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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hovhaness Symphonies, 14 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Alan Hovhaness: Mysterious Mountains (Audio CD)
This Telarc disc includes works spanning Hovhaness' career, but mountains are the inspiration behind all four. Mountains held a lifelong fascination for him, and feature in a large number of his pieces. Taking them in chronological order, the first work here is a short tone-poem, "Storm on Mount Wildcat" (Op.2,) composed when Hovhaness was 20-years old, and marked, unusually, "lento tempestoso".

The Symphony No.2, "Mysterious Mountain", is probably the composer's best-known work, and has been recorded several times. It was commissioned and premiered by Stokowski in 1955 and, in effect, put Hovhaness on the musical map. The lyrical and hymn-like first movement is full of ethereal, melismatic effects and sensuous harmonies. The second movement is a double fugue with fast, scurrying strings over which, towards the close, the brass call in long-breathed phrases. The final movement returns to the character of the first, reaching a sonorous climax and an assertive conclusion.

Symphony No.50, "Mount St. Helens", is an unashamedly programmatic work depicting the great volcanic eruption of 1980. The first two movements are predominantly lyrical and provide a portrait of the beauty - but also the grandeur - of Mt. St. Helens and its environment prior to the eruption. The third movement begins with a placid, hymn-like theme, followed by a spare-sounding flute solo, full of foreboding. Drums herald the explosion, and the entire orchestra erupts, the percussion battering out the rhythm. (There is some order, even in a volcanic eruption, it seems). Eventually the opening hymn returns, now blazing out in a glory of sound. This symphony has always been a winner with concert audiences, and, hearing it, one can understand why.

The final work, Symphony No.66, "Hymn to Glacier Peak", is not dissimilar to the "Mount St. Helens", having a hymn-like first movement with a dance-like interlude, a second movement entitled "Love Song for Hinako" (Hovhaness' wife), and a final Prelude and Fugue (the latter almost obligatory for this composer) which ends in a full-throated hymn of praise to the peak of the title.

Alan Hovhaness, rather like Malcolm Arnold and George Lloyd in this country, never succumbed to the winds of fashion, even in the heady 1950s and 1960s, and yet his music has always maintained a foothold in the repertoire - at least in America. Fads may come and go, but Hovhaness, at his best, remains undimmed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American Mystic's Odes to the Mountains, 30 Jan. 2012
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This review is from: Alan Hovhaness: Mysterious Mountains (Audio CD)
As the title suggests, mountains are the inspiration behind the four works on this disc. There are three symphonies and a short tone poem (one of the composer's earliest works). Having read some rather sarcastic comments about Hovhaness's music in the press, I was unsure what to expect, but in the end I was very pleasantly surprised.

There is much to enjoy in these works - lyricism, moments of great beauty and high drama (particularly in Symphony no 50, "Mount St Helens"), and it's all performed by the wonderful Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under the American maestro Gerard Schwarz, both of whom do the music full justice. The recording is excellent, but we have of course come to expect this from our friends at Telarc.

Don't be put off by any negative publicity you may read about this composer - if you buy this disc you will enjoy it. This would make an ideal introduction to the orchestral music of Hovhaness and his sound world. Investigate without fear - highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 20 Jan. 2015
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mr peter moule (Burgess Hill,West Sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Alan Hovhaness: Mysterious Mountains (Audio CD)
some beautiful music
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Alan Hovhaness: Mysterious Mountains
Alan Hovhaness: Mysterious Mountains by Gerard Schwarz (Audio CD - 2008)
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