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Alan HOVHANESS (1911-2000)
Khrimian Hairig, Op. 49 (1944-48) [07:58]
Guitar Concerto, Op. 325 (1979) [31:58]
Symphony No. 60 To the Appalachian Mountains Op. 396 (1985) [33:34]
Lars Ranch (trumpet)
David Leisner (guitar)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz
rec. Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin Dalheim, Germany, 6-8 July 2005. DDD
NAXOS 8.559294 [73:24]


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Khrimian Harig is one of a sequence of Hovhaness’s meditative-benedictory works for trumpet and orchestra. Sheeny temperate strings sing in supplication while the trumpet in approximately oriental mode confers a mellifluous cantorial blessing. Lars Ranch supplies the necessary undramatic smoothness of delivery as well as seemingly endless deep draughts of breath. Count this in the same company as Return and Rebuild the Desolate Places and Prayer of Saint Gregory, Avak the Healer, The Holy City, parts of the Majnun Symphony and Concerto No. 10.

The Guitar Concerto is predictably a work of unhurried and gentle plangency with the suggestion of Japanese blossom, delicacy and birdsong. Its pensive sound-world at first reminds us of the cover of the excellent First Edition disc of his work where the composer is depicted cradling a mandolin-like instrument. As the long first movement proceeds the work becomes more vigorously rhythmic. The guitar’s role becomes more animated as if roused from reflection. The second movement sounds somewhat like the early pages of Vaughan Williams Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 or Pastoral Symphony – maybe even slightly Delian. The dervish whirl of the final Allegro Moderato soon gives way to a Tarrega-like liquid trembling for the guitar. Not for the first time the evocation is of dripping water in some idyllic setting. The work ends with a dramatic but not loud flourish.

Hovhaness’s Symphony No. 60 was maltreated to an insensitive premiere. Here, as we are told by Hovhaness’s widow Hinako Fujihara Hovhaness, Schwarz and his Berlin orchestra give a performance suffused with ‘sympathetic understanding’. We hear a four movement work affected by the traditional music of Appalachia. There’s a pacific Adagio doloroso although it is not especially sad as well as a dancing allegro interrupted by a central recessional in a calm summer valley. The melodies are suggestive of folk music of the region and will be familiar to anyone who knows the folk-music influenced works of early 20th century English composers. There’s a conspiratorially tense and cooling Adagio in which oboe and harp converse with eyes down-turned over a muted shuddering bed of sound from the strings. The finale is typically grand with gravely intoning brass and a benison of bells both large and small.

You can hear other Hovhaness works on Naxos: Symphony No. 22, Cello Concerto and music for windband. 

There is healing in the wings of this music which is most sweetly articulated in performances that avoid blandness and embrace simple sincerity. We need to hear much more Hovhaness. 

Rob Barnett 



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