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ALAN HOVHANESS

Alan Hovhaness is one of Americas most idiosyncratic musical pioneers who sought a musical reconciliation between East and West, spiritual and mundane, long before it was fashionable to do so.

Born near Boston, Massachusetts to an Armenian father and a mother of Scottish ancestry, his upbringing was more or less conventionally American. As a boy he composed in secret, once remarking "My family thought writing music was abnormal, so they would confiscate my music if they caught me in the act." An early musical mentor and personal friend was Sibelius, from whom Hovhaness perhaps acquired his love of long lyrical melodies.

The composers receptivity to Armenian culture was reignited around 1940 when he became organist at Bostons Armenian cathedral. Here he was exposed to early liturgical Armenian music as well as the works of the composer-priest Komitas Vartabed. From 1944 began a series of works with Armenian titles or subject matter. Essentially comprising Hovhaness's Armenian period', these bold works have huge monodic melodies over static drones somewhat foreshadowing the Minimalists of the late 1960s. Hovhaness himself described this music as giant melodies in simple and complex modes around stationery or movable tonal centres". From 1944 too, he introduced his spirit murmur, where musical phrases are repeated over and over by each player independently to produce a buzzing textural blur. This so called ad libitum technique was later used by the European Avant Garde (beginning with Lutoslawksi and Ligeti in the 1960s). The Armenian phase reached its zenith with the 24-movement St. Vartan Symphony of 1950.

In the 1950s Hovhanesss style became more Westernised, but some Armenian and also Indian influences remained prominent. Very noteworthy is his pioneering use of Indian cyclic rhythm concepts. In this decade he achieved widespread recognition, particularly with his Symphony Mysterious Mountain, premiered by Leopold Stokowski and recorded by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony - though ironically, this is one of his less exotic-sounding scores.

Following extended visits to India, Korea and Japan during 1959-62 to study the ancient Karnatic, Ah-ak, and Gagaku musical traditions, Hovhaness embarked on musical style incorporating Indo-Oriental idioms throughout the 1960s, a period when his music was at its most distant from Western models. For example, his Symphony No.16 is scored for both a Western orchestra and a Korean traditional ensemble including a solo part for kayagum, a sort of zither. As always, his music remained tonal, or more correctly, modal.

From the 1970s Eastern influences receded somewhat, though Hovhaness remained very prolific, reaching around Opus 450 by the time of his death. His output comprises music in almost every conceivable genre, from large scale oratorios, operas and symphonies down to piano sonatas and solo works for Oriental instruments.

Broadly speaking, Hovhaness wrote highly communicative music which is contemplative, rarely harsh, and often with an implied or explicit mystical theme. Such ideas were very unfashionable in the 1950s and 60s, but since the dawn of mainstream cross-cultural and new age trends in the 1970s he has acquired a growing band of devoted admirers, an audience not dissimilar in its musical tastes to the many admirers of later spiritual minimalists such as Arvo Prt and John Tavener.

Orchestral Music

Hovhanesss exceptionally large body of orchestral music includes over 20 concertos and almost 70 symphonies of which the finest include No.2 Mysterious Mountain and No.6 Celestial Gate. The Concerto No.7 for orchestra (1953) is one of the most taut and purposeful works of the 1950s by an American composer. Amongst Hovhanesss most distinctive works are his evocative tone poems, such as Floating World and Meditation on Orpheus. One of his most visionary utterances is the 16-minute Fra Angelico, inspired by paintings of the Renaissance artist.

Chamber Music

Two gems are his 1951 Armenian-colored Khaldis (a concerto for 4 trumpets, piano and percussion) and the 1972 quartet for four harps entitled Island of the Mysterious Bells, an example of his facility with non-standard ensembles, as is the delightful miniature Upon Enchanted Ground (1951) for harp, flute, cello and giant tam-tam.

Vocal and Choral Music

Amongst his finest achievements here are probably 1957s Magnificat and the mystical oratorio Lady of Light (1969).

