Author Topic: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?  (Read 25203 times)

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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #160 on: January 04, 2018, 03:04:44 PM »
Yes, I agree that Hanson is a greater composer than Hovhaness, especially symphonies 1-4 and the Bold Island Suite. His music has greater integrity and more depth.

An older post of yours, Jeffrey, but I have to disagree. I think comparing Hanson and Hovhaness is like comparing apples/oranges. Both composers couldn’t be more different. Hovhaness is very much of his own idiom and is far removed from what so many composers were doing except for perhaps Lou Harrison’s forays into Gamelan music for example, but Hovhaness had been writing this kind of music as far back as the mid-30s. I also have to laugh at whoever deemed Hovhaness to be the ‘American Sibelius’ or even how that even got started. What a ludicrous comparison. Not because I think one composer is better than the other, because, again, Hovhaness is so different than his own contemporaries and the composers that came before him. Hanson, on the other hand, was very much a composer that was more traditional in terms of rhythm, harmony, etc. Of course, I’m not putting Hanson down as I love a lot of his music, but these comparisons just don’t make a lot of sense to me, especially given that I have heard a good bit of Hovhaness’ music now but certainly not ALL of it! ;D

Edit: Sorry to call you out like this on an older post, Jeffrey, but there’s not much else happening on this thread other than me re-posting what I just bought. :P
« Last Edit: January 04, 2018, 04:37:30 PM by Mirror Image »
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #161 on: January 04, 2018, 03:11:54 PM »
Why isn't Hovhaness on this list and who determines who’s a maverick and who’s not? What are the qualifications for being an ‘American maverick’?

http://americanmavericks.org/meet-the-mavericks

An amusing read nevertheless.

Does anyone have an opinion on this?
"I haven't understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.” - Igor Stravinsky

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #162 on: January 04, 2018, 10:17:20 PM »
By golly! I just realized how I found out about Hovhaness. Eight years I purchased this book and there was a section devoted to composers who were ‘outside of the American mainstream’ so to speak and Hovhaness was one of the featured composers.

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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #163 on: January 05, 2018, 12:38:32 AM »
An older post of yours, Jeffrey, but I have to disagree. I think comparing Hanson and Hovhaness is like comparing apples/oranges. Both composers couldn’t be more different. Hovhaness is very much of his own idiom and is far removed from what so many composers were doing except for perhaps Lou Harrison’s forays into Gamelan music for example, but Hovhaness had been writing this kind of music as far back as the mid-30s. I also have to laugh at whoever deemed Hovhaness to be the ‘American Sibelius’ or even how that even got started. What a ludicrous comparison. Not because I think one composer is better than the other, because, again, Hovhaness is so different than his own contemporaries and the composers that came before him. Hanson, on the other hand, was very much a composer that was more traditional in terms of rhythm, harmony, etc. Of course, I’m not putting Hanson down as I love a lot of his music, but these comparisons just don’t make a lot of sense to me, especially given that I have heard a good bit of Hovhaness’ music now but certainly not ALL of it! ;D

Edit: Sorry to call you out like this on an older post, Jeffrey, but there’s not much else happening on this thread other than me re-posting what I just bought. :P

How interesting! No problem at all John. Actually over the past ten years my view has changed and I think that you are right. I now have a higher opinion of Hovhaness's music and no longer agree with my earlier comments. I admire both composers for their own particular qualities.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #164 on: January 05, 2018, 03:05:41 AM »
Does anyone have an opinion on this?

My opinion is that musical maverick is a tedious buzzphrase which deserves to be retired permanently.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #165 on: January 05, 2018, 06:51:02 AM »
My opinion is that musical maverick is a tedious buzzphrase which deserves to be retired permanently.

I couldn’t agree more, Karl. Cheap marketing IMHO.
"I haven't understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.” - Igor Stravinsky

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #166 on: January 05, 2018, 06:51:34 AM »
How interesting! No problem at all John. Actually over the past ten years my view has changed and I think that you are right. I now have a higher opinion of Hovhaness's music and no longer agree with my earlier comments. I admire both composers for their own particular qualities.

