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Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, November 2012

Fantasy of Japanese Woodprints, Op. 211…reflects Hovhaness’ ongoing fascination for the culture of Japan. And incidentally, it offers the Seattle Symphony’s Ron Johnson a great opportunity to contribute to the flavor and texture of this work through his distinguished performance on the marimba…

Hovhaness’ Symphony No. 50, “Mount St. Helens”…is a stunning example of the composer’s symphonic prowess…

All of the artistry of Gerard Schwarz and the members of the Seattle SO come into play here, in sonics that are captured in startling realism by the recording team of Adam Stern and John Eargle. © 2012 Audio Video Club of Atlanta Read complete review

Steve Arloff
MusicWeb International, September 2012

Gerard Schwarz is a great advocate of American music and he and his orchestra help do the kind of justice Hovhaness deserves. Ron Johnson does a sterling job on the marimba in the disc’s second work. These recordings were originally made by Delos and they offer an extremely rewarding experience for a whole new audience to discover and revel in. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, August 2012

The Symphony No. 1 is an important one for understanding Hovhaness the composer. It’s a mature work and a crucial reference point to where he began. Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony give a most sympathetic reading, as they do all the music on this disk.

In between the 1st and the 50th Schwarz interjects an excellent and representative work from Hovhaness’s middle period, the “Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints”…Again, there is a melodic arch that clearly comes out of Japanese classical music. What is done with the theme is Hovhaness in pure form.

The “Mount St. Helens” Symphony No. 50 gives us very magestic music that becomes quite turbulent, then triumphantly chorale-like in the last movement…

The three Hovhaness works presented on the Naxos release at hand are very representative, very moving and enjoyable, and very well performed. © 2012 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2012

Alan Hovhaness was such a prolific composer that, even with the recording industry’s largesse, we will never get to know more than a smattering of his output. In his final period, which came to an end in the millennium year, his output was reaching five hundred opuses, his series of symphonies playing a major part. Religious convictions were to become his most significant influence, and stylistically he rejected everything that had filtered down from the Second Viennese School. He was twenty-five when he completed his First Symphony, subtitled ‘Exile’, the plight of his Armenian ancestors at the end of the First World War being the motivation. Using the sounds we would associate with the Eastern world, the first two movements are full of sadness, anger only erupting in a highly charged finale. We move forward forty-six years to the Fiftieth entitled ‘Mount Saint Helens’, a score completed two years after the eruption in Washington State. The first two movements reflecting the natural beauty of this part of North America, the second movement picturing the Spirit Lake at the base of the mountain. It almost goes without saying, that it is the brass and percussion that picture the eruption in the finale, though the ending returns to peace. Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints, which offers a solo role for marimba, seeks to recreate the sounds Hovhaness heard on his visits to Japan, and in a way also mirrors the French Impressionist composers. The First Symphony is heard in the composer’s 1970 revision, the demands placed on the orchestra through all three works never looking for outgoing virtuosity. Yet there is so much you can admire the high quality of the Seattle orchestra and Gerard Schwarz back in the early 1990’s when these recordings were made for Delos International. © 2012 David’s Review Corner, July 2012

Hovhaness was initially influenced by the music of American composers and by music from Armenia (his father was Armenian); later he became highly interested in the traditional music of nations such as India, Japan and South Korea. Like many 20th-century American composers, he was accretive; but he also developed a sound of his own, largely through his assimilation of non-Western works. His First Symphony, which dates to 1926 but was revised in 1970, has the title “Exile” in commemoration of the fleeing of Armenians before the Ottoman Turks after World War I—an event still producing controversy and deeply conflicting feelings today. Expressive and passionate, this symphony blends grace with intensity. A different tradition, that of Japan, infuses Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints, which prominently features a xylophone or marimba in a work of considerable charm. In contrast, Symphony No. 50 is intended to evoke both the violence of nature (commemorating the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980) and its majesty. This work strives somewhat unconvincingly toward mysticism and a feeling of meaningfulness underlying the event that brought it into being, but it is effectively orchestrated—as Hovhaness’ music usually is—and has some elements of real power. The Seattle Symphony under Gerard Schwarz plays the music with clarity and skill… © Read complete review

Jeff Simon
The Buffalo News, July 2012

HOVHANESS, A.: Symphonies Nos. 1, ‘Exile Symphony’ and 50, ‘Mount St. Helen’ (Seattle Symphony, Schwarz) 8.559717
MENNIN, P.: Moby Dick / Symphonies Nos. 3 and 7 (Seattle Symphony, Schwarz) 8.559718

Among the glories of the Naxos label has been its preservation of extraordinary projects by other labels in other times. The Seattle Symphony, under Gerard Schwarz, was extraordinarily attentive to 20th century American composers whose stock might have fallen without them. Listen to this revision of his first symphony and his Symphony No. 50 “Mount St. Helens” (Opus 360 no less) and you’ll have a sense of what a huge loss that would have been. The Mount St. Helens Symphony comes complete with volcanic eruption for its third movement and would, doubtless, be a hit for any concert hall where it was essayed. The difficulties of Peter Mennin might be thought to be roughly analogous to Hovhaness’ but different. His kind of neo-classic vigor, like Schuman’s, was easy to lose as music joined the 21st century but the “Moby Dick” Concertato for Orchestra and Third and Seventh Symphonies are exemplary works from a period when American composers took themselves seriously as both artists and citizens. It’s fine work and holds up beautifully. © 2012 The Buffalo News Read complete review

Brian Wilson Download Roundup
MusicWeb International, July 2012

Naxos’s latest lucky dip into the rich archives of the Seattle Symphony…brings us to the exotic music of Alan Hovhaness…the early Exile Symphony and the Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints…made the greatest impression on me.

With informative notes and good recording, this deserves a strong recommendation. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

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