Author Topic: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?  (Read 28377 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline jurajjak

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 80
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #40 on: July 17, 2007, 04:12:26 PM »
Apparently when the Symphony #19 was premiered in the late 60's, the 30-minute work was edited down by conductor André Kostelanetz to a mere 11 minutes (not exactly sure why).  Hovhaness was devastated by the butchery, as he considered it one of his best works to date.  It is one of his more psychadelic compositions (for lack of a better word), with wild trumpet playing and trombone glissandi signifying colliding planets and exploding stars (in the composer's own program).  I haven't listened in a while, but I recall it ending with rather complex clusters of flutes and winds that have a rather "space-age" feeling.  I know of only one recording, on the Crystal CD label, and conducted by Hovhaness himself (Crystal specializes in reissued Hovhaness recordings).  Ordering from their website may be the only way to get it...I looked through university libraries and had no luck, and eventually had to special-order it. 

Hovhaness' "Symphony of Metal Instruments" (I think #17?--not sure) is also good, if less wild--the final movement has an excellent, rather malevolent theme for horns, an oversize group of flutes, and Japanese percussion.


Andrew

karlhenning

  • Guest
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #41 on: July 18, 2007, 02:50:42 AM »
Apparently when the Symphony #19 was premiered in the late 60's, the 30-minute work was edited down by conductor André Kostelanetz to a mere 11 minutes (not exactly sure why).  Hovhaness was devastated by the butchery, as he considered it one of his best works to date. . . .

Crikey, he'd be devastated even if he'd been relatively careless about the piece! :-)

But you know, in 40 years, Hovhaness will still be a notable composer, and nobody is going to know (or care) who Kostalanetz was . . . .

Quote
Hovhaness' "Symphony of Metal Instruments" (I think #17?--not sure) is also good, if less wild--the final movement has an excellent, rather malevolent theme for horns, an oversize group of flutes, and Japanese percussion.

I've heard that one!  Friends of mine whom I visited out in LA have that, and I asked them to play it for me.  Some very nice stuff, and I always like to cut Hovhaness some slack when he makes the effort to give a piece a distinctive profile  8)

Offline jurajjak

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 80
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #42 on: July 18, 2007, 12:05:36 PM »
Have you visited: http://www.hovhaness.com

A very comprehensive site, with descriptions of nearly all the symphonies

Offline techniquest

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 279
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #43 on: July 20, 2007, 01:02:57 PM »
This thread is proving expensive! On the strength of it I have augmented my Hovhaness recordings by buying the Symphony No.19 "Vishnu" (coupled with Requiem & Resurrection), and also (at last) Fra Angelico coupled on CD with 3 other pieces including Symphony No.21 "Etchmiadzin" and the lovely "Mountains & Rivers Without End". Got them from Amazon.

Offline Szykneij

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2294
  • Tony from Massachusetts
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #44 on: July 23, 2007, 10:41:22 AM »
Stay away from this record:



It's terrible. I think it is his wife who is singing there, but she simply can't sing.

This CD came in the mail today and I gave it a listen before I read through this thread. I have to disagree with your advice about staying away from it. I would highly recommend the recording overall. There are some excellent orchestrations and melodies here. On the other hand, I can't argue with your take on the tracks with vocals. I ended up skipping forward when the second one was half way through. At least there are only two vocal pieces -- not like a John Lennon CD where every other track is Yoko. (The entire production of this CD was supervised by Hovhaness himself. According to the packaging, it has the liner notes, cover art, and "sound that Hovhaness wanted".)
Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines. ~ Satchel Paige

Offline Szykneij

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2294
  • Tony from Massachusetts
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #45 on: August 27, 2007, 09:19:29 AM »

St Vartan Symphony


Just listened to this for the first time. 24 "movements" in 5 larger sections that build cohesively to an exciting climax with a double canon at the end. Typical symphonic instrumentation plus vibes, alto sax, and lots of percussion, especially timpani.

His best stuff is when he gets funky with Armenian harmonies.

This is some of that stuff! Great piece!
Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines. ~ Satchel Paige

Offline sound67

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 710
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #46 on: August 27, 2007, 11:08:50 AM »
The question with Hovhaness is not where to begin, but where to end.

The answer is: Now.

Take it from someone who owns more than a dozen all-Hovhaness discs.

