Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sar Oumad Zemestoun (Winter Is Over)

The melody of Sar Oumad Zemestoun is of Armenian folk origin. In the 1970's, an unknown lyricist added the currently well-known Persian lyrics to the song. It has been revived in 2009 as the de facto anthem of the Green Movement in Iran.

The current transcription was based on two recent performances. Instrumental bridges have been excluded. Attempt was made to notate the melody as accurately as possible, and to have it fit on a single page, for ease of distribution. I dedicate the score to the democratic movement of Iran, and to the more than hundred of Armenians who were killed on July 14th, 2009, in a tragic plane crash near Tehran.

"نت موسیقی "سر اومد زمستون
The Score of Sar Oumad Zemestoun
[Also: Sar Oomad Zemestoon in PDF]

The PDF version of the score is available at Scribd or MediaFire, to download and print for free.

The Sibelius file of the score is available here for free. (Requires the free installation of Scorch.)

(You can also click the picture above to print a JPG version, ableit of a lesser quality.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Edward Downes, Conductor (1924-2009)

(Sir Edward Downes and Lady Downes; Photo, BBC News)

Sir Edward Downes (1924-2009) was a famed British conductor, who for years worked as the principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (1980-1991).

In early 1990's, by then in Los Angeles, I came to own an astonishing recording of Sergei Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2, in E minor, conducted by the maestro. The recording is sublime, engaging, unforgettable. Its fluidity of dynamics and its masterly balance of contrapuntal lines are hauntingly beautiful. You couldn't have wished for more. It remains one of my all time favorite recordings of any symphonic composition.

As I read in the news, on Friday, July 10th, 2009, after 54 years of marriage, he and his wife calmly left the world by their choice, assisted by the services of a dedicated Swiss clinic. The report struck me as a most honorable message of civility, and a most courageous affirmation of life, freedom and human dignity. This was an inspiring climax for a life spent in making sense of the world through arts, a life devoted to the love of a woman, and to the intimate art of music.

-- Payman Akhlaghi, Wednesday, July 15th, 2009
(Revised: February 18th, 2015)

Corrigendum: In my late teens, while still in Iran, I was introduced to a large array of the classical symphonic repertoire, by name and description, through a (partial) translation of an original book in English. It was a collection of essays and (radio?) commentaries, written by the American musicologist, Edward Downes (1911-2001), under the original title "Adventures in Symphonic Music" (1944). It would take me years before I could hear many of those pieces live or in recordings, but the impact of his vibrant, imaginative prose, and his love for the sheer beauty of this music would never leave me.

However, not until I had received his "Guide to Symphonic Music" (1976) on February 18th, 2015, would I realize that I had wrongly identified the author of that book as Sir Edward Downes (1924-2009), the famed British conductor, and the subject of this post. This gross misconception was boldly reflected in the original version of the post on July 15th, 2009.

As such, hereby, I wish to correct the error made in the original version of this short note. You may see for more biographical information on each respective figure. Thank you.

-- Payman Akhlaghi, February 18th, 2015, Los Angeles

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Aaron Copland: "A Lincoln Portrait"

A masterpiece of modern times, Lincoln Portrait was composed in 1942 by the American composer, Aaron Copland (1900-1990). It's well known for its genuine use of narrated text interacting with the orchestra, as well as its uplifting patriotic tone. The text was written by Copland himself, using quotations from Abraham Lincoln's writings and recorded speeches. Some eloquent voices have so far recited the work, including actors Gregory Peck and Henry Fonda. The above clip, narrated by actress, Katharine Hepburn, begins a few minutes into the piece, after a most imaginative orchestral introduction.

The composition ends in a crescendo to Lincoln's timeless words, "...the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

(*) Update! Since the publication of this note, the video featured in this post has been removed. Please don't be disappointed; find another link on YouTube, or even better, purchase a CD of the work. Just a few days ago, on July 2nd, 2010, I heard another wonderful version played on KUSC (91.5 FM), the classical music station of Los Angeles, also streaming on It was narrated by James Earl Jones, with Seatlte Symphony, conducted by Gerard Schwarz. In this particular case, the ethnic background of the narrator made the impact of the composition even more profound. (The veteran actor is of African American descent.)

Happy 4th of July 2010!