Azerbaijan International

Winter 2004 (12.4)

Concerts: Garmon

Rahman Asadollahi Performs with World-Renown Kronos Quartet

Rahman Asadollahi - garmon

Above: Rahman Adadollahi, an Azerbaijani from Iran, performing on the garmon, a traditional instrument, resembling an accordion. Rahman was commissioned by the world-renown Kronos String Quartet to compose and perform at the San Francisco World Music Festival on September 26, 2004. Kronos Quartet musicians, from left to right: David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Rahman Asadollahi (composer and garmon), Henrick Avoyan (naghara), Hank Dutt (viola) and Jennifer Culp (cello). The Quartet has been working together for 30 years. Photo: Jim Block

On September 26, 2004, Rahman Asadollahi, an Azerbaijani from Iran, took center stage with his garmon (a traditional instrument resembling the accordion) at the 2004 San Francisco World Music Festival (SFWMF).

Asadollahi had been commissioned by the world-renown Kronos String Quartet to compose and perform with them.

garmon Asadollahi - Garmon, Kronos Quartet
Left: From "Azerbaijan Music Instruments" by Majnun Karimov, 2003. Yeni Nasil.
Asadollahi's compositions included "Garmon: Yanar Odlaryurduna" (Garmon: Land of Fire, meaning Azerbaijan, 2004), and "Mugham Bayati Shiraz" (2004). Both works were World Premiers commissioned by Kronos.

The story of the creation of these works began when Kronos Quartet contacted Kutay Derin Kugay, Director of the San Francisco World Music Festival, who had produced Asadollahi's CD "Ana" (7/8 Music Productions, 2000). Kronos wanted to perform with Asadollahi. Could he write a piece for them? It would be the first time a traditional Azerbaijani composition had ever been commissioned by a Western classical quartet at a World Festival.

Asadollahi prepared and sent the recording of his new works for Kronos. However, at their first rehearsal, they all realized that the garmon was tuned differently than orchestral instruments such as the violin, viola and cello. Mugham music (traditional modal music) incorporates microtones, which have not existed in Western music since the 1600s. Of course, violins, like most unfretted instruments, are technically capable of playing them. After intensive work and transcription and arrangement, the work was finally ready for the premiere.

Without question, Rahman Asadollahi's sold out performance with the Kronos Quartet was a resounding success, ending with a standing ovation from the audience.

And the success continues. On February 18, 2005, Asadollahi will again be performing with the Kronos Quartet at Stanford University, as part of the Stanford Lively Arts program. In March 2006, Kronos and Asadollahi will perform these works together at Carnegie Hall in New York.

For more than 30 years, the Kronos Quartet has become one of the most celebrated and influential ensembles of our time, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 40 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, collaborating with many of the world's most eclectic composers and performers, and commissioning hundreds of works and arrangements for string quartet.

Kronos' work has also garnered numerous awards, including a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance (2004) and "Musicians of the Year" (2003) from Musical America. The Quartet spends five months of each year on tour, appearing in concert halls, clubs, and festivals around the world including the BAM Next Wave Festival, Barbican in London, UCLA's Royce Hall, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw and Sydney's Opera House.
Asadollahi now lives in Los Angeles. In 1995, he distinguished himself, taking First Prize among 650 players at the "All European Accordion and Harmonica Championship" in Switzerland.

For information about Asadollahi, or for CDs visit:

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