Alan HOVHANESS (1911-00)
Symphony No. 3 (1956) 27.56
Mystery of the Holy Martyrs (1976)
KBS SO/Vakhtang Jordania
rec June 1996, Seoul, Korea
Soundset are not exactly (or even vaguely) a company with a profile in the
catalogue. In the circumstances it is all the more important that this disc
Hovhaness has been rather decently served on Koch Internationand, overwhelmingly
by Crystal - the heirs to the Poseidon catalogue and by Delos. A search of
the internet revealed the present disc after the author of the catalogue
of Hovhaness's works (now featured fully revised
on this site) mentioned that there
was an obscure CD of the third symphony.
Interestingly the forces used suggest the tape might originally have been
made for Koch. Surmise on my part.
The Symphony is conventionally structured in three movements rather than
the smaller pieces of mosaic used by the composer elsewhere. The first movement
is an example of the dancing energy we all associate with Hovhaness as well
as deploying the mysticism typical of the man. There is a dourly incantatory
trombone and some Sibelian string and wind writing. The soulful andante broods
in benevolence and mystery bathed in subtle light. The finale dances with
spiky energy in which the voices of Sibelius (of Lemminkainen and
En Saga), Holst (Brook Green and St Paul's), Elgar
(Introduction and Allegro) and Vaughan Williams can be easily enough
identified. There is a greater sense of continuity than many will expect
from knowledge of his 60+ other symphonies.
The Mystery is a great concertante work for orchesta and guitar. Its
overwhelming homage to the famous Finn's Swan of Tuonela is patent.
What a tide of sound Mravinsky might have made of this work if only .....
There are seventeen patins in the work each with an Armenian title. The plangency
of the guitar's slowly paced meditational role is set against music echoing
Myers' Deerhunter (Oorakh Ler and Hayr Mer) a coolly
oriental equivalent of Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain, tenderly
pietist hymnals in the strings and slantwise versions of the softer-centred
Hovhaness (cf the wilder wastes of the Vishnu Symphony and Mountains
and Rivers Without End). This is undoubtedly one of Hovhaness's finest
works on record and is not to be missed. It is well subtitled 'Seventeen
Recording quality: very acceptable, conjuring an open acoustic.
Music: sincere and of a gently ecstatic inclination. A true Baedecker of
Hovhaness's palette; in the symphony conveying a stronger sense of linear
development than in many of the less obscure symphonies. In the Martyrs it
communictaes as a great tapestry of devotional serenity.