s keyboard works led Mahan to a programme of Bach Before and After in October 2021, a “richly satisfying” evening of discoveries by JS Bach’s predecessors and influences, with Mahan the “compelling advocate” throughout. A disc of JS Bach paired with Byrd and Ligeti was released on the Wigmore Hall Live label in 2013, and was named Editor’s Choice for both Gramophone and BBC Music Magazines.
Recent performances at the Wigmore Hall have also seen him join forces with oboist Nicholas Daniel, flautist Adam Walker, horn player Benjamin Goldscheider and cellist Isang Enders for an evening of 20th- and 21st-century rarities by Debussy, Elliott Carter and Thomas Adès. A BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert in which he performed Dowland, Andriessen, Purcell and Tippett on both harpsichord and piano with Dame Sarah Connolly was “as though they had been performing together for years…engrossing and performed with consummate artistry”. He gave the London premiere of Laurence Osborn’s new work for harpsichord and chamber group with the Britten Sinfonia on the Wigmore Hall stage in 2019, and has also joined chamber partners Michala Petri, Jennifer Pike, Adam Walker, among others, for major concerts at the Hall.
A peerless proponent of the harpsichord in modern classical music landscape, Mahan Esfahani is admired worldwide for his insightful programming, interpretive flair, meticulous scholarship, and quick wit. He is the first and only harpsichordist to be a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist and Borletti-Buitoni Prize winner, and is an acclaimed recording artist with a highly decorated discography, mostly on Hyperion Records, covering repertoire from Byrd and Bach to Reich and Saariaho. When not performing in recitals and concertos worldwide he can be heard as a presenter and commentator on BBC Radio 3 and 4, and his articles feature regularly in The New Yorker and The Critic. His interpretations of works by JS Bach have been described as “uniquely captivating”, “a revelation” and a “near miraculous” and “deeply human experience” with his “inquiring musical mind” and “absolute mastery of his instrument”.
We would like to thank John Gilhooly and Wigmore Hall for bestowing this honour, and we extend our warmest congratulations to Mahan.