Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Alan Hovhaness - Concerto No. 7 for Orchestra Symphony No. 15, "Silver Pilgrimage" - Magnificat for Four Solo Voices, Chorus and Orchestra - The Louisville Orchestra, Robert S. Whitney - First Edition Music (1953, 1961, & 1965)

The Louisville Orchestra. Alan Hovhaness. Legendary performances on First Edition Music...need I say more???

All three works here are world premieres, and only the noble 'Magnificat' and has since become available on other much more recent discs-a digital recording on Delos, very fine also, and a recording on Crystal Records, that is I think as good as this performance. Actually there's a very fine performance too of the Concerto No. 7 on a great Telarc disc-also included among other works is the absolutely gorgeous and mesmerizing "Celestial Gate" Symphony No. 6. The Crystal disc includes a fabulous recording of "Saturn" for Soprano, Clarinet and Piano as well; needless to say the above mentioned discs will be posted as some point also.

*These are the original program notes, along with updates and commentary mostly by Marco Shirodkar, a true Hovhaness historian I would say.

Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) is rightly known as a trend-setting pioneer who melded East and West in music. Of the few modern composers considered ‘true originals’ he is one of still fewer - another is Messiaen - whose music is of such distinctive personality that it could be mistaken for no other. Unlike Messiaen, Hovhaness’ art is not religiously inspired, but guided by a musical sensibility attuned with otherworldly affinities. If this has discouraged serious investigation by the musicological fraternity (which to its shame, has still to acknowledge Hovhaness’s huge innovations) it has certainly not hindered widespread public receptivity to his art.

Born Alan Vaness Chakmakjian to Armenian and Scottish (but unmusical) parents, Hovhaness composed secretly from childhood, by his twenties acquiring formidable fluency in counterpoint as well as admiration for the music of Sibelius, whom he met in Finland in 1935. The following year he witnessed the earliest performances of Indian music in Boston. But his fascination with the East gained real momentum through employment at the Armenian Church in Watertown, MA. By 1943 he was assimilating the Armenian music of his paternal ancestors. Radical works followed which shunned harmony in favor of giant unscrolling melodies, supported only by static drones - a striking prophecy of the 1960s Minimalist ‘school’. Perhaps more radical were passages of ‘spirit murmur’, first introduced in 1944’s Lousadzak. In these quasi-aleatoric sections performers repeat musical phrases without synchronicity, creating textural clouds of sound. This pre-dated not only similar techniques of Lutoslawksi and Ligeti in the 1960s, but also the ‘indeterminacy’ explorations of Hovhaness’s friend John Cage.

Hovhaness’s style evolved in the 1950s while his reputation snowballed, as did performances and commissions from major conductors and ensembles, including the Louisville Orchestra. Research scholarships in India (1959–60), Korea and Japan (1962) further broadened the assimilation of Eastern musics. In the hands of a lesser composer, such diverse influences could have made for an incongruous palette of eclectic idioms. Instead, Hovhaness’s huge if uneven musical legacy (exceeding 450 opus numbers) betrays a seamless fusion of archaic with modern and Oriental with Occidental - in short, his vision of “music for all people … which is beautiful and healing” without compromising artistic integrity.

- Marco Shirodkar

Alan Hovhaness always seemed to me a mystic, a man possessed of an unmistakable inner calm that radiated into his music. These compositions reveal so much of Alan’s core:

Armenian - acutely aware of the horrendous years of genocide and suffering they endured.
Religious - an aura of his asceticism and deep beliefs in Buddhism combined with Zoroastrian traditions.
Retiring - a feeling of inner peace that one can so easily discern in these musical works.

Alan’s music embodied both his passion for his Near Eastern roots from his father’s family lineage, and a love of American energy and the tradition of western European composition.  A prolific composer who never achieved the prominence he deserved despite his delightful and popular work, And God Created Whales (1970), commissioned by my great friend Andre Kostelanetz. I have always believed that this lack of notoriety was due to his disinterest in selfpromotion. Neither he nor his beautiful and protective wife ever let popularity interfere with his strong but quiet determination to simply compose what was in his heart and mind.

I can still see the beatific look on his countenance as we listened side-by-side, to the recording session, led by Robert Whitney, of his magnificent Magnificat. It was my great privilege to occasionally see him over a period of many years, and I was indeed fortunate to produce these wonderfully expressive works by the Louisville Orchestra.

-  Howard Scott

Concerto No. 7 for Orchestra, Opus 116

Dedicated by Alan Hovhaness to the Louisville Orchestra.

The following commentary by Alan Hovhaness is reprinted from the original First Edition Records LP release.

