Lily Afshar

Born in Tehran, Lily Afshar began playing the guitar when she was 10 years old and during her illustrious career has received many commendations and awards including first prize in the Guitar Foundation of America Competition, and three-time winner of the Annual ‘Premier Guitarist’ awards given by the Memphis Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. She was also chosen “Artistic Ambassador” for the United States Information Agency to Africa and is currently head of the University of Memphis guitar section.

After the opening track, Carlo Domeniconi’s possibly greatest hit for the classical guitar, “Koyunbaba”, one has the notion that Afshar seems born to perform music of this nature, so innate is her presentation of this masterwork (which comes complete with her own mini-cadenza in the finale).

Carrying on with music from the Middle East, Afshar plays “Kara Toprak (Black Earth)” by the Turkish songwriter Asik Veysel, followed by her own arrangements of five Persian ballads and finally “Gozaar” by Iranian composer Reza Vali. Some of these compositions require quarter tones and for the particular notes Afshar has had small ‘fretlets’ glued onto the fingerboard of her Thomas Humphrey guitar.

The remainder of the programme contains music from Italy, Spain and South America, hence we have “Misionera” by Bustamente, “Un Dia de Noviembre” by Brouwer, “Andaluza” by Granados and three of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s “24 Caprichos de Goya” (Afshar has recorded the complete series on a separate CD).

During the entire programme Lily Afshar performs cleanly, precisely and authoritatively with a beautiful tone and technical virtuosity. This is playing of the highest order and her genuine respect for the music shines through every piece.

The sound and picture quality throughout is exceptional…this is, by all standards, a remarkable performance by a player whose technical assuredness, judiciously shrewd musicality and charismatic personality makes this disc an absolute must for all guitarists to have in their collection. The disc concludes with an interview with Afshar in which she talks about her life and career, influences and her guitar. The DVD also has an attractive photograph gallery beginning from when she was seven years old.

by Steve Marsh