Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

(b. 1911)
Armenian Rhapsody No. 1 (1944) 5.45
Armenian Rhapsody No. 2 (1944) 7.47
Armenian Rhapsody No. 3 (1944) 5.42
Symphony No. 38 (1978) 19.09
Concerto No. 10 for piano, trumpet and strings (1988) 22.11
Hinako Fujihara (coloratura soprano) in symphony
Martin Berkofsky (piano) in concerto
Chris Butler (trumpet)
Seattle SO/Gerard Schwarz (composer in Symphony)
rec (concerto and rhapsodies) Seattle, June 1996; (symphony) Seattle, May 1992
KOCH-SCHWANN 3-7422-2H1 [60.32]
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As 'guardian angels' go Koch have been good to Hovhaness with at least half a dozen of their CDs presenting his music.

This one groups three old (and concise) friends with a symphony and a concerto. Remember that when numbering the concertos Hovhaness sequenced them across the various genres. Hovhaness is prolific but this is not his tenth piano concerto! It is his tenth concerto and it happens to be for piano and orchestra. 

All three rhapsodies are products of the war years and weave together Armenian folk melodies and hymns. Their brevity might well make them a good place to start an appraisal although they tend towards a sobriety and lower profile than say Fra Angelico or the Majnun Symphony - both accessible in every sense of that word on Crystal.

The first's legato fluency is exotic with a touch of Kodaly and of Islam. The spiritual Second is undulant and liturgical with dance elements presented over pizzicato steps. The Third's swaying and meditative Tunisian atmosphere touches base with Rozsa's summer nights and the Tallis Fantasia.

Hinako Fujihara is the wife of the composer. The 38th symphony features her vulnerably fragile voice in ionospherical melisma. She is partnered by the perfection of Scott Goff's poetic flute in a soaring serene duet. The work, in two unevenly paced movements, has a great sense of rest and of time moving at an unthreatening pace. The strings, sometimes rather less than lush in the rhapsodies, are here richer under the composer's direction.

Think of the Tenth Concerto as a six part suite. Slowly the piano reverently picks out a typically understated melody further developed by the Tallis-like strings. Next, over the rustling pizzicato of the violins, a reflectively sauntering Japanese theme is chanted by the piano which then develops into a quicker paced dance punctuated by bass strokes. A fast Lisztian allegro recalls writing familiar from Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2. The following section over a gracious evocation of wavelets presents one of the composer's most serene inspirations - flickering and quiet. The sober prayer of the brass takes us towards the meditative sections of Vaughan Williams' Antartica. The finale is sombre, ethereal and understated.

This is music about which there is nothing of the parade ground, no circus and nothing kitsch.

The best notes so far for any Hovhaness album by Melinda Bargreen. A very strong recommendation.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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