Concerto No. 7 for Orchestra in three movements was begun in Cummington, Massachusetts, around August 1, 1953 and completed in New York City, October 18, 1953.

I. Allegretto - The exposition is a canzona for flutes ending with oboe and horns - A development in strings and brass in canon culminates in a hymn for brass - The recapitulation is a new canzona for clarinets, bassoons and oboe.

II. Allegro (Jhala-Scherzo) - Jhala is a term borrowed from Hindustani classical music. Porcelain water cups are played by a stick. The figuration derived from this style is called Jhala. The instrument called Jhala-Tarranga means waves of water. The exposition features a Jhala for xylophone - The development is a canon for strings, brass, and woodwinds. The recapitulation is a new Jhala for glockenspiel.

III. Double Fugue - An introduction leads to the exposition of the first subject in the horns - the lively second subject in strings is developed and combined with the first subject. Canons in woodwinds lead to a free hymn-like variation. A rapid canon in strings accompanies a brilliant canon variation in brass. A final lively canon in strings and woodwinds becomes the accompaniment to a final bell-like canon in brass. The work concludes with a brief epilogue entitled Hymn to Louisville.

- Alan Hovhaness

Of Hovhaness’s many concertos (some without soloist) Concerto No.7 (1953) is one of only a handful indexed by number. Regrettably, his evocatively-titled Mysterious Mountain symphony (1955) has eclipsed this earlier tour-de-force - a true sister-piece in that it too comprises three movements incorporating a double fugue.

Basic thematic cells sow the seeds for all three movements, the outer ones displaying the finely wrought neo-Renaissance polyphony characteristic of 1950s Hovhaness. Cyclic pizzicato and tuned percussion pointillisms imbue a certain exoticism throughout. More subtly exotic are elements of North Indian music. The concerto is broadly in the Hindustani bhairavi mode (akin to the Greek Phrygian). Timpani writing betrays principles of tala (rhythmic cycles) in Indian tabla drumming, and the central Scherzo-like movement employs a Hindustani title, Jhala. Jhala idiom is a fastpaced alternation of melody note and repeating drone note, here colorfully extolled by xylophone and glockenspiel - the latter’s rendition punctuated with a tabla-imitating timpani glissando in a cycle of 37.

The work’s centerpiece is the Double Fugue finale. The noble first fugue is on brass, the breezy second on strings. After the fugue subjects are superimposed, a series of canonic episodes intensifies to an ecstatic orchestral climax. In this orgiastic dance, myriad ostinati are skillfully interwoven, underpinned by thrusting timpani talas. Suddenly the commotion is dispersed by a magical coda entitled Hymn To Louisville (so titled because the Louisville Orchestra commissioned the work). Dignified brass and hovering violin clusters summon a mood of quiescence, soon broken by a solemn but surprising final cadence.

- Marco Shirodkar

Symphony No. 15, Opus 199, “Silver Pilgrimage”

Hovhaness’s research periods in India, Japan and Korea at the beginning of the 1960s afforded lessons from native instrumentalists. This first-hand ethnomusicological exposure prompted his Indo-Oriental phase of the 1960s. Symphony No. 15, Opus 199, ‘Silver Pilgrimage’ (1963), synthesizes elements of both Japanese Gagaku and Indian traditions, and is titled after the novel Silver Princess by Justice Anantanarayanan (an account of a pilgrimage by a young Indian prince). Like many a Hovhaness symphony, it eschews traditional symphonic architectonics, each of the four movements instead portraying a specific concept or mood. The first three movements’ modes approximate Indian ragas.

- Marco Shirodkar

I. Mount Ravana - suggests the mystery and wrath of a mountain prophet. The music combines a 7/4 meter with a free rhythmless murmuring in the violins, using only these tones: G, A-flat, B-flat, D-sharp, E, F-sharp, and exploring these tones in a variety of linear and vertical permutations. At certain points, mode clusters make for decidedly non-Indian dissonances, and the notes’ different cut-off points imitate a Japanese mouth organ effect (used again in the work’s fourth movement) which fascinated Hovhaness. Throughout, the timpani flourish recurs every 19 beats.

II. Marava Princess - is lyrical and dance-like – suggesting the idea or image of feminine grace. A lyric line, sometimes in canon, is sounding over a murmur of rhythmless sounds. Only six tones (E, F, G-sharp, A, C-sharp, and D-sharp) are used.

