Born in Tehran, Iran, Mahan Esfahani grew up in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and from childhood was surrounded by music, literature, and the intense study of history and languages. His experience as an immigrant to this country was formative in the early development of a strong work ethic and philosophy of perseverance.
Mahan attended the International Baccalaureate Program of Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, MD, where his main areas of academic study were in European history, music theory and composition, and French language and literature. Privately, he studied piano with Carolyn Booth, with whom he also studied music history, theory, score-reading, and figured bass; he was also an active member of the drama community and was the captain of his high school’s successful It’s Academic Team. During his junior year in high school, he appeared as a guest on the Metropolitan Opera’s popular opera quiz broadcast and was a composer-in-residence for the Met’s Composing Original Opera program.
A Stanford President’s Scholar, Mahan majored in Musicology and Theory with a minor in History while pursuing studies in early music performance and performance practice with Elaine Thornburgh (harpsichord), Herbert Myers (Renaissance Music), George Houle, Heather Hadlock, and Adam Gilbert (musicology). While at Stanford, he served as a research assistant to Professor Hadlock, was a recipient of two major university research grants, and presented papers on Medieval Islamic music theory and keyboard intabulations in the Buxheimer Orgelbuch (c. 1465). In June of 2005 he finished his B.A. honors thesis, “Johann Simon Mayr’s Ginevra di Scozia (1801) and the Classical Aesthetic in Early Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera Seria,“ a two-year study which included an edition of scenes from an early manuscript of an opera by this unjustly little-known composer.
He then began an active professional career as a performer on historical keyboards. As a member of the award-winning Renaissance ensemble Ciaramella, he has researched and performed organ music from the 15th and early 16th centuries; Ciaramella’s recording debut, “Sacred and Secular Music of Renaissance Germany,“ is currently available on Naxos records. Since his junior year at Stanford, he has appeared at major early music festivals and concert series throughout the States with a number of professional ensembles in music ranging from the Middle Ages to the Classical period on a variety of early keyboards. He plans numerous solo and ensemble appearances on the West Coast and Canada, the preparation of a critical edition of the six violin and continuo sonatas of Georg Philip Telemann, and a major recording endeavor surveying the complete harpsichord and organ works of English composer John Bull (c. 1562-1628), the “Liszt of his age,“ for the Musica Omnia label with collaborator and mentor Peter Watchorn.
Currently a candidate in the Artist Diploma program at the Longy School of Music, he is pursuing studies in early keyboards with Peter Sykes. Influenced by the theories and teachings of Johann Simon Mayr and Leo Tolstoy, Mahan has a particular interest in the philosophy and history of aesthetics and moral and ethical claims made on behalf of art and music in the modern world.