Lily Afshar’s Guitar recital at the Wigmore Hall on 18 March provided an extremely well thought-out and fresh sense of programming, illustrating many different sides of her impressive talents on this instrument. Her relaxed, attractive stage manner, her searching and sensitive musicianship and her ability to draw the listeners onto the edge of their seats, were all backed up by a thorough knowledge of the tonal capabilities of her instrument and a frankly awesome digital technique.
Three interlinking musical threads ran throughout the recital, marking her connections with her native Tehran and her adopted America, and her instrument’s strong links with Spain. Two World Premieres were aired, one by Iranian-born Reza Vali, a piece entitled Gozaar, requiring retuning of the Guitar to include quartertones of the Persian modal system, the other by American Gary Eister, his Fantasia on a Traditional Persian Song, a version of which was first played by Lily on the traditional seh-tar. Eister’s piece sought to recreate the spirit of the seh-tar on the modern guitar through its use of ornaments, drones and unusual tuning methods.
Other works included transcriptions of Isaac Albeniz’s Sevilla, originally for piano, and the London Premiere of Kamran Ince’s MKG Variations, originally for cello. Carlo Domeniconi’s Koyunbaba Opus 19, Dusan Bogdanovic’s Omar’s Fantasy, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s 24 Caprichos de Goya Opus 195 and Joaquin Rodrigo’s Invocation et Danse were all performed with a naturalness and acute awareness of minute timbral variations.
Lily Afshar’s non-static style of performing, always on the search for new sounds and musical shadings, make her an outstanding guitarist.