Thomas
"Vivaldi didn't compose 500 concertos. He composed the same concerto 500 times" - Igor Stravinsky

"Mozart is a menace to musical progress, a relic of rituals that were losing relevance in his own time and are meaningless to ours." - Norman Lebrecht

Offline Dundonnell

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3599
  • Edmund Rubbra(1901-86)
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #47 on: August 27, 2007, 03:16:23 PM »
In my opinion you can begin anywere with Hovhaness. I myself got into this composer by simply buying the Naxos cd's, and since then I am hooked. The one with the celloconcerto on it is a devastating introduction. If you like that, you will love all.
He has a enormous output, yes, but not that many recordings, in fact compared to his works, almost nothing.

Not sure that it is exactly true to say that there are "not that many recordings" of Hovhaness's music. I have managed over the years to acquire 22 Hovhaness symphonies(Nos. 1-4, 6, 9. 11, 15, 19, 20-22, 24-25, 31, 39, 46, 49, 50, 53, 60 and 66) plus a good deal of other orchestral music, including the Cello concerto and Double Piano Concerto, and some choral works such as the Magnificat and Cantata "Lady of Light". Agreed, that represents only around a third of his symphonic output but twenty two symphonies does rather overtake most other twentieth century composers(Havergal Brian and Miaskovsky have that honour!).

If you use the excellent website devoted to the music of Hovhaness you can find references to the recordings-many on the Crystal label, others on Koch, Delos and, recently, Naxos.

As to where to start-that is very difficult! I love to wallow in Hovhaness's music without having to concentrate too hard on it and the trouble is that it does become a bit difficult sometimes to tell one piece from another! I too remember the old Unicorn LPs of the 11th symphony coupled with "Fra Angelico" and the Saint Vartan Symphony(No.9) which first attracted me to the music. The "Mount St.Helens" Symphony(No.50) is certainly extremely loud!! If you listen to almost any Hovhaness and are in sympathy with the rich modalities you will probably like the rest.

I would not listen to his music every day however! Too richly upholstered!

Offline sound67

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 710
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #48 on: August 27, 2007, 10:06:37 PM »
the trouble is that it does become a bit difficult sometimes to tell one piece from another!

Precisely. His music is of a distressing sameness. Buy any two CDs (e.g. one that contains Symphonies Nos. 2 and 50, and one that contains And God Created Great Whales and Prayer of St Gregory), and you got it all.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2007, 10:32:32 PM by sound67 »
"Vivaldi didn't compose 500 concertos. He composed the same concerto 500 times" - Igor Stravinsky

"Mozart is a menace to musical progress, a relic of rituals that were losing relevance in his own time and are meaningless to ours." - Norman Lebrecht

Offline Szykneij

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2294
  • Tony from Massachusetts
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #49 on: August 28, 2007, 05:42:01 AM »
Precisely. His music is of a distressing sameness. Buy any two CDs (e.g. one that contains Symphonies Nos. 2 and 50, and one that contains And God Created Great Whales and Prayer of St Gregory), and you got it all.

While there's no question his compositions have a recognizable style that is distinctly "Hovhaness", I'd argue against the "sameness" description. His varied use of modes, rhythms, instrumentation, forms, and non-classical influences keeps his music fresh (at least for me).
Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines. ~ Satchel Paige

Offline Dundonnell

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3599
  • Edmund Rubbra(1901-86)
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #50 on: March 10, 2009, 07:34:37 AM »
Well, don't start here :(

I bought this cd after reading an enthusiastic review in the 'Gramophone' by Guy Rickard(whom I respect!) but the music is really interminable Japanese-inspired tintabullation.

I like the rich modality of so much Hovhaness-and by heavens there is SO much Hovhaness ;D But this music is boring in the extreme to my ears. Some might like it-I suppose that it sounds more advanced than much of the composer's music-but I have to say that I am mightily disappointed :(

Btw does anybody know why this University of Miami-based orchestra is known as the Frost Symphony Orchestra-the cd booklet does not tell us.

Offline monafam

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 131
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #51 on: June 16, 2009, 12:53:18 PM »
I'm new here to GMG (followed a recommendation to an inquiry I posted on another site) and figured I would let my first post fall on a composer I took a chance in with Alan Hovhaness.   I will warn you that I have no real musical background other than enjoying to listen to it, and I've got lots to learn (one reason I came here).

Well over a decade ago I had some money burning a hole in my pocket (those were the days!   ;D).  I went to the classical section of our local Best Buy and purchased a Hovhaness CD with the "Mount St. Helens" and "City of Light" symphonies on a whim.  I had never heard of him to that point.   Anyways, I absolutely loved the CD at the time -- about had a heart attack in the 3rd movement of the "Mount St. Helens" symphony when the drums came in.  I was a sucker for the drums, his fugues, etc.