Great to hear, Jeffrey! 8)
"I haven't understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.” - Igor Stravinsky

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #167 on: January 05, 2018, 01:27:33 PM »
This is one of my favourite Hovhaness CDs, especially for the Symphony 6: 'Celestial Gate':

"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #168 on: January 05, 2018, 03:18:18 PM »
This is one of my favourite Hovhaness CDs, especially for the Symphony 6: 'Celestial Gate':



Celestial Gate is a fine work, Jeffrey. I’m resisting this recording at the moment since I do believe I have enough Hovhaness on the way now. ;)
"I haven't understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.” - Igor Stravinsky

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #169 on: January 06, 2018, 01:00:32 AM »
Celestial Gate is a fine work, Jeffrey. I’m resisting this recording at the moment since I do believe I have enough Hovhaness on the way now. ;)

I'll be very interested to hear your views on the music when the CDs turn up John.
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #170 on: January 06, 2018, 06:19:01 AM »
This is one of my favourite Hovhaness CDs, especially for the Symphony 6: 'Celestial Gate':



+ 1
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #171 on: January 06, 2018, 06:52:48 AM »
I'll be very interested to hear your views on the music when the CDs turn up John.

I can tell you (so far) that I enjoy his symphonies more than any of the concerti I’ve heard. Maybe my view will change, but I will say, of the concerti, I like the Cello Concerto and the Harp Concerto the best.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #172 on: January 06, 2018, 05:44:43 PM »
I guess my Hovhaness phase was short lived! :P I guess I just need a bit more grit in my music.
"I haven't understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.” - Igor Stravinsky

Offline André

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #173 on: January 06, 2018, 07:29:34 PM »
I guess my Hovhaness phase was short lived! :P I guess I just need a bit more grit in my music.

Wait ! You haven’t received your christmas presents yet !  ;). You are in danger of succumbing to hovhanessian gluttony...!

More than most composers whose idiom is immediately recognizable, Hovhaness confined himself in a narrow spectrum of harmonies, rythmic gestures, etc. If that musicall idiom is any good, it’s a recipe for short term success but it curbs the long term appeal of his music. Personally I love it, but in small doses. Since it’s been at least 2 years I didn’t hear anything by him, I’m due for a few repeat performances from the discs I already have. If I survive, I might even buy some more  ;D.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #174 on: January 06, 2018, 07:55:29 PM »
Wait ! You haven’t received your christmas presents yet !  ;). You are in danger of succumbing to hovhanessian gluttony...!

More than most composers whose idiom is immediately recognizable, Hovhaness confined himself in a narrow spectrum of harmonies, rythmic gestures, etc. If that musicall idiom is any good, it’s a recipe for short term success but it curbs the long term appeal of his music. Personally I love it, but in small doses. Since it’s been at least 2 years I didn’t hear anything by him, I’m due for a few repeat performances from the discs I already have. If I survive, I might even buy some more  ;D.

Hah! :D I think you hit the nail on the head and I actually have to concede to Scarpia in saying that the appeal of this composer is limited to only a few works. I’ll go ahead and say it: his concerti are tedious and a chore to sit through. I revisited the Cello Concerto earlier and I almost feel asleep. No joke! I guess, for me, I like composers who have more edge in their compositional style --- I like a bit more drama. Hovhaness may have not been too worried about creating this kind of tension, but it’d be nice to have some kind of point of access as the music is floating in the air and it goes right over my head. I’ll also concede to Jeffrey in that Hanson is most definitely more of my kind of composer (since his name was brought up). Hovhaness would have done well to have been much more self-critical. I’d rather hear 5 outstanding works than 50 mediocre ones.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 07:57:05 PM by Mirror Image »
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Offline kyjo

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #175 on: January 06, 2018, 10:30:45 PM »
Hah! :D I think you hit the nail on the head and I actually have to concede to Scarpia in saying that the appeal of this composer is limited to only a few works. I’ll go ahead and say it: his concerti are tedious and a chore to sit through. I revisited the Cello Concerto earlier and I almost feel asleep. No joke! I guess, for me, I like composers who have more edge in their compositional style --- I like a bit more drama. Hovhaness may have not been too worried about creating this kind of tension, but it’d be nice to have some kind of point of access as the music is floating in the air and it goes right over my head. I’ll also concede to Jeffrey in that Hanson is most definitely more of my kind of composer (since his name was brought up). Hovhaness would have done well to have been much more self-critical. I’d rather hear 5 outstanding works than 50 mediocre ones.

