It's one thing to be in love with a composer's music and genius. It's elevated to another (spectacular!) level to also have the opportunity to hear, in the composer's own words-what their music means to them, what it is that inspires, motivates, and so on... Hearing Hovhaness's gentle voice, full of such warmth and honesty, is such a special experience and priveledge for me. Over the years I always assumed that I would have the opportunity to meet my musical idol, via a 'pilgrimage' to Seattle, Washington. I will always deeply regret that my daily life always got in the way, and that such a life-changing experience shall never take place. In the early 1990's Hovhaness's heath was already declining
rapidly and then the century turned; six months later the musical world and indeed the global community lost one of it's greatest artistic forces, a unique creator of pure and simple beauty, a true spiritualist and a staunch believer in the common good of humanity. This recording allows us to experience the thoughts, parables and personality of Hovhaness first-hand; and as it's a closely mic'd ('miked' if you prefer) and intimate session, one feels as if they are practically in the audience :)
Charles Amirkhanian interviews composer Alan Hovhaness for the San Francisco Exploratorium's "Speaking of Music" series, which was recorded on October 3rd, 1989. The American/Armenian master discusses the roots of his musical expression and demonstrates various techniques on the piano. His music is performed by New York pianist Şahan Arzruni, who brings unexcelled vigor to Hovhaness's early keyboard works and who himself poses some pertinent questions and introduces his evaluation and analysis. Arzruni is later joined by the great percussionist William Winant in a stirring rendition of selected movements from the rarely performed "Invocations to Vahaken".
Midnight Bell (from "Five Visionary Landscapes, Op. 214") (1965) / Alan Hovhaness - Two Ghazals, Op. 36a/b (1963) / Alan Hovhaness - Khaldis, Op. 91 (excerpt) (1951) / Alan Hovhaness - Fra Angelico, Op. 220 (excerpt) (1967) / Alan Hovhaness
Here's what is discussed:
Two ghazals played by Hovhaness-Armenian heritage-collaboration with Maro Ajemian and John Cage-Invocations to Vahaken-Etchmiadzin-experimenting with percussion instruments-Carroll’s Music-Lousadzak-Tzaikerk-Merce Cunningham-working with Greek musicians for Works Progress Administration (WPA)-early influences from Greek, Armenian and Oriental music-Uday Shankar and Vishnu Das Shirali-friendships with painters-study with Leo Rich Lewis at Tufts-mysticism and becoming a Rosicrucian-Hyman Bloom, painter in Boston-Yenouk Der Hagopian-Gomidas Vardapet--Floating World-Kostelanetz-Dannoura-Dane Rudhyar-finding titles for compositions-d’Indy-compositional methods-sketch book-experience in Japan and playing Japanese instruments-piano techniques-European tradition v.s. Oriental music-Out of Silence-using world music-Khaldis Concerto-jhala technique-avoiding diminished 7th chords-(two short recorded selections from Khaldis)-European and Oriental use of fifths-"Fra Angelico" "aleatory" or "spirit murmur".
Şahan Arzruni, piano (Midnight Bell ; Ghazals)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Fra Angelico)
Alan Hovhaness, conductor (Fra Angelico)
Invocations to Vahaken, Op. 54 (1945) / Alan Hovhaness
Performers: Şahan Arzruni, piano
Here's what is discussed:
Recorded selection from Fra Angelico-visionary painters-Arzruni's piano playing-(movements from "Invocations to Vahaken" played by Arzruni and Winant)-Hovhaness as organist in an Armenian church in Watertown, MA-Der Hagopian-Hovhaness's amateur orchestra-Arzruni’s perspectives of playing Hovhaness-Anahid-Boston Symphony percussionist-visit to Chicken Wing the medium-Arzruni's technique-Hovhaness's name change from Chakmakjian-living in Boston-destroying his unpublished works-Leslie Heward and the English connection-symphonic writing ("concertos for orchestras")-Arevakal-First Symphony-compositional form-visit to Armenia-Lake of Van Sonata-Khachaturian-Gomidas-(Arzruni plays "Erangi" from "Six Dances for Piano" by Gomidas).
*Both sections offer more discussion with Alan Hovhaness than music-which for any Hovhaness-phile will be nothing short of a tremendous pleasure! The musical segments are there and are quite enlightening, as well as superbly played-especially the solo piano works!
|Alan Hovhaness Memorial plaque in Arlington, Mass., where Hovhaness attended the Arlington Highschool. The plaque quotes the young & eloquent Hovhaness from his yearbook entry from 1929. This memorial was constructed in May of 2009.|
I hope everyone enjoys this rare opportunity to hear from the great man himself. I have a few other such interviews including a great (officially) released disc on Grenadilla with performances and discussions with AH, and featuring the clarinetist Lawrence Sobol among others..