Davud Pirnia and the Revival of Classical Persian Music

Jane Lewisohn. (2008).Flowers of Persian Music and Song: Davud Pirniā and the Genesis of the Golhā Programs Davud Pirnia’s aristocratic family background, as well as his personal prestige and reputation as a politician and statesman, were important elements in the success of the Golhā programs. Davud Pirnia’s mother belonged to Qājār nobility and his father came from a line of prominent Persian political patriots. In order to understand the reasons underlying the cultural significance of the musical and literary success of the Golha programs, it will first be necessary to take a brief look at the place of his family in Persian political history and the role played by his forbears in the history of early modern Iran.

 Davud Pirnia’s grandfather Nasr Allāh Khan Moshir al-Dawla (d. 1907), had chosen “Pirniā” as his family name from the epithet of his famous ancestor Pir-e Nāʾin, one of the last masters of the Kobravi /Nurbakhshi Sufi order.As the grand vizier, he played an important role in the establishment of constitutional government in Iran during the Constitutional Revolution and became its first prime minister.He retained the post of prime minister under the new monarch, Mohammad-ʿAli Shah, for only two months, resigning from it on March 17, 1907. Shortly thereafter, on Sept. 13, 1907, he died suddenly in circumstances said to be suspicious.He was survived by three sons: ʿAli, Hosayn and Hasan Pirniā. ʿAli died young while abroad; Hosayn studied politics and law in Paris, while Hasan Pirniā (1871-1935) inherited his father’s title of Moshir al-Dawla and carried on the family tradition of civil service, public spirit and politics. Hasan Pirniā had been educated in military science and law in France and Russia, where he worked in the Iranian embassy in St. Petersburg, having been appointed as Iran’s minister plenipotentiary (vazir-e mokhtār) to the Russian court at age twenty-seven. Even at that young age, he had considerable experience as a diplomat, since he and his brother Hosayn (Moʾtaman al-Molk) had been instrumental in the drafting of the Iranian Constitution, the Fundamental Law (qānun-e asāsi), of Zoʾl-qaʿda 14, 1324/December 30, 1906 and its Supplement (motammem) of Shaʿbān 1325/October 7, 1907. Returning back from Russia to Tehran, he worked both as director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as special secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He founded a school for political science in Tehran, which opened on the 19th of December 1899. Th is school had a great influence on determining the direction and thought of the later constitutionalist movement and eventually became the foundation for the School of Law and Political Science at Tehran University. Hasan Pirniā acted as Mozaffar al-Din Shah’s official translator on the latter’s trip to Europe. During his first week at work as the minister for foreign affairs he declared that the Anglo-Russian Convention of 31 August 1907, which would divide Iran into to zones of influence of Russia and England to be null and void, since it had not been signed by an official government appointee. 


 Altogether, Hasan Pirniā ʿMoshir al-Dawlaʾ held twenty-four ministerial posts during his political career and served four times as prime minister. In 1915, he was nominated to be Prime Minister by the Majlis, and was successful along with the parliamentary deputies in repealing the law of June 1911 which had granted [Morgan] Shuster and then his successor, full powers as treasurer-general of Persia.In 1924, Hasan Pirniā assumed the post of prime minister for the last time, appointing Mohammad Mosaddeq as his foreign minister, and retaining Rezā Khān Sardār-e Sepah as his minister of war.When in October 1925, Rezā Khān became Reza Shah (r. 1925-41), Moshir al-Dawla completely retired from active politics.During his retirement from political life, he wrote a three-volume history of Iran from the most ancient times, totaling 2,866 pages, which was later published in 1932 under the title of Irān-e bāstān (Ancient Iran). This was the first modern scholarly account of ancient Persian history written by an Iranian in the twentieth century, for which he became known as the “Father of History” in Iran. Since most of the sources that he relied on for these historical works were originally in Greek and Latin, in order to access these he referred to French, Russian, Arabic, English or German translations of those Greek and Latin sources in his bibliography.He was also instrumental in setting up and supporting the establishment of an Institute for the Preservation of the National Heritage (Anjoman-e āthār-e melli) in 1922.