III. River of Meditation - suggests the spirit of religious meditation of a sage by a river. Again, only seven tones are used: D, D-flat, E, F, G-flat, A, and B-flat, within a 7/5 meter. The movement is essentially a long flute solo with no metric indications played very freely over rhytmnless sounds in the strings. The flute evokes the meditating sage, the chattering pizzicato strings, the river’s flow.

IV. Heroic Gates of Peace - suggests the spirit of the peaceful reign of wisdom wherein harmony is achieved between heaven and earth. Non-Indian musical principles suggesting Gagaku in the spirit of Tang Dynasty China, Renaissance counterpoint, and long melodic lines are all combined to effect a universal world hymn.

Japanese Gagaku Ensemble..of our times

Magnificat for Four Solo Voices, Chorus, and Orchestra, Opus 157

The following letter, dated August 8, 1961 conveys Alan Hovhaness’ reaction to the Louisville Orchestra First Edition world premiere recording of his Magnificat, commissioned four years earlier, yet until 1961, unrecorded.

Dear Mr. Whitney:

Thank you very much for your wonderful performance and recording of my Magnificat. The tempi, expression, and climaxes are all perfect and your record will become the guide to all future performances. This is my finest work and I am very grateful and happy that it is so beautifully recorded with authenticity, accuracy, and inspiration. Many thanks.

All best wishes,

Alan Hovhaness
Elibris, Vitznau

By 1951 Henry Cowell cited Hovhaness’s music as “contemporary development of the archaic spirit [that] sounds like the music of nobody else at all.” Radiating such a spirit is the Magnificat of 1957, a work commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation and scored for soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone, choir and orchestra.

Never conventionally religious, yet feeling more in attunement with ancient civilizations than modern society, Hovhaness readily warmed to the musical and mystical possibilities offered by Biblical texts.

Magnificat’s judicious use of instrumental groupings and idioms makes for highly contrasting moods and textures, whilst retaining an overall mystical cohesiveness. There are weightless jaunts (Et Misericordia), Byzantine incantations, pastoral outings (Suscepit Israel), even un-Hovhanessian passages of organum (Magnificat and Gloria Patri).

Several of the work’s 12 sections employ the composer’s mysterious ‘free rhythm’ textures. This is perhaps most striking when sung by the choir in Sicut Locutus Est – from silence a swirling cloud of buzzing voices arises, peaks and then recedes back to nothingness. Certainly Hovhaness achieved in this work his stated aim of evoking “the mystery, inspiration and mysticism of early Christianity”.

- Marco Shirodkar

The following commentary from Alan Hovhaness are the notes that he wrote, accompanying the score for the Magnificat. They are reprinted from the original First Edition LP release.

I. Celestial Fanfare - an introduction beginning with a murmuring passage in the basses which rises to a climax and recedes. Trombone, horn, and trumpet sound a long melodic line of religious mood.

II. Magnificat (Chorus) - is for chorus. The organum for all voices leads to a brief fugato (a passage of fugal imitations), ending again in an organum.

III. Et Exsultavit (Tenor) - is a tenor solo accompanied by murmuring pizzicato passages in the violas.

IV. Quia Respexit (Soprano) - is a soprano solo leading to a women’s chorus.

V. Omnes Generationes (Women’s Chorus) - in three parts, is accompanied by rhythmless murmuring in the lower strings and harp.

VI. Quia Fecit Mihi Magna (Baritone and Chorus) - is for bass solo and chorus, accompanied by free rhythm in the basses… a wild and stormy rhythmless passage in the strings rises to a thunderous climax and recedes to a pianissimo.

VII. Et Misericordia (Soprano) - Violas and cellos hold a four-note cluster throughout. The oboes play a rapid melody which is taken up by the soprano voice.

VIII. Fecit Potentiam (Alto) - a solemn trombone solo sounds the prelude and postlude.

IX. Esurientes Implevit Bonis (Tenor and Men’s Chorus) - a free-rhythm passage in the strings from fortissimo to pianissimo leads to the held A in the men’s chorus. In Byzantine style the tenor sings a florid melody over the held A.

X. Suscepit Israel (Women’s Chorus) - oboe, strings, and harp accompany the voices.

XI. Sicut Locutus Est (Baritone and Chorus) - an introduction for oboes and horns leads to a passage in the strings. The chorus enters, every voice chanting in its own time, like the superstitious murmuring of a great crowd, rising like a wave of sound and receding again into the distance. A similar passage in the lower strings becomes the background to a bass solo. Later oboes and horns lead to a rhythmless passage in the violins. Again the murmuring chorus rises to a fortissimo climax in free rhythm and diminishes to pianissimo.

