By Marjohn Sheikhi

In Between Worlds: Sebastian Plano’s sweet, melancholic melodies on Iranian stage

March 9, 2019

TEHRAN (MNA) – Argentinean multi-instrumentalist musician Sebastian Plano performed two shows for the Iranian audience on 7-8 March, taking them through a musical journey on the acoustic wings of somber cello and wheels of sweet electronic music.

I will probably be forever grateful to my discovery of the Icelandic musician Ólafur Arnalds and his somber neo-classical works, which carved a path for me on digital music services, paved with numerous suggestions of artists from all around the world, each unique in their own way, and yet sharing the same sweet vibe of melancholy and nostalgia, which I crave deeply with my battered, troubled soul.

Sebastian Plano was a late discovery, but definitely a case of ‘love at first sound’. His 2018-released electro-acoustic single ‘Purples’ with those soothing and at the same time soul-searching melodies brought to life on a sampler, and then the bleeding, sober cries of the cello that wind tendrils of the purest emotions around your heart, was the first track I listened to that was composed by him, and I know many would agree that it is among his best and most powerful works.

Someone once aptly described the sound of violin at its best as a ‘swan’; graceful, magnificent and elegant, with the serene feeling of being afloat in mid-air. Plano’s magic on his cello makes the swan soar, and you feel like soaring with it. The sound of string instruments like violins and cellos can be grounding sometimes, if it bleeds too much and seeps in too deep, but Plano’s cello melodies are liberating, at times even therapeutic, as they soar gratefully in the air and raise you up with them. Such might be the subtle distinction between intimately tragic and aesthetically melancholic. And Plano’s music abounds in the latter.

Still, his studio-recorded music can’t hold a candle to his live performance. And I had the absolute pleasure to witness Plano’s working miracles and weaving threads of magic on Friday in a small music hall in downtown Tehran.

Even though it is that time of the year in Iran when people are busy making the last minute arrangements for Nowruz holidays and making plans for New Year vacations, and despite the fact that the tickets for Plano’s shows were quite pricey for someone on a tight budget and who probably had little to no idea how the performance would turn out, the Argentinean-born multi-instrumentalist musician opened his act to an almost full house.

Born into a family of musicians, which he calls “a string quartet”, with two on violins, one on viola, and he himself on the cello, and having been classically-trained, the now Berlin-based Sebastian Plano has the solid foundation of a musical savvy to know what he is doing, even at times when his melodies come too close to this side of erratic, because the end result is always pleasant to listen to and smooth, like fine silk draped over bumps and jagged lines.

His works have been compared to, and said to be inspired by, Ólafur Arnalds, Sigur Rós, Arvo Pärt, Nils Frahm and Max Richter. With the release of his debut album ‘Arrhythmical Part of Hearts’ in 2013, which already earned him international acclaim, Plano also became recognized as one of the pioneering artists who combine acoustic instruments and electronic music. His second album, ‘Impetus’ released in the same year, was mastered by Nils Frahm, and combines cello, piano, percussion and light electronics. His latest album, ‘Verve’, has just been released a few days ago, and a number of his CDs were available for purchase in the lobby of the music hall on Friday. The gorgeous ‘Purples’ is on this album, and the soothing track ‘Verve’ that somehow still holds true to its title, is the artist’s most favorite.

Plano performed for two consecutive nights in Tehran, both of which receiving an enthusiastic response and standing ovation. The concert, called ‘In Between Worlds’, was organized by ‘RooBeRoo Mansion’, an artistic-cultural institute in the heart of Tehran, as the third installment of the ‘Resonance Project’, an initiative started by RooBeRoo Mansion in December 2016 with ‘Autumn Light’ concert by Ólafur Arnalds, followed by ‘Blue Hour’ concert by Italian composer Federico Albanese in 2018.

The project’s goal is to give a spotlight to artists working in the neo-classical genre for the Iranian audience, and it has already gained a great number of loyal followers. The project will pick up the tradition in a few months by introducing more of the best of the neo-classical music to Iranian music lovers.

Photo: courtesy of RooBeRoo Mansion

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