A Passionate Meeting of Persian and Turkish Instruments

Monday, October 16, 2006

Kayhan Kalhor, master of the kamancheh (spike fiddle), has done great work at various musical crossroads. He was educated first in Persian and then Western classical music. He participates in Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project and collaborates with sitarists, string quartets and orchestras. On Saturday night, Kalhor visited the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater to present his latest cross-cultural exploration: a performance with Erdal Erzincan, a virtuoso of the Turkish baglama who also plays with Kalhor on a new ECM album titled "The Wind."

Seated on a raised platform covered in a brilliant red Oriental carpet, Kalhor and Erzincan played a pause-free 70-minute set that blended their respective musical traditions as well as their unique sensibilities.

As the duo began with spare modal harmonies in unpredictable rhythms, it was easy to get lost in the haunting sounds of their ancient instruments.

Erzincan's baglama, a pear-shaped lute, had a plangent, ringing tone when plucked and made a subtle thump when tapped. Kalhor's kamancheh, held upright and bowed, has a long neck and a skin-covered belly the size and shape of a coconut; it produced a breathy, haunting whisper when played softly, and a tangy, piercing sound as the volume increased.

Over the course of the set, the music gradually accelerated, with the modes rising in pitch and the rhythms becoming more urgent; the earlier chordal gestures also coalesced to form expressive (and increasingly vigorous) melodies. Kalhor and Erzincan's astonishing control and passion made the sweep forward thrilling, but they also brought a sense of the eternal to every note they played, a feeling that ceased only when, with a nod, they silently exited the stage.

-- Andrew Lindemann Malone

© 2006 The Washington Post Company