norman lebrecht

September 05, 2023

Makaan Khoy Nezhad, Principal cellist of the Tehran Symphony, one of 40 “rebels” recently suspended by the orchestra, has informed Mark Stephenson (a TSO guest conductor), that the Minister of Culture & Islamic Guidance, Mr. Mohammed Mehdi Esmaeli, familiar with the Slipped Disc report in July on the suspensions, has ordered Mr Mahdi Salem, Managing DIrector of the Roudaki Foundation (which funds the TSO) to reinstate the 40 suspended musicians and that they should return to work immediately. Orders issued by Ministers in Iran are non-negotiable!!

The Minister has also instructed Mr. Pourmahdi, Managing DIrector of the HonarCreditFund which compensates artists, to pay for any !lost rights” or “damages” suffered by these musicians over the past few months. The new wave of pressure on the Tehran Symphony Orchestra began in early July when 40 musicians were suspended. According to some commentators and mnjournalists, they were punished for supporting protesters. However, the Roudaki Foundation repeatedly denied this and stated that it had terminated its cooperation with these musicians after they refused to re-audition for their jobs.

Reliable sources report that the root cause of the suspensions was that the 40 musicians had refused to work with the Iranian Conductor Manuchehr Sahbai, when in a speech to a concert audience at Vahdat Hall, Tehran, he had rubbished the former Conductor of the TSO, the highly-respected Shardad Rohani, for leaving the country during or shortly after the pandemic. The orchestra refused to return to the stage with Sahbai after the interval and performed without conductor!

Sahbai is unlikely to be conducting the Tehran Symphony any time soon.

pictured: Nezhad with R. Muti

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