This is a special disc on many levels. To start with the entire program was compiled and chosen by Alan Hovhaness himself; these are, apparently, the works that he was the most proud of, works that were his personal favorites. During my initial listening of the disc back in 1995, I was surprised that his "favorites" did not include even a single opus from his early 'Armenian' period; needless to say Armenian culture and music (especially the music of Komitas, who was also known as 'Gomidas' or Komitas Vartapet-'Vartapet' as in an ordained priest. He is considered the father of Armenian composition, was also an important ethnomusicologist and scholar, and is/was widely considered a martyr by the Armenian people following the Armenian genocide of 1915. Hovhaness was deeply affected by the history of persecution that befell his ancestral lineage on his father's side. Ancient Armenian music and Armenian folk songs were also a huge inspiration during his formative years) had a profound affect on Hovhaness's musical personality and psyche. Many of Hovhaness's masterpieces are from this period (1940's mostly) Secondly, Hovhaness conducts two of the works on this recording: "Celestial Canticle" and "O, Joy at the Dawn of Spring" which is an aria from his opera "Tale of the Sun Goddess Going into the Stone House". Thirdly, although I think this bit was "special" more so for Hovhaness himself-his wife Hinako Fujihara, a coloratura soprano, is featured on this recording twice. Indeed the aforementioned compositions were written especially with his wife's...shall we say 'unusual' voice....in mind (I'm trying to be polite to his widow here). I used to find Hinako's singing almost unbearable to be honest, as it's extremely high-pitched and oft grating to my ears; luckily her singing only accompanies perhaps 12-13 minutes of music. On one of the disc's highlights, "Celestial Canticle", Hinako's singing is to be found in 3 of the 4 movements, however the music is so beautiful that it hardly matters (for me anyway, I've played this disc 100's of times). My feelings about the 'special' singing aside, it's an important document also for the very reason that Hovhaness wrote it for his wife, and that she performs here, for better or for worse.
The whole disc is delightful, the Symphonies and "Celestial Canticle" clearly the strongest
and most worthwhile music here..pretty much borders on magnificent for me. "Starry Night" for Flute, Harp, and Xylophone is a short, serene and sweet-scented listen. That leaves the Opera Aria, which I would enjoy if it was anything but an aria. This disc has also been one of my "automotive soundtracks" for years, especially during the late 90's; driving through countrysides with AH flowing from the speakers is such a satisfying experience.
The program notes were written by Hinako Fujihara, with material on Symphony No. 31 written by Hovhaness himself. I will type out the booklet notes tomorrow, as I must get to work early in the morning.
Symphony No. 31, Op. 294
1)Andante Molto Cantando (4:07) *atypical & wonderful intro with plucked strings
2)Presto (1:59) *love this movement! dancing strings and signature pizzicato
4)Fuga Presto Ma Non Troppo (2:21)
5)Allegro Vivace (1:39)
6)Andante Con Molto Espressione (2:50)
7)Fuga. Presto (2:59) *love this movement..kick ass fugue.
8)Starry Night, Op. 384, Flute Harp & Xylophone (5:48)
Celestial Canticle, Op. 305, No. 2 (Hovhaness conducting, H. Fujihara coloratura soprano)
9)Prelude (2:49) *AH majestic strings at their best; plucked strings & flute loveliness
10)The Lord Reigneth (2:28)
11)Under The Shadow (3:02)
13)O, Joy at the Dawn of Spring, Aria from the Opera "Tale of the Sun Goddess Going into the Stone House" (Hovhaness conducting, H. Fujihara coloratura soprano)
Symphony No. 49, "Christmas Symphony" Op. 356
14)Celestial Prophecy (6:29) *'senza misura' strings, rapidly plucked amidst long melodic lines of strings..and that's just the intro. The next 20 minutes are just as blissful...
15)The Angel (2:24)
17)The Star, Watchman Tell Us of the Night (10:04)
-I have imported this disc as Apple Lossless (ALAC) *Some posts will be lossless going forward, while many will still be high quality 320 m4a.
+ + + +
or LAME encoded mp3s @ 320: