DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Gozaran – Time Passing, Blu-ray (2013)

A beautiful but sad documentary on a conductor's unsuccessful return to Iran to lead the Tehran Symphony.

Published on December 30, 2013

Gozaran – Time Passing, Blu-ray (2013)

Gozaran – Time Passing, Blu-ray (2013)

Performers: Tehran Sym. Orch./ Nadar Mashayekhi
PlayList: excerpts from Mahler, Bach & John Cage
Studio: Nordmedia/ EuroArts2058764 (11/19/13) (Distr. by Naxos)
Director: Frank Scheffer
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 1080p HD
Audio: German/Farsi DTS-HD MA 5.1, PCM stereo
Subtitles: English, German, French
Extras: Samples of other EuroArts releases
Worldwide region code
Length: 85 min.
Rating: ****

A very poetic, often beautiful but sad documentary on Iranian/Jewish composer/conductor Nader Mashayekhi, who was invited to return from Vienna to Iran to lead the Tehran Symphony Orchestra. He returned, as he says, with only one suitcase containing his dream to make music in his hometown. Unfortunately, less than two years later he was dismissed due to the elections in Iran and the ascendence of conservative officials who felt that performing works of Frank Zappa and Morton Feldmann was going too far.

Mashayekhi then set up a private orchestra of his own to support the young musicians he had been helping. The documentary has excerpts from some of their rehearsals and performances of the music of Mahler and John Cage—two of Mashayekhi’s favorite composers. It’s rather strange to see the closeups of the beautiful female soloists doing Mahler’s vocal parts, all wearing head scarves. Female members of the orchestra are shown appearing at concerts in Osnabruck Austria, to which they traveled after the shutdown of the orchestra in Tehran. There are many lovely shots of Mashayekhi walking out into the desert around Tehran and nature scenes accompanied by poems of the Iranian poet Hafez, often spoken by Mashayekhi’s actor father. (He’s always walking away and I couldn’t help but wonder where he was going and if he had enough water.) The landscape shots are extremely grainy on the Blu-ray, but that seems to improve them artistically. There is also a visit Mashayekhi made to composer Arvo Paart in Germany and an excerpt of some of Paart’s music performed by the young musicians.

Mashayekhi gave these musicians hope for following their goals in music, and was destroyed to have it all dashed. The political problems are only hinted at; there is talk of changes due to the election. He is shown ill at ease in Vienna over what had happened. There is no clear explanation for the title of the documentary, since Gozaran is not the name of the conductor nor any of the composers they performed. However, the film is a lovely contemplation of music and poetry and beautifully made.

—John Sunier




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