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Taq-e Bostan, Iran: high-relief of Shapur II investiture (4th century); from left to right: Mithra, Shapur II,
Ahura Mazda. (photo by Phillippe Chavin)


Mithra for Orchestra

: F3-3-3-3; 4-4-3-1; Timp., 3Perc., Cel., Hp., Str.
Duration: 16 minutes
Commission: Commissioned by Magnum Opus Project/Meet The Composer
Premiere: Santa Rosa Symphony (USA), Bruno Ferrandis, conductor, February 13, 2010

Score and Parts: Available from the Presser Rental Library
Score online: Preview Score

Audio Sample:                   

About "Mithra" for Orchestra:

     In composing MITHRA, I was inspired by various elements of ancient mythology. Mithra was the Iranian sun god, who represented obligation, love/affection and the battle against evil. The earliest references to Mithraism date back to at least 1500 B.C., in pre-Zoroastrian Iran/Persia.  This belief system, apart from Iran, received its widest followings in the ancient world, encompassing areas from India to the furthest regions in Europe, and eventually becoming the prominent religion of the Roman Empire in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

     Mithraism, in its long and varied history, influenced the traditions of Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.  Mithra, with his 1,000 eyes and 10,000 ears, was considered the all-observing god, with rays of light emerging from his head much like a halo.  He was the protector of the righteousness and the archenemy of the evil forces. 

     Another side of Mithra is “Mehr”, meaning “contract” or obligation as well as love and friendship. In the Iranian calendar, the seventh month is called “Mehr”. Both numbers 7 and 4 play important roles in the numerology of Mithraism.  For example, air, fire, earth, and water were considered to be the four elements from which all things were created.

     MITHRA was composed as one continuous movement in three interrelated sections.  The extended opening solo flute is slow, meditative and ornamental in character, emulating the sound and melodic figures of the Persian NEY (a type of bamboo flute). The opening quasi-improvisatory passages of the solo flute present the main materials for the entire work.  The first four notes in particular form the most important melodic motive in MITHRA.  This motive permeates throughout the piece from the most fragile moments to the expansive peaks and climaxes; it is ubiquitous like Mithra himself!

     The second section is faster and extroverted, ranging from mysterious to processional and ultimately triumphant.  It gradually grows and expands in speed, volume and intensity.  The brass instruments play open intervals (4th and 5th), emulating the sound of the Persian DERAZ NEY, a type of Alpine horn used in ceremonies and rituals in ancient Iran. The middle section is concluded by a series of strokes alluding to the above-mentioned numerology (7 and 4) in Mithraism.

     The third section is slow, sharing many characteristics with the first section.  The extended solo flute leads to the epilogue alluding to the MEHR (love) and affectionate side of Mithra.  The prominent harp part in the lyrical epilogue was inspired by the traditional use of zither in ancient Iran for the expression of love and friendship.



              "…a fetching composition…Mr. Ranjbaran has a consummate command of orchestration and instrumental color."
-Terry McNeill, Classical Sonoma



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