HOVHANESS: Piano Works [TrackList follows] – Alessandra Pompili (piano) – Dynamic

HOVHANESS: Piano Works [TrackList follows] – Alessandra Pompili (piano) –  Dynamic CDS 7701, 52:52 (10/14/14) [Distr. by Naxos] *** 1/2:

This recently-released disk is a concert of transcriptions of Hovhaness’s orchestral music for piano. It is an eclectic collection, and not without merit as some of the pieces are new to disc, while others are familiar orchestral pieces transcribed.

The disc begins with 12 Armenian Folk Songs. I’m well familiar with the work, and found it a bit unsettling in the piano transcription. While I was listening, I kept hearing the fully orchestrated version in the back of my mind. But the folk songs do work just fine for piano, and they are very well played.

Hovhaness is difficult to characterize. He blends modern notions of musical structure with his Armenian mystical proclivities, and seasons it all with eastern traditional music. What emerges is often lyrical, spiritual, and completely unique. I have a large collection of works by Hovhaness, and listen to his music frequently.  Other works on the disc include a first-ever recording of Dark River and Distant Bells, written in 1968, a triptych with an oriental mood.

Alessandra Pompili is a musician of overwhelming talent. She has a PhD in Art History with a focus on presenting original and creative programs to audiences, ranging from monographic to historical recitals and the combination of live music with visual support. She has performed as a soloist to critical public acclaim in important venues and festivals in Italy, England, Hungary, Iceland and the USA. She is also a pianist for Vatican Radio.

The recording is fine, but not a demonstration disc. The recording is a bit dry but serviceable. I think Hovhaness is better served by a richer acoustic wrapping.

This is a fine CD, with a solid performance, and a chance to hear some previously unrecorded Hovhaness, and some familiar pieces in transcription. Hovhaness completists will seek it out, and others may find it an attractive introduction to the music of this gifted composer.

TrackList:

1 Twelve Armenian Folk Songs Op. 43 (1943)
2 Ghazal (1938 “Op.36a”) 1st recording
3 Ghazal (1938 “Op.36b”) 1st recording
4-11 Shalimar Op. 177 (1950-51)
12-15 Cougar Mountain sonata Op. 390 (1985)
16 Fantasy (1936 “Op.15”) 1st recording
17-19 Dark River and Distant Bell Op. 212 (1964) 1st piano recording

—Mel Martin

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