One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger


Some items
to consider


Reger Violin Sonatas
Renate Eggebrecht violin

Brahms Symphony 3
Dvorak Symphony 8
9 cello sonatas
Piano Music

Clara Schumann
piano concerto

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation

Vraiment magnifique!

Quite splendid

Winning performances

Mahler Symphony 8
a magnificent disc

a huge talent

A wonderful disc

Weinberg Symphonies 2 & 21
A handsome tribute!

Roth’s finest Mahler yet

Mahler 9 Blomstedt
Distinguished performance


CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Alan HOVHANESS (1911-2000)
Cello Concerto Op. 17 (1936) [31.13]
Symphony No. 22 City of Light Op. 236 (1971) [29.43]
Janos Starker (cello)
Seattle Symphony/Dennis Russell Davies (concerto); composer (symphony)
rec. 19 Mar 1999, Benaroya Hall, Seattle (concerto); 19 May 1992, Seattle Center Opera House. DDD
NAXOS 8.559158 [60.49] 


Experience Classicsonline

Hovhaness did not lack for celebrity supporters. Although solo concertos were nowhere near as profuse in his output as symphonies, his 1976 Violin Concerto Ode to Freedom was premiered by Menuhin with Kostelanetz, Symphony No. 36 had an extensive solo role for Jean-Pierre Rampal and here we have Janos Starker launching the Cello Concerto's world premiere recording. 

This Concerto is part of an extremely small number of works that survived the composer's 1940 ‘bonfire of the vanities’ in which some one thousand of his works of the 1930s went up in smoke. The Cello Concerto is music noticeably in the Hovhaness idiom. Do not expect dynamic concentration. Instead we get a meditatively rhapsodic work with gestural drama provided by a swingingly portentous gravity. The central panel is briskly and flowingly rhapsodic aided by hallmark pizzicato and woodwind decoration. The string writing combines the yearning tension of Barber's Adagio with Oriental modality. Hovhaness is not always sweetly inclined and works such as Mountains and Rivers Without End and the Vishnu Symphony freely use groaning dissonances. Much of the concerto is extremely easy on the ears. Only the central ‘panel’ with its grand and almost minatory brass-emphasis provides tension and contrast. The work ends in a rapidly gathering skein of stormy darkness. 

The writing in the Cello Concerto has a barren Presbyterian quality by comparison with the 1971 Symphony. City of Light is in four movements and was written for the Birmingham (Alabama) Symphony Orchestra for that city's centennial celebrations. The first movement deploys plush-lush string harmonies, lustrous and full-toned, and elaborates sedately-moving material with the awed tones of tam-tam and hieratic brass. The fast-shuddering and brief Angel of Light largo calls up the composer's childhood vision of Christmas. The third movement allegretto grazioso is also short (2.42) with a ‘Vaughan Williamsy’ quick-trudging theme developed from a  melody Hovhaness wrote for an early operetta, Lotus Blossom. Again there is plenty of pizzicato and high-wheeling music for the piccolo. The ‘Hymn of Praise’ largo maestoso finale is again portentous without quite the wrenching blackness that marks the main climactic statements in the Cello Concerto. Dancing violins and antiphonal effects (5.50) prepare the way for a finale in which one of Hovhaness’s whirlwind mosaic storms bids the listener farewell (12.30). 

These two recordings are part of the Naxos Seattle series most of which derive from Delos CDs from the early-mid 1990s. The Cello Concerto has not previously been issued in any commercial format. This recording of the Symphony first appeared on Delos DE3137. 

A contrasting couple of works, stunningly recorded and well annotated by Steven Lowe. The spare and rare Cello Concerto played by the world renowned - and rather breathy - Starker and the composer-directed Symphony No. 22, an artefact of his lush-plush mystical 1970s.

Rob Barnett

see also Reviews by John France and Ian Lace




We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.