Hah! I was waiting for you to change your mind on Hovhaness! :P I largely agree with both you and Andre - Hovhaness is certainly a worthy and unique composer, but his compositional language and emotional range are just too limited to make me want to return to his music often.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 10:32:35 PM by kyjo »

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #176 on: January 07, 2018, 02:26:27 AM »
Wait ! You haven’t received your christmas presents yet !  ;). You are in danger of succumbing to hovhanessian gluttony...!

More than most composers whose idiom is immediately recognizable, Hovhaness confined himself in a narrow spectrum of harmonies, rythmic gestures, etc. If that musicall idiom is any good, it’s a recipe for short term success but it curbs the long term appeal of his music. Personally I love it, but in small doses. Since it’s been at least 2 years I didn’t hear anything by him, I’m due for a few repeat performances from the discs I already have. If I survive, I might even buy some more  ;D.

I very much agree with this. However, I do return to some of his works regularly, the 'Meditation on Orpheus' the 'Exile Symphony' and Symphony 50 for example (both together on a Naxos CD). I remember going with my older brother to a concert some years ago which featured Elgar's Symphony 2 and Moeran's Symphony,which is one of my favourites. My brother said that it was like listening to the music of 'the master' (Elgar) and 'the pupil' (Moeran), but I disagreed because, although Elgar was probably the greater composer, Moeran was attempting something quite different in his symphony. Hovhaness was, at one level, limited as a composer but if you are prepared to accept it on its own terms his often powerfully atmospheric music is rewarding . That's my view anyway!  :)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline André

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #177 on: January 07, 2018, 06:40:18 AM »
Gerard Schwarz record the 50th symphony « Mount St Helens » twice, and I have both recordings. IIRC the first (with the Seattle SO) had more oomph. I’ll probably start with this comparison. My favourite movement is the first, with its brooding, uneasy atmosphere. However, since I hate listening to that kind of huge sonic display with earphones, I’ll have to wait until the house is clear for a minimum of 2 hours  :D

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #178 on: January 07, 2018, 07:51:36 AM »
Hah! I was waiting for you to change your mind on Hovhaness! :P I largely agree with both you and Andre - Hovhaness is certainly a worthy and unique composer, but his compositional language and emotional range are just too limited to make me want to return to his music often.

;) Yeah, after listening to many of his works I was thinking, at first, that this is such a unique composer that’s doing something different, but then I later realized he’s doing the same thing over and over again. There are a few exceptions like the Vishnu Symphony and the Symphony of Metal Instruments, but these are experimental works and, for me, don’t quite engage me emotionally. From a cerebral point-of-view, I find these two afore mentioned symphonies quite interesting, but they’re novelties and really nothing more for me. So that’s my current opinion after having spent a day or two with a lot of his music.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2018, 08:01:07 AM by Mirror Image »
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #179 on: January 07, 2018, 01:28:07 PM »
Gerard Schwarz record the 50th symphony « Mount St Helens » twice, and I have both recordings. IIRC the first (with the Seattle SO) had more oomph. I’ll probably start with this comparison. My favourite movement is the first, with its brooding, uneasy atmosphere. However, since I hate listening to that kind of huge sonic display with earphones, I’ll have to wait until the house is clear for a minimum of 2 hours  :D
Yes, that first movement of Symphony 50 is perhaps my favourite Hovhaness symphony moment, especially in the Delos performance which made a big impact on me when it first appeared.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

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