This disc emanates from an inspired, inveterate and dedicated Hovhaness
source. Peter Christ’s Crystal Records remains the home of the
composer’s own key-note recordings from the Poseidon
LP label of the 1970s. This Cristofori product has been accommodated
within the Crystal stable. It reintroduces familiar Hovhaness recordings.
I say ‘familiar’ although the original Black Box issue from
2005 - minus some of the tracks here - never seemed to gain much prominence.
The Black Box was reviewed here
by Jonathan Woolf in 2005.
An assertively muscular and forward-surging Prayer of St
features an urgent solo from Andrei Ikov. This is reverential music which
this performance remains in touch with a fast pulse - no suggestion of
noodling here. The 1954 Concerto for two pianos
is a fascinating
piece. The long, sinuous woodwind and violin lines course passionately
in an Andante
and are punctuated by harshly stony dissonance from
pianos. Thrumming strings exacerbate the apocalyptic tension with the two
carrying forward their hieratically dark role from the first movement.
and tam-tam pile the atmosphere higher. Anxiety mediates with consolation
the final Moderato
but soon reverts to dissonantly swirling angst.
is a work closer in spirit to the dark intimations and clashing rites of
symphonies rather than to
softer-contoured works such as St Vartan
Martin Berkofsky is no Hovhaness tyro. He recorded
concerto for piano, four trumpets and percussion (1951), the Mount
piano sonata (1987) and the piano solo Fantasy
(1944) in the 1970s
these are on Poseidon
Then come the Three Pieces
for two pianos where Berkofsky is
in the first by Atakan Sari and in the other two by Sergei Podobedov.
comes as balm after the complexities and tensions of the Concerto. The
reminded me of the folk-like exotic piano pieces of Komitas Vartabed as
recorded for Kalan by Sahan Artzruni. The very brief
chimes with hypnotic sweetness and the bass line anchors and earths the
There’s something quite Baxian about this writing with its setting
extreme treble against extreme bass. Vijag
forward with a quick repetitive carillon. One can see how Steve Reich
well have been influenced by these three pieces. Lousadzak
the suggestion of the sitar and the sway of North African music to which
piano lends dynamism and momentum. It’s a meaty single movement work
the out-and-out vanguard clashes of the Concerto for two pianos and
The rippling piano solo often recalls the most Mephisto outbursts of Liszt
. About halfway through Berkofsky is joined by a violin
here taken by Nikolai Zherenkov - an imploring submissive line to the
cantorial confidence and self-absorption. Lousadzak
but here, by contrast with the Two-Piano Concerto, the arcane spirits are
and dignified and expound celestial delights.
The liner booklet runs to an unstinting 32 pages, overwhelmingly in
It is decked out with pictures and reproductions of concert bills; all in
a major contribution to the Hovhaness literature, audio and written. It
serves to contrast the lyrical and dissonant sides of Hovhaness.
Review index: Alan