Ostad Elahi – Destinations: The Art of Oriental Tanbur Lute – Le Chant du Monde

by | Oct 18, 2008 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Ostad Elahi – Destinations: The Art of Oriental Tanbur Lute – Le Chant du Monde 7741626.27 – 2 CDs, 111 min. ***1/2 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:  

Nour Ali Elahi was born in 1895 in a small Kurdish village in Iran; his father, Hajj Nematollah, was a poet and mystic and was revered by the locals as a saint, and he raised his son to spend much time in religious and philosophical contemplation. This included a great deal of emphasis on playing the Tanbur lute, as musical accompaniment was considered essential to spiritual mysticism. After his father’s death in 1919,  Elahi concluded his long period of religious seclusion, and decided that the best way to propogate his principled upbringing was to join society. He enrolled in the National School of Jurisprudence where he finished the three-year program in only six months, and he soon became a judge in a town on the outskirts of Tehran. He ascended to the position of Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals, and his career was highly distinguished. Upon his retirement in 1957, he continued his religious and philosophical studies, writing copious volumes and spending extensive time playing the Tanbur lute. Fortunately, many of his works were recorded, and they’re now being released by Le Chant du Monde. After his death in 1974, there was renewed interest in his works, and his sister organized exhibitions and symposiums throughout the world. At that point, she gave him the title “Ostad,” which roughly translates into “master,” feeling that it was a less formal and more appropriate expression of his stature as a master musician.

Apparently, Ostad wrote volumes of music for the Tanbur Lute (this is the ninth release in the series), and his training was with some of the finest musicians of the day in the Eastern and Persian traditions. To say that he’s a master of the instrument is an understatement, and those of you familiar with Eastern Indian music will find many similarities in the sonorities heard from the Tanbur. There’s very little technical information included in the two-disc set; most of the space allotted in the accompanying booklet deals with the musical and religious aspects of the compositions, and virtually nothing is said about the circumstances under which the recordings were made. Fortunately, the sound quality is really quite good, especially considering that most of the recordings are sourced from the late fifties and sixties. While there’s a lot to absorb here, there’s also a great deal of variety in the music, and Ostad’s technique is flawless; I never found listening to it uninspiring. Highly recommended.

— Tom Gibbs

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