Instrumental Music

The Suite for Harp (1973) is a fine example from Hovhanesss extensive catalogue of works for solo instruments of all kinds.


Albums featuring this artist are available for download from ClassicsOnline.com
View by Role: Classical Composer | Lyricist | Conductor
Role: Classical Composer 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
40 TRACKS FOR 40 YEARS - Delos' 40th Anniversary Celebration Delos
DE3440
Orchestral
AMERICAN SAXOPHONE MUSIC Naxos
8.559241
Chamber Music
ANTHEIL, G.: Ballet mecanique / LOPRESTI, R.: Sketch for Percussion / CHAVEZ, C.: Toccata / HOVHANESS, A.: October Mountain (Craft, Price) (1959) Naxos Classical Archives
9.80937
Chamber Music
Chamber Music - SMITH, R. / HAUER, J.M. / COWELL, H. / AMIRKHANIAN, C. / SEEGER, R.C. (Scenes from a New Music Seance) (Stenberg, Zimmer) Other Minds
OM1019-2
Chamber Music
CHEN / MUSGRAVE / LONG / HOVHANESS: Oriental Landscapes BIS
BIS-CD-1222
Concertos
Choral Concert: William Ferris Chorale – HOVHANESS, A. / COHEN, E. / NICHOLSON, P. / FRENCH, P. / BLACKWOOD, E. / KREUTZ, R. / FERRIS, W. / WHITE, W.C Cedille
CDR90000-109
Choral - Sacred
CLASSICAL CHAMOMILE Delos
DE1629
Chamber Music
CLASSICAL WELLNESS - Musical Tonics for Mind, Body and Spirit (3-CD Box Set) Delos
DE3464
Chamber Music
COPLAND, A.: Hoe Down / An Outdoor Overture / Billy the Kid Suite / GROFE, F.: On the Trail (Western Classics) (Schwarz) Delos
DE1603
Orchestral
EBEN / PLOG / HOVHANNES: Music for Trumpet and Organ BIS
BIS-CD-565
Chamber Music
EXPLORE AMERICA Naxos
8.559187
Concertos
GLORIA! - Songs of Exaltation Dorian Sono Luminus
DSL-90906
Orchestral
HORIZONS - A Musical Journey Delos
DE3511
Chamber Music, Orchestral
HOVHANESS, A.: 4 Bagatelles / String Quartet Nos. 1-4 / ZHOU, L.: Song of the Ch'in ( Spirit Murmur) (Shanghai Quartet) Delos
DE3162
Chamber Music
HOVHANESS, A.: Celestial Fantasy / In Memory of an Artist / Processional and Fugue / Psalm and Fugue (Slovak Radio Symphony, Stratton) Dorian Sono Luminus
DOR-93166
Orchestral
HOVHANESS, A.: Choral Music (Pearson) Delos
DE3176
Choral - Sacred
HOVHANESS, A.: Flowering Peach (The) / Is There Survival / Orbit No. 1 (Hovhaness) (1955) Naxos Classical Archives
9.80130
Chamber Music
HOVHANESS, A.: Hovhaness Collection, Vol. 2 (Schwarz) Delos
DE3711
Orchestral, Wind Ensemble/Band Music, Orchestral, Chamber Music
HOVHANESS, A.: Lousadzak / Shatakh / Achtamar / Tzaikerk (Hovhaness) (1950) Naxos Classical Archives
9.80676
Concertos, Instrumental, Orchestral, Chamber Music
HOVHANESS, A.: Prayer of St. Gregory / Rubaiyat / 4 Bagatelles / The Flowering Peach / Symphony No. 2 (American Mystic) (Schwarz) Delos
DE3421
Chamber Music, Orchestral, Chamber Music, Orchestral
HOVHANESS, A.: Symphonies Nos. 1, "Exile Symphony" and 50, "Mount St. Helen" (Seattle Symphony, Schwarz) Naxos
8.559717
Concertos, Orchestral
HOVHANESS, A.: Symphonies Nos. 20, 29 and 53 / The Flowering Peach (Ohio State University Concert Band, Brion) Delos
