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,
Holy City, parts of the Majnun
Symphony and Concerto
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
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.