Iranian orchestra launches tour in Germany

The Tehran Symphony Orchestra played Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Frank Zappa at the start of a weeklong visit embraced by Germany and Iran as an exercise in cultural diplomacy. The 80-member ensemble, which included more than a dozen women playing in headscarves, got a standing ovation as they opened the Orient Festival late Sunday in the German city of Osnabrueck. The orchestra, which must cope with modest funding, and recently faced criticism from Islamic conservatives, played with verve during performances of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture, Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, Frank Zappa's "Dog Breath Variations," and "Persian Suite" by contemporary Iranian composer Hassan Riahi. Mashayekhi, who was born in Iran but received his musical higher education in Vienna, said he hoped the visit and warm reception would help him advance his plans for the orchestra. He hopes to improve financing and play more concerts back home in Tehran. "It was a dream, we worked on this for a year, and it has turned out to be a beautiful experience," he said.