Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Symphony No. 3 (1956) 27.56
Mystery of the Holy Martyrs (1976) 38.11
Michael Long (guitar)
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 is documented.

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 Prayers'.

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.



Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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