Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Alan HOVHANESS (1911-2000)
Vision of a Starry Night
Piano Music:-
Vision of a Starry Night from Sonata Ananda Op. 303 (1977)
Mystic Flute Op. 22 (1937)
Toccata and Fugue No. 1 Op. 6 No. 1 (1935 rev 1970)
Mountain Idylls Op. 52 No. 4-6 (1953, 1949, 1932)
Prelude and Fugue Op. 10 No. 1 (1935)
Do You Remember the Last Silence (1957)
Lousang Kisher (Moonlight Night) Op. 52a (1943)
Suite Op. 96 (1967)
Fire Dance (c. 1926)
Farewell to the Mountains (1945)
Hymn IV from Bare November Day Op. 210 (1964)
Two Ghazals Op. 36 (1963)
Madras Sonata Op. 176 (1946 rev 1960)
Sonata Op. 145 (1956)

Marvin Rosen (piano)
DDD rec 6 Apr 1994, Mastersound Astoria Studios, Astoria, New York
KOCH International Classics 3-7288-2H1 [68.15]
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The title movement from Ananda is suffused with sing-song, sampler, sepia-toned grace. It holds hands with some of the sentimental moods from Godowsky's Java Suite (a work beautifully recorded by Esther Budiardjo and not to be missed). Mystic Flute inhabits a fragile and bluff world drifting from robust Holstian dance essay into courtly dignity - not at all the narcissistic solipsism I had expected from the title. The steady sixteenth note pattern holds firm throughout the Toccata of the Op. 6 work and the fugue powers away in interleaved dance patterns. The 1935 Prelude and Fugue is very grand and fuses Bach with Reger in its heaviness with portent. Blissful ecstatic excitement also courses through the veins of the Fugue.

After such structured patterning the three Mountain Idylls numbers 4 and 6 (both largos) are mystic lullabies. They encase a childlike joy and innocence in the momentary Moon Dance. Lousang Kisher is a further moon picture with a fast sauntering melody pinned to earth by a drum patterned left-hand part. An altogether more grown-up darkness infuses the Do You Remember the Last Silence. This pictures the deep silence and nothingness before the universe was created.

The Suite has also been recorded by Sahan Arzruni on Hearts of Sound with, I think, a shade more fluency than Marvin Rosen; not that there is anything seriously amiss and indeed his Mysterious Temple final movement is every bit as dreamlike as Arzruni. This movement is the modernistic Hovhaness - the same composer whose challenge is thrown down in the Vishnu Symphony and in Mountains and Rivers Without End (both available on Crystal Records).

Chopin and Prokofiev lilt and bow to each other in Fire Dance - a work with humour as well as spirit. Farewell to the Mountains is another of those works where the composer sends his strange quick-pulsing rhythms flying off and skittering to the four winds. The piece is dedicated to his cat, Rajah Hayden. It uses oud sounds and unusual time signatures to create its effect. Hymn IV is extracted from the six movement suite Bare November Day. This is a meditative hymn such as might have lain under the fingers of Vaughan Willimas or Herbert Howells in his Lambert's Clavichord.

Arzruni also recorded the Two Ghazals though this time there is little to choose between the interpretations. The dark and seraphic music was also used in Floating World (for orchestra) in 1964. It is a recognisable fingerprint of this composer that he places forbidding atonal passages alongside graceful melodies, dances and water evocations. The 10 minute Madras Sonata is amongst his earliest piano sonatas if not the very first. It was written in 1946 and revised in 1960. It is called Madras because it was commissioned by the Madras Academy of Music. It is a work of only tangentially exotic spirit - what we get is an almost sentimental blend of Bach and Rachmaninov (try track 22 1.43).

The Op. 145 Piano Sonata is more exotic and by no means as dissonant as the Ghazals although we soon come to recognise that dissonance (usually gentle and sphinx-like) are part of this composer's stock-in-trade.

Supportive detailed notes written by the pianist.

Rob Barnett

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