Alan HOVHANESS (1911-2000)
Symphony No. 7 Nanga Parvat, Op. 178 (1959) [14:10]
Symphony No. 14 Ararat, Op. 194 (1960) [14:22]
Symphony No. 23 Ani, Op. 249 (1972) [34:11]
Trinity College of Music Wind Orchestra/Keith Brion
rec. 30-31 January 2008, Blackheath Concert Halls, Trinity College of Music,
London, England. DDD
NAXOS 8.559385 [62:43]
Hovhaness’s prodigious output runs to some 500 or so published scores each often proclaiming a distinct, immediately recognisable and individual personality. The music is not inspired by organised religion in any conventional sense but is evidently guided by a profound spirituality and a deeply philosophical approach to the world. Frequently colourful and exotic the music is recurrently served by an intense sense of the spiritual beauty of nature and by sound-worlds created by large and broad-ranging orchestral forces.
Hovhaness gave many of his scores descriptive titles of a colourful and often memorable quality: Storm on Mount Wildcat; Symphony No.2 Mysterious Mountain; And God Created Great Whales; Symphony No. 22, City of Light and the Symphony No. 50 Mount St Helens
When requesting this Naxos disc I hadn’t noticed that the music was written for wind orchestra. This came as rather a surprise as I expected three symphonies of a similar instrumentation to that I had grown used to.
The first work on the disc the Symphony No. 7, ‘Nanga Parvat’, Op. 178 was composed in 1959 for wind orchestra with percussion and harp. The title Nanga Parvat,meaning ‘Naked Mountain’, is the name of the ninth highest mountain in the world. A dangerous and gigantic Himalayan peak Nanga Parvat is sometimes known as ‘Killer Mountain’.
Composed in 1960 the Symphony No. 14, ‘Ararat’, Op. 194 (1960) is scored for wind and percussion. The score is titled after the volcanic Mount Ararat in Turkey. According to the Book of Genesis in the Bible after the flood Noah’s Ark came to rest in the Ararat range. The disc closes with the Symphony No. 23, ‘Ani’, Op. 249 from 1972 calls for large wind orchestra and percussion. Situated in Turkey ‘Ani’ is the name of a once great and now ruined medieval Armenian city.
Keith Brion, the conductor of this release, has been involved in recording an acclaimed series of wind band music for John Philip Sousa for Naxos. It seems that Brion first made the acquaintance of Hovhaness back in 1964 and has made recordings with Hovhaness present. Based at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich the Trinity College of Music Wind Orchestra under Brion prove themselves marvellously suited to this remarkable music. These are strong and dedicated performances that feel fresh and engaging with much lovely playing.
This music for wind with percussion accompaniment may be an acquired taste for some. I certainly miss the additional colour provided by Hovhaness’s distinctive and often glorious string sounds. A splendidly performed disc that I suggest will appeal mainly to the more adventurous listener.
Michael Cookson 

see also reviews by Rob Barnett  and Jonathan Woolf

A splendidly performed disc that will appeal mainly to the more adventurous listener