Event Report: ‘Full of Eastern Promise’

Full of Eastern Promise
Research-based Concert at the University of Manchester
10 February 2022

Persian poetry has long fascinated Western authors, thinkers, artists and composers. The spirituality and mysticism as well as sensuality of the poetry of Hafez, the 14th-century poet, became a main source of inspiration for the European around the turn of the 19th Century, and continues to be so to this day.

This concert and workshop celebrated East-West encounters through music and literature. It also celebrated the heritage of its performers, Iran for Michelle Assay and Ukraine for Rozanna Madylus.

Apart from an informative programme note, the concert included introductory talks, based on Assay’s ongoing research on settings of Persian poetry by Western art composers. The programme covered a range of these, from Brahms to Sally Beamish.

The concert also included the first performance of a specially composed piece by a young Iranian composer, Atefeh Einali, entitled ‘Dard’ (pain in Persian). This solo piano piece, with extended improvisation episodes, is inspired by a highly political poem by the leading modern Persian poet, Ahmad Shamloo. Apart from Shamloo’s poem the piece’s rhythmic structure is inspired by a poem by Narjes Sharafi, a young poet from Iran.

Mykola Lysenko’s ‘Oriental melody’ provided the bridge to the Ukrainian section of the concert. Apart from music by Lysenko, who is largely considered the father of Ukrainian national music, this section included several Ukrainian folk songs. At the cusp of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the concert made a poignant and timely point of the eternal value of music.

Unfortunately, the second singer, Rosalind Dobson (soprano) had to withdraw from the concert at short notice due to Covid-19. So Assay took over the soprano part in the concluding duet from Gavrilin’s song, ‘Vecherok’ for two singers and piano.

The concert was enthusiastically received by the audience, which included students, academics, and the wider general public. Apart from the performance qualities, the audience were moved by the personal feel, and fascinated by the repertoire.

Michelle Assay

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