Reza Aghamir: Classical Radical
Remember this name: Reza Aghamir – a man and a musician on a mission.
Aghamir is the mastermind and conductor of Reza e iRagazzi, where an all-star team of Norwegian opera soloists performs songs of Edward Grieg, Norway’s national composer, in a whole new way.
“Classical music can be fucking boring and predictable, and we constantly need answers to everything today,” he says. “If you go to the opera, you even know beforehand what’s going to happen and how it will sound. My goal is to change all that.”
Reza Aghamir is a ticking time bomb in the conservative classical music scene, and he has courage. He curses and swears and comes with one attack after another against the establishment he both loves and hates.
He wants to change. He wants to renew. He wants to surprise. But firstly, he wants to make great music.
“If Verdi heard and wrote double-bass in his scores, but I, when I’m performing his music, hear trombones, then I write it with trombones – it’s that simple,” he says. “And if there is a section in a piece that I do not like, I remove it. 2 + 2 should not equal 4, in my opinion.”
When I ask him if he likes sticking out, he professes, “It’s fucking hard to have cojones, but it’s necessary.”
Aghamir grew up in the beautiful, culturally rich Iran, but fled with his parents in 1986, under the Khommeini regime. He came to Norway at age 15 and, a natural outsider from that point on, grew into a rebel to be reckoned within the classical music scene. He attended classes at the Norwegian Music College – that is when he did not dance hip-hop– only to be kicked out.
His musical foundations are equal parts Beethoven and Mozart, Miles Davis and rap, Persian pop and Paul Anka – the last of which he recalls listening to on 45rpm singles.
When asked for his favorite classical recording, he answers, ”It has to be the soundtrack to the original Disney film, Fantasia, where Leopold Stokowski conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra.”
A bold choice for a conductor, but he has his justifications, explaining, “It’s just as uncompromising as I think it should be, and the music is edited in relation to the film and it proves that you can do this.”
Reza Aghamir’s ambitions are high, and reimagining Edward Grieg is just the beginning. He has already several projects in the pipeline, including an album next year that he’ll release digitally and on vinyl.
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