Here is yet another beautiful Hovhaness symphony - it was originally released as a Lp in 1974 on Poseidon Society, Hovhaness's own label. Thankfully Crystal Records "rerecorded" the release digitally in 1987. This is another disc that has been flowing from my speakers lately. "The Sword-Wind" for plucked strings and strings alone that opens the second movement (the Symphony was recorded as "having" two movements, anyhow) is a short yet memorable dance in Hovhaness signature style, and like many such passages it never fails to send me soaring joyfully :)
With its mystical or Sufi overtones, the love story embraces earthly love to Divine Love. Majnun, exiled from his beloved, wanders in the desert and, surrounded by jackals, writes her name in the sand. As he writes, his soul in trance approaches his beloved and Divine Beloved. The symphony is scored for tenor solo, mixed chorus SATB, solo trumpet, solo violin, and string orchestra. the trumpet sounds the impassioned note of Majnun's love for Layla, the distant beloved. The solo violin sounds the note of Layla and the visionary, or Angelic Beloved.
|Majnun and Layla|
The Majnun Symphony, No. 24 opus 273, was composed in July, 1973 in Seattle. It was commissioned by the International Center for Arid and Semi-arid Land Studies for Focus on the Arts at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas (quite the exotic commission for AH's exotic score???).
It was there, on January 25th, 1974 that the work was given its premiere with the composer conducting. The poem derives from the epic "Salaman and Absal" by the Persian poet Jami, and was translated by Edward Fitzgerald. It refers to the famous love story Majnun and Layla, the Romeo and Juliet of Persia and the Near East.
The text used in the Symphony is as follows:
One who travelled in the desert
Saw Majnun where he was sitting
All alone like a magician
Tracing letters in the sand.
"O distracted lover, writing
What the sword-wind of the desert
Undeciphers so that no one
After you shall understand"
Majnun answer'd, "I am writing
Only for myself, and only Layla,
Writing in that word a volume
Over which forever poring,
From her very name I sip in fancy
Till I drink her lip"