DE3158
Wind Ensemble/Band Music, Chamber Music
HOVHANESS, A.: Symphonies Nos. 7, 14, 23 (Trinity College of Music Wind Orchestra, Brion) Naxos
8.559385
Wind Ensemble/Band Music
HOVHANESS, A.: Symphony No. 2 ,"Mysterious Mountain" / Prayer of St. Gregory / And God Created Great Whales (Seattle Symphony) Delos
DE3157
Orchestral
HOVHANESS, A.: Symphony No. 29 / 4 Bagatelles / Rubaiyat / Prayer of St. Gregory / Celestial Fantasy / Gloria Patri Delos
DE3352
Orchestral, Choral - Sacred, Orchestral, Wind Ensemble/Band Music, Chamber Music, Orchestral
HOVHANESS: Concerto No. 7 / Symphony No. 15 / Magnificat First Edition
FECD-0006
Choral - Sacred, Concertos, Orchestral
HOVHANESS: Guitar Concerto No. 2 / Symphony No. 63 / Fanfare for the New Atlantis Naxos
8.559336
Orchestral, Concertos, Orchestral
HOVHANESS: Khrimian Hairig / Guitar Concerto / Symphony No. 60 Naxos
8.559294
Orchestral, Concertos, Orchestral
HOVHANESS: Symphonies Nos. 4, 20 and 53 Naxos
8.559207
Orchestral, Wind Ensemble/Band Music, Orchestral
HOVHANESS: Symphony No. 22 / Cello Concerto Naxos
8.559158
Orchestral, Concertos
MYSTERY CLASSICS - Curl up with the Classics Delos
DE1601
Chamber Music
MYSTIC CLASSICS - Visionary Choral and Orchestral Masterpieces Naxos
8.570225-26
Orchestral, Wind Ensemble/Band Music, Orchestral
Orchestral Music (American) - SCHUMAN, W. / TOMLINSON, C. / IVES, C. / HOVHANESS, A. / PISTON, W. (An American Tapestry) (Dallas Symphony, Litton) Dorian Sono Luminus
DOR-90224
Orchestral
PART, A.: Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten / ALLEGRI, G.: Miserere / WEBERN, A.: Langsamer Satz (Secret Classics) Delos
DE1031
Orchestral
RAVEL, M.: Daphnis et Chloe / HOVHANESS, A.: Meditation on Orpheus (Seattle Symphony Chorale and Orchestra, Schwarz) Naxos
8.571211
Orchestral
SERENE JOURNEYS THROUGH CLASSICAL MUSIC Delos
DE1608
Chamber Music
SPOHR / DONIZETTI / KRUMPHOLZ / HOVHANESS: Music for Flute and Harp BIS
BIS-CD-143
Instrumental
STORY OF AMERICAN CLASSICAL MUSIC (THE) Naxos Educational
8.558164-65
Orchestral
VIOLIN LULLABIES Cedille
CDR90000-139
Chamber Music
WIESLER, Manuela: Small is beautiful - Short Pieces for Solo Flute BIS
BIS-CD-869
Instrumental
WORLD PREMIERE COLLECTION First Edition
FECD-0032
Orchestral

Role: Lyricist 
Album Title  Catalogue No  Work Category 
HOVHANESS, A.: Choral Music (Pearson) Delos
DE3176
Choral - Sacred

Role: Conductor 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
HOVHANESS, A.: Flowering Peach (The) / Is There Survival / Orbit No. 1 (Hovhaness) (1955) Naxos Classical Archives
9.80130
Chamber Music
HOVHANESS, A.: Lousadzak / Shatakh / Achtamar / Tzaikerk (Hovhaness) (1950) Naxos Classical Archives
9.80676
Concertos, Orchestral
HOVHANESS: Symphony No. 22 / Cello Concerto Naxos
8.559158
Orchestral
STORY OF AMERICAN CLASSICAL MUSIC (THE) Naxos Educational
8.558164-65
Orchestral





 
 
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