“East of Melancholy” – Piano Music from Russia to Iran – Tara Kamangar, piano – music by GLINKA; HOSSEIN; KAMANGAR; KHACHATURIAN; RACHMANINOV; SHOSTAKOVICH; TJEKNAVORIAN (TrackList follows] – Delos CD DE3471, 60:56 [Distr. by Naxos] (6/10/14) ****

East of Melancholy is an extremely agreeable recording from Iranian-American pianist Tara Kamangar. It’s unique in its theme and its music selection, featuring music from Russia to Iran.

Miss Kamangar’s diverse repertoire ranges from well-known classical composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff to rarely heard works by Iranian composers of the past century. Tara’s performance credits have included such venues as London’s Cadogan Hall, Wathen Hall, David Josefowitz Recital Hall, the Palace of Whitehall, New York City’s Skirball Auditorium, Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art, San Francisco’s Masonic Auditorium, and LA’s Walt Disney Hall. Her orchestral engagements have included Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 2 with conductor Loris Tjeknavorian, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and the U.S. Premiere of Aminollah Hossein’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with conductor Henrik Jul Hansen, and Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and the U.S. Premiere of Aminollah Hossein’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with conductor Michael Morgan.

This CD gives us works from such diverse composers as Glinka, Hossein and Tjeknavorian. The CD also features a work by the pianist, who is an experienced composer, the Etude from which the disc gets its name, East of Melancholy. These are excellent performances, technically and emotionally. Miss Kamangar has full command of the keyboard. While some tracks, like the Khachaturian and the Rachmaninoff are familiar to me, Miss Kamangar has brought a fresh vision to the works and made them her own. I particularly enjoyed listening to the lesser known works of Hossein and Tjeknavorian.

The recording, done at Skywalker Sound in California is of high quality. The piano sound is rich and sonorous. The piano is anchored firmly between my stereo speakers, never being too wide or distorted.  Miss Kamangar is in increasing demand as a soloist with many of the major orchestras of the world, and that’s no surprise.

This is a fine, even a spellbinding CD, with an interesting and unique program. It’s worth a serious listen and we will be hearing more from Tara Kamanagar in the years to come I’m sure.

TrackList:  GLINKA: The Lark; HOSSEIN: Eight works; KHACHATURIAN: Adagio from Spartacus; SHOSTAKOVICH: Preludes Nos. 10 & 12 Op.34; RACHMANINOFF: Prelude No. 12 in g-sharp minor; KAMANGAR: Etude “Fast of Melancholy;” TJEKNAVORIAN: Four Fantastic Dances

—Mel Martin