Needless to say, each time I went back I grabbed another CD, then another.  I was up to 13 when I slowed down my CD purchases -- but Hovy-baby (as I refer to him for some reason) was one of the first classical composers to earn a shot at eating up my Emusic credits.

That's probably way too much information, but I thought it might be worth sharing initially as I go on to a few questions/concerns about him --

1)  One concern I have had is that I've run into a lot of his pieces that sound the same.  I don't just mean it sounds like he wrote it, but it's like the same theme from another work interspersed into a new Opus.  Is this common for other composers?  For some reason, I almost feel like it's cheating to get credit for another Opus when it seems like you already produced that theme.   (This is where my lack of any significant musical background might be clouding my vision.)

2)  Sometimes it feels like he picks an instrument just to use it, but without using the strengths of said instrument.  For example, his Symphony No. 39 for Guitar & orchestra would've been better if he just omitted the guitar altogether.  It was obviously good enough to produce a record, but the guitar part sounds like something that the untrained person could pick up an plunk away at.  (He has a Guitar Concerto that won me over a little more, so he does know how to use it to my liking in other pieces).

3)  What was the deal with Bernstein's beef ("ghetto music"?) with him?  Is his music lacking/simple/trashy?  Did they have issues with one another?


karlhenning

  • Guest
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #52 on: June 16, 2009, 03:44:24 PM »
Wasn't flash enough for Lenny  8)

Offline vandermolen

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 11025
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #53 on: July 09, 2009, 01:53:41 AM »
Here is an extremely interesting, inexpensive new Guild CD of historic recordings. Hovhaness's 'Exile Symphony' in its 1942 New York American premiere (interestingly the very first performance was given in London in 1939 by the BBC SO conducted by Leslie Heward).

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

Offline DavidRoss

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 7590
  • Location: Northern California
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #54 on: July 09, 2009, 02:25:36 AM »
1)  One concern I have had is that I've run into a lot of his pieces that sound the same.  I don't just mean it sounds like he wrote it, but it's like the same theme from another work interspersed into a new Opus.  Is this common for other composers?  For some reason, I almost feel like it's cheating to get credit for another Opus when it seems like you already produced that theme.   (This is where my lack of any significant musical background might be clouding my vision.)

2)  Sometimes it feels like he picks an instrument just to use it, but without using the strengths of said instrument.  For example, his Symphony No. 39 for Guitar & orchestra would've been better if he just omitted the guitar altogether.  It was obviously good enough to produce a record, but the guitar part sounds like something that the untrained person could pick up an plunk away at.  (He has a Guitar Concerto that won me over a little more, so he does know how to use it to my liking in other pieces).

3)  What was the deal with Bernstein's beef ("ghetto music"?) with him?  Is his music lacking/simple/trashy?  Did they have issues with one another?

Monafam, welcome!

I hope you will return because your first post strikes me as very thoughtful and interesting.  Sorry you just happened to pick a seldom-visited thread for your first and so far only post. 

I liked Mysterious Mountain so much that on the strength of it I bought a few other recordings of his work.  To me it does tend to sound the same.  This is not the norm for classical composers, most of whom have a recognizable "style" that develops over the course of their careers, but whose works do not all sound alike.

I don't know any more about Bernstein and him than what I read on the web, that Hovhaness was a student at Tanglewood when Copland was teaching composition and Bernstein was assisting.  He didn't fit in socially and left early when he felt unfairly criticized for his interest in Eastern music outside the mainstream classical tradition.


"Maybe the problem most of you have ... is that you're not listening to Barbirolli." ~Sarge

"The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money." ~Margaret Thatcher

karlhenning

  • Guest
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #55 on: July 09, 2009, 02:26:52 AM »
Here is an extremely interesting, inexpensive new Guild CD of historic recordings. Hovhaness's 'Exile Symphony' in its 1942 New York American premiere (interestingly the very first performance was given in London in 1939 by the BBC SO conducted by Leslie Heward).

That London premiere curiously befits the subtitle, eh?

Offline vandermolen

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 11025
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #56 on: July 09, 2009, 02:35:54 AM »
I'm new here to GMG (followed a recommendation to an inquiry I posted on another site) and figured I would let my first post fall on a composer I took a chance in with Alan Hovhaness.   I will warn you that I have no real musical background other than enjoying to listen to it, and I've got lots to learn (one reason I came here).

