Hovhaness' admirers often tend to overlook the piano works in favour of
his big orchestral statements. Nevertheless there's much to enjoy in these
compact pieces which are here drawn from a wide time frame, spanning Op.36
to Op.390. The Twelve Armenian Folk Songs
were composed around 1943
but not published until two decades later. The melodies are attractive in
themselves but, more than that, they are most attractively played by
Alessandra Pompili who shows a very strong affinity with all the music in
this 52-minute disc. She plays the 'unfamiliar melodies' - in the composer's
words - with simplicity and a real degree of affection in an acoustic that
tends to the dry, though on balance I'd rather that than a billowing sound
in these pieces.
date from 1938 and here the bass
line underlies a weaving lyric right hand melody line. The former, which is
the longer, has a tolling, melancholy-sounding motif whilst the latter is
the more rarefied in expression. This is, it would seem the first ever
recording of both pieces. Composed in 1959 whilst Hovhaness was in the
reflects his huge enthusiasm for Indian music.
Formally, he introduced the idea of borders in this suite in an attempt to
suggest the carpet-like designs of Moghul gardens. As much as rhythm drives
this music, there is a huge amount of nature painting involved, the composer
evoking the now-silent fountains through the memory of their music. Much is
coolly flowing, beautifully expressive and often hypnotically rhythmic but
there is also the Bachian element of the Third Interlude. Helpfully each
incident - there are eight in all - is separately tracked.
The 'Cougar Mountain' Sonata, Op.390 dates from 1985 and returns to his
love of nature - of vistas and expanse. As well as a slow opening movement
there is a lament, a slumber song and, as finale, a dance. There are hints
of Ravel in the early part of the sonata and the stomping dance with which
the sonata ends certainly generates considerable dynamism. Its compact
nature still allows a rich sense of characterisation to emerge. The
, Op.15 - again this is a first recording - was written in
1938 but was later re-worked and absorbed into the Blue Job Mountain
, Op.340. It's an unusually alternating work for Hovhaness, in
which lyricism and percussiveness sit on opposite sides of the equation.
Finally there is Dark River and Distant Bell
which, with its
oriental mood, was originally intended for harpsichord or clavichord. This
is its first appearance on disc in piano guise.
Pompili, then, is a splendid young exponent of Hovhaness' music. That dry
sound does help to clarify and centralise the piano writing without sounding
off-puttingly objectified. Liner notes are in Italian and English and worth
a detour, as indeed is this disarmingly well-played disc.