Borletti-Buitoni Trust
BBT Artists Rewarding Musical Excellence
Mahan Esfahani
BBT Fellowship 2009

Mahan Esfahani - Biography

Mahan Esfahani received support from BBT between 2009 and 2011, when this page was last updated.  For an up to date biography, visit

Praised for his “daring and fiery performances” (The Times) and for bringing “the harpsichord…out of hiding” (The Daily Telegraph), the Iranian-born Mahan Esfahani (b. 1984) is fast building a career that encompasses appearances as a harpsichord recitalist, concerto soloist, orchestral director, writer and broadcasting personality. As the first harpsichordist to be named both a BBC New Generation Artist (2008-2010) and an honouree of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, he appeared as a soloist in a number of 20th-century concertos with BBC orchestras and made numerous recordings for the BBC of period and contemporary repertoire on the harpsichord, organ, and fortepiano. Recently, following an appearance as guest conductor and soloist with The English Concert at the Lufthansa Festival and as duo partner with the countertenor James Bowman at the Wigmore Hall, Esfahani crowned this past season with a sold-out solo appearance at the BBC Proms, continuing his pioneer work with the first harpsichord recital in the festival’s 116-year history. Upcoming highlights of the 2011-12 season include appearances with the Hamburger Sinfoniker, the Prague Symphony chamber concerts, the Festival van Vlaanderen in Bruges, the Istanbul Bach Days, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, New York’s Frick Collection, and numerous other series in the UK and Europe. Esfahani read musicology and history as a President’s Scholar at Stanford University in California, where he came under the influence of the American scholar George Houle. He also studied with the Australian harpsichordist Peter Watchorn (Boston) and the celebrated Italian organist Lorenzo Ghielmi (Milan) before making his home in the United Kingdom where, at the age of 24, he was appointed a fellow of New College, Oxford. In 2010 he was made honorary member of Keble College, Oxford.

Last updated: September 2011

It is often easy to forget that the harpsichord as a solo instrument is still very much on the defensive, and every time I am reminded of that fact I am grateful that the Borletti-Buitoni Trust made my vision for ‘something different’ a reality. The BBT is more than just a grant; more importantly, the group of people that make up the trust provide an important support system to a young artist trying to reconcile the inherent truths of music with a sometimes ambivalent world. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I do without the confidence provided by someone saying: ‘you have something to say, and you can do it.’ It’s an amazing feeling!

Photographs by Marco Borggreve