The talented, young cellist Kian Soltani graced New York with his presence Tuesday evening in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse for an intimate, late night performance as part of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. This was Soltani’s first collaboration with pianist Julio Elizalde and my, was it a treat. Soltani chose to begin not according to the program – with Schumann’s Fantsiestücke, Op. 73 instead of the expected Persian Folk Songs of Reza Vali.

Soltani surprised the audience with his intentional and delicate phrasing, highlighting the dynamic contrast present in each piece. Soltani added drama to moments that would have been lost if they had simply been played. His fingers dancing on the strings, Soltani gave life to his cello and soothed her into song. Keeping with this intentional movement, Soltani was sure to distinctly separate each note, yet also bring them together as one voice through a mellifluous, smooth melody, coaxing the audience to sink into the sound.

Soltani spoke to his Persian roots and upbringing in Austria. His parents are both from Iran and moved to Austria in the 1970s. In Austria, Soltani grew up listening to and learning the music of Schumann and Schubert. Later, he delved into the Persian music that his father played. He continued exploring his Persian roots by making active contributions –  namely, composing his Persian Fire Dance and commissioning a Persian composer, Reza Vali, to adapt his Persian Folk Songs for cello. Throughout the concert, Soltani’s delicate fingerings resulted in fluid movements with no slides along the strings, unless warranted for the essence of the piece. Most notably, the Persian music presented employed slides and chromaticism to keep with the character of the sound and clearly distinguish it from the more traditional European pieces presented.

After the three movements of Schumann that he opened with, Soltani spoke about the performance this evening. “What we are here to do is lighten the mood a little bit and take you on a journey.” The audience then traveled from Europe, guided by Schumann and Chopin, to the Middle East courtesy of Soltani and Vali. Seriously efficient travel for one hour beginning and ending in a penthouse in New York!

Mostly Mozart Festival runs July 10 – August 10. Explore the programme here.

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