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Alan HOVHANESS (1911-2000)
Visions of the East
Ode to the Temple of Sound (1965) [11:57]
Symphony No.10 'Vahaken' (1959) [18:55]
Floating World (Ukiyo) (1964) [12:37]
Meditation on Zeami (1963) [14:31]
Frost Symphony Orchestra, University of Miami/Chung Park
rec. Gusman Hall, University of Florida, Coral Gables, Florida. November 2006. DDD
world premiere recordings: Ode, Vahaken, Zeami
first complete recording: Floating World
CENTAUR CRC 2954 [58:00]

Experience Classicsonline

Marco Shirodkar’s website:
Hovhaness worklist:
Hovhaness works overview:

The music of Alan Hovhaness has grown from cult status and small numbers to approach the recorded mainstream and a much larger following. Gone are the 1970s when ten or more austere line drawing identically-sleeved LPs and a smattering of black discs from Louisville and CBS carried the Hovhaness credentials. Now there are many CDs although the works awaiting first recording still far outnumber those already recorded.

Centaur push out the boundaries of recorded music yet again. This time they have included in their project three works never previously recorded - at least not commercially. The fourth is presented complete for the first time.

Ode to the Temple of Sound was commissioned for Barbirolli to open the Houston Symphony's 1966 season. It is a prepossessing piece, with ecstatic tintinnabulation, imposing awe, buzzing and whirring tension, the echo of Gagaku, intimations of eternity and a Debussian timelessness.

Vahaken and the Ode are typically otherworldly but Floating World is as strange and dissonant as the Vishnu, Odysseus, Etchmiadzin and Ani symphonies with its slowly groaning trombones sounding like primeval creatures in rut. We are a stranger in a strange land coming to terms which impinge on our consciousness but are outside our understanding – something we cannot assimilate easily. There is beauty there and we sense it but we cannot translate it. The notes by Hovhaness authority Marco Shirodkar help us all they can but ultimately we must just trust and listen again and again. Hovhaness provides an orchestral fabric that rolls and broils, punctuated with a long-gaited deep drumbeat, shimmering and singing in vulnerable fragility.

Zeami Motokiyo was a 14th century Japanese playwright. The Meditation on Zeami was written for Stokowski for the Carnegie Hall in 1963. Like Floating World from a year later it carries the imprint of the composer's Japanese experiences of 1962. It's another work of haunting uncertainties, of chiming bells and slow-blossoming ideas. Its very refusal to rush lends it magic. Its dissonant moments are resolved into a continuum that casts a strong enchantment.

The Vahaken Symphony takes its name from Armenian paganism. Vahagn was the god of wind, strength and courage. This compact three movement work takes us through a silky seamless string anthem underpinned by a flute passing remora-like as a shadow under the strings. Holstian energy meets slowly dissipating sheets of trombone legato. String pizzicato launches some folksy dances. The sweet central Intermezzo recalls the Fauré Pavane. The last movement combines elements of andante and allegro. Unison strings enunciate a curvaceous long-breathed melody borne high by tubular bells and a deep baritonal pizzicato. An oriental sway rises to a whirling celebratory temple dance.
Rob Barnett





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