Well over a decade ago I had some money burning a hole in my pocket (those were the days!   ;D).  I went to the classical section of our local Best Buy and purchased a Hovhaness CD with the "Mount St. Helens" and "City of Light" symphonies on a whim.  I had never heard of him to that point.   Anyways, I absolutely loved the CD at the time -- about had a heart attack in the 3rd movement of the "Mount St. Helens" symphony when the drums came in.  I was a sucker for the drums, his fugues, etc.

Needless to say, each time I went back I grabbed another CD, then another.  I was up to 13 when I slowed down my CD purchases -- but Hovy-baby (as I refer to him for some reason) was one of the first classical composers to earn a shot at eating up my Emusic credits.

That's probably way too much information, but I thought it might be worth sharing initially as I go on to a few questions/concerns about him --

1)  One concern I have had is that I've run into a lot of his pieces that sound the same.  I don't just mean it sounds like he wrote it, but it's like the same theme from another work interspersed into a new Opus.  Is this common for other composers?  For some reason, I almost feel like it's cheating to get credit for another Opus when it seems like you already produced that theme.   (This is where my lack of any significant musical background might be clouding my vision.)

2)  Sometimes it feels like he picks an instrument just to use it, but without using the strengths of said instrument.  For example, his Symphony No. 39 for Guitar & orchestra would've been better if he just omitted the guitar altogether.  It was obviously good enough to produce a record, but the guitar part sounds like something that the untrained person could pick up an plunk away at.  (He has a Guitar Concerto that won me over a little more, so he does know how to use it to my liking in other pieces).

3)  What was the deal with Bernstein's beef ("ghetto music"?) with him?  Is his music lacking/simple/trashy?  Did they have issues with one another?



The Delos Mount St Helens CD was excellent - one of the best Hovhaness discs. I'd also recommend Symphony No 11 'All Men are Brothers' and Symphony No 6 'Odysseus'. The Cello Concerto on Naxos is also well worth exploring.\ The Naxos discs are a good way into Hovhaness.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline vandermolen

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 11025
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #57 on: December 13, 2009, 07:32:12 AM »
Here is an extremely interesting, inexpensive new Guild CD of historic recordings. Hovhaness's 'Exile Symphony' in its 1942 New York American premiere (interestingly the very first performance was given in London in 1939 by the BBC SO conducted by Leslie Heward).

I've been listening to this CD (see picture above). It's a very good programme, not just for the Hovhaness Exile Symphony but also for the other music - I especially liked the Syphony No 1 by the 17 year old Jose Serebrier. These are all, very atmospheric, live performances from the 1940s and 50s (Serebrier).
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline drogulus

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 6201
  • Gypsy, 1970
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #58 on: December 31, 2009, 11:54:14 PM »
      Hovhaness wrote so much music that it's possible that some of it "all sounds the same" while other pieces are quite distinctly different. That's how it sounds to me. Like many composers he occasionally went on autopilot (OK, a little more than occasionally in this case) and produced too much sameness. Should such a composer cut his output in half and raise the quality? I don't know. Maybe he was one of those who needed to write as much as he did...if he'd halved his output he'd have produced half as many good pieces. Anyway, if you look at all the recs in this thread it turns out he produced quite a bit of good music.

      Does anyone know this recording?

     

      It looks very interesting. Vaughan Williams had just died and the program for this live broadcast from Carnegie Hall was changed in order to give the American premiere of the 9th Symphony. And I believe Stokowski premiered the first 2 Hovhaness symphonies as well. Amazon has the CD and downloads.

      Later: After listening to some Amazon clips I'd say this is a worthwhile pick for both Hovhaness and Vaughan Williams. Check out the clips (click on the pic).
« Last Edit: January 01, 2010, 02:54:13 PM by drogulus »
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64; rv:45.9) Gecko/20100101 Goanna/3.2 Firefox/45.9 PaleMoon/27.3.0
      
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; WOW64; rv:50.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/50.0

Offline brunumb

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 61
  • Location: Australia
Re: Alan Hovhaness — Where to begin?
« Reply #59 on: January 01, 2010, 08:39:11 PM »
I wish Sony would reissue their Andre Kostelanetz recording of 'And God Created Great Whales'.

As a New Year gesture :D could some of you people please hassle Sony at their website to make this performance available again. 

I've always depended on the kindness of strangers.  :-*

 

Don't Like These Ads? Become a GMG Subscriber!
For as little as 14 cents per day, subscribers get no advertising on the forum, a larger Inbox for your PM's, and a warm glow of knowing you are supporting the forum. All this and a groovy Subscriber badge too!
Click here to read more.