Saturday, November 15, 2014

Alan Hovhaness - Violin, Viola, and Keyboard works - Christina Fong, Violin & Viola - Arved Ashby, Piano & Harpsichord - Ogre/Ogress

This gem of a disc from the most original Ogre/Ogress label contains several world premiere recordings of Hovhaness's works for violin/viola and keyboard. This disc contains the composer's complete output for unaccompanied violin and viola as well as his complete "published" works for violin or viola with piano or harpsichord. Fong switches from violin to viola as the pieces dictate and Ashby likewise between piano and harpsichord. The recording is warm, honeyed, close and enveloping - quite distinctive. It's a wonderful listening experience; it is, not surprisingly, a mystical one at that on the *most* satisfying level-and imo the "journey" one takes feels extremely personal, full of the purest tranquility. There are also moments of dancing ecstasy, namely the 2nd and 3rd movements of the "Khirgiz Suite" Op. 73a. The highest level of the craftsmanship and love for each piece is entirely evident in the playing too, making this a perfect and sublime recording to my ears.

The pieces are arranged in chronological sequence, opening with the deep mahogany viola 'voice' of the 1922/26 'Oror' "Lullaby", which is an early work-composed when Hovhaness was 11 years old. It's his opus 1a! The gently spinning "Varak" follows, and I can hear and feel Hovhaness's influence
on the young Arnold Rosner (Rosner’s Ph.D. dissertation of 1972 was indeed a survey of the music of Alan Hovhaness..). "Chahagir" is an unaccompanied viola meditation with effortfully intense double-stopping typified by the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. "Saris", a substantial pillar of music, was written a year after the end of the Second World War; its song is strumming and melancholic. "Shatakh" for violin and piano delights with raindrop figuration from the piano floating the violin's oriental melisma. "Yeraz" for unaccompanied violin leads us back through tranquil roads to that elusive place of Bachian repose. 

The "Khirgiz Suite" for violin and piano is in three sections; the first two named and the third not. The Variations (I) approximate to a middle eastern Lark Ascending while the chattering Khirgiz Tala (II) is folksy with a sense of slippery ecstasy, and the unnamed III is gripping and fast music written for virtuoso treatment...which is what it gets. This recalls Bartók in barbarous mode. The three movement "Duet for Violin and Harpsichord" is very short indeed-just over three minutes. The style is radically at odds with the other works with dissonance and discontinuity firmly embraced within a baroque casing. 'Saint Mesrob' invented Armenian script and liturgy. The "Three Visions of Saint Mesrob" are titled 'Celestial Mountain', 'Celestial Bird' and 'Celestial Alphabet'. In "Mountain" and in "Alphabet" there is dissonance in the plangent depth-drowned/warmed piano part while "Bird" can be likened to the 'Tala' of the "Khirgiz Suite".

Even the cd packaging is beautiful and was made with extreme attention to detail and a special artistry; the disc itself has an image (three) of the love goddess "Saris", by an artist named Kenneth Wells. more than ever I wish I still had a scanner! 

Track listing:

1. Oror Op. 1a (Lullaby) (1922/26) [2:46]
2. Varak Op. 47a (1944) [4:14]
3. Chahagir Op. 56a (1944) [5:03]
4. Saris Op. 67 (1946) [14:38]
5. Shatakh Op. 73b 1 (1947) 4:43]
6. Shatakh Op. 73b 2 (1947) 2:44]
7. Yeraz Op. 56b (The Dream) (1948) [5:22]
8. Khirgiz Suite Op. 73a 1; Variations (1951) [3:37]
9. Khirgiz Suite Op. 73a 2; A Khirgiz Tala (1951) [1:28]
10. Khirgiz Suite Op. 73a 3 (1951) [1:16]
11. Duet for Violin & Harpsichord Op. 122 nr 1; Prelude (1954) [1:06]
12. Duet for Violin & Harpsichord Op. 122 nr 2; Haiku (1954) [0:33]
13. Duet for Violin & Harpsichord Op. 122 nr 3; Aria (1954) [1:36]
14. Three Visions of Saint Mesrob Op. 198 nr 1; Celestial Mountain(1962) [4:25]
15. Three Visions of Saint Mesrob Op. 198 nr 2; Celestial Bird (1962) [2:30]
16. Three Visions of Saint Mesrob Op. 198 nr 3; Celestial Alphabet(1962) [2:39]



pol peres said...

And again holiday Hovhaness!Thanks!

Anonymous said...

You are right, a very special cd! Tahnks Tzadik!!

Tzadik said...

Pol, a holiday indeed ;-) You are welcome!!

Tzadik said...

Anon happy you agree, thx for commenting..........

Toon van Dijk said...

I'm an amateur viola player, so this CD is a must-have.
Many thanks and regards from The Netherlands.
Veel dank en groeten uit Nederland.

Anonymous said...

Hi, can you please replace the download link? Thank you!