ALAN HOVHANESS: Janabar “Journey” Op. 81, Sinfonia Concertante for piano, trumpet, violin and strings; Talin Op. 93 Viola Concerto; Shambala – Concerto for violin, sitar and orchestra; Hovhaness interviewed – Soloists/Slovak Phil./Stur – OgreOgress

by | Nov 12, 2009 | CD+DVD | 0 comments

ALAN HOVHANESS: Janabar “Journey” Op. 81, Sinfonia Concertante for piano, trumpet, violin and strings; Talin Op. 93, Viola Concerto; Shambala Op. 228, Concerto for violin, sitar and orchestra; Hovhaness interviewed by Antony Hopkins – Christina Fong, violin/viola/ Gawrav Mazunder, sitar/ Paul Hersey, piano/ Michael Bowman, trumpet/Slovak Philharmonic/Rastislav Stur – OrgreOgress Productions (no #) actual DualDisc with Stereo-only DVD-Audio and CD sides, DVD-A: 126:00 (interview portion: 28:00); CD: 59:00 **** []:

This would be a must-have album for any fan of the singular music of the late Alan Hovhaness, who died nine years ago. But they had better be sure they have the ability to play back DVD-Audio (or at least DVD video), because instead of being on the CD side of the DualDisc – where the fidelity would make little difference – the interesting interview and statements by the composer are at the end of the three musical works on the DVD-A side. Also, the music on the CD side is greatly edited down to fit within its 80-minute limit: only a single movement each from the first two concertos are heard.  So my intent to listen to the interview on headphones on my portable CD player while on a walk were dashed.

These are the recording premieres for both the Janabar and Shambala concertos.  The information with the disc is very sketchy; I had to go to the Hovhaness web site to pin down which instruments were featured in which concertos and what their complete titles were.  OgreOgress specializes in a variety of obscure and some formerly out of print classical and avantgarde titles. The DVD-A side is two-channel 96K/24-bit hi-res, and the increased resolution is appropriate for this subtle, often repetitive music, bringing out details that add interest. Janabar is probably the most accessible of the three works, having five movements and a strong Armenian influence, as was Hovhaness’ style at the beginning of his composing career. On the way to his huge output of over 500 works he picked up an interest in several Asian cultures, including Japan and India, as heard in the other two works.

The Armenian community in New York City first helped bring the music of Hovhaness to public attention. He later went on to write 37 symphonies, of which his Second Symphony, “Mysterious Mountain,” made a major breakthru in 1955 when it was premiered and then recorded by Stokowski and the Houston Symphony. One of Hovhaness’ favored techniques was giving instruments repeated phrases but in uncoordinated fashion, creating a “cloud” of sounds. This is heard in the 45-minute Shambala concerto, which features some almost hallucinogenic sonic environments. Hovhaness didn’t limit his comments only to music; in a 1971 interview he said “What’s the use of having the most powerful country in the world if we have killed the soul?”

 – John Sunier

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