XII. Gloria Patri (Chorus) - an introduction for trombone solo accompanied by murmuring basses leads to a rhytmless climax in the strings. “Gloria” is sounded by the sopranos and then the entire chorus. A heroic melody in the style of a noble galliard is sounded by first and second trumpets and is taken up later by the chorus. The music builds to a final climax.

- Alan Hovhaness


Concerto No. 7 For Orchestra, Op. 116

I. Allegretto
II. Allegro (Jhala-Scherzo)
III. Double Fugue

Symphony No. 15, Op. 199, "Silver Pilgrimage"

I. Mount Ravana
II. Marava Princess
III. River of Meditation
IV. Heroic Gates of Peace

Magnificat for Four Solo Voices, Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 157

I. Celestial Fanfare
II. Magnificat (Chorus)
III. Et Exsultavit (Tenor)
IV. Ouia Respexit (Soprano)
V. Omnes Generationes (Women's Chorus)
VI. Ouia Fecit Mihi Magna (Baritone and Chorus)
VII. Et Misericordia (Soprano)
VIII. Fecit Potentiam (Alto)
IX. Esutientes Implevit Bonis (Tenor and Men's Chorus)
X. Suscepit Israel (Women's Chorus)
XI. Sicut Locutus Est (Baritone and Chorus)
XII. Gloria Patri (Chorus)




Monday, November 23, 2015

Alan Hovhaness - Symphony Etchmiadzin (Symphony No. 21) - Armenian Rhapsody No. 3 - Mountains and Rivers Without End - Fra Angelico - Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Alan Hovhaness conducting - Crystal Records 1987

When I started this blog, one of my intentions was to share all of the Hovhaness that I have (and let me tell you it's a lot, I must be one of his number one followers errrr I mean fans), and right away in succession, a true posting "flood". The unfortunate, wonderful thing is that there is just too too much music out there that I also love, and it seemed to me that it would be tedious and take some of the magic and excitement out of the discoveries for (some) visitors. Indeed, I meant to have an all-Hovhaness tribute blog years ago, as well as a proper website to spread awareness of Arnold Rosner's music, way before an official page finally came into existence. Here's the official Rosner site for those interested: http://www.arnoldrosnermusic.com/  The 'webmaster' is one Carson Cooman, also a (fairly young) composer who admired Rosner's music for many years. Rosner tried to get Carson and myself together for many years, feeling we'd be kindred spirits, and also to discuss archiving Rosner's music and the caring for his estate when the time would come. Because of all the darkness and conflict in my life at the time, I resisted, for several years. I finally met Mr. Cooman at Rosner's memorial concert and I cannot say that I was terribly impressed. WOW I am getting off-topic, sorry all! 

I will say one more thing. I am usually hesitant to post a lot of Hovhaness as I assume that most visitors to my blog already have the majority of available recordings. As his music saved my life so to speak several times, and since it's one of the most important, transcendental and beautiful parts of my arbitrary human life-I suppose it's my duty to keep sharing it if anyone finds it to be a discovery, whether it's 100 people or a single visitor having his/her first acquaintance; AH changed my life for the better many moons ago, and words fail to express how substantial that enrichment was and remains today.

Enjoy all!

New link:



Sunday, November 22, 2015

Alan Hovhaness: "Star Dawn" Symphony No. 53 - Symphony No. 29 for Trombone & Band - The Flowering Peach - Grand Final Processional from Symphony No. 20 (Three Journeys to a Holy Mountain) - Christian Lindberg, Trombone - Ohio State Concert Band, Keith Brion - Delos 1994

Here is one of the earlier and best recordings offering up a couple of Hovhaness's masterful, flowing and glittering, astral traveling-like Symphonies for Band. Symphony No. 20 "Three Journeys to a Holy Mountain" is recorded here, however it is the "original" third movement only, which is a stand-alone work. Happily Naxos has recorded the symphony in its entirety, with the revised finale-also conducted by Keith Brion, the director on this priceless Delos production. Also included is the incidental music to "The Flowering Peach", a play by Clifford Odets. The Flowering Peach was a great success for Hovhaness; it ran for 135 performances at Broadway's Belasco Theatre. "Star Dawn", Symphony No. 53 is short (just shy of 14 minutes!) however during its brief duration, one truly feels as if the Earth is far away, perhaps faintly within view from whatever cosmic landscape Hovhaness's has taken us to. It's an oddly beautiful, floating score, and the (AH signature) employment of bells further adds to the mystical departure, journey, and arrival. Literally it's a "small masterpiece". The same can be said, imo, for the longer Symphony No. 29 for Trombone and Band and the Symphony No. 20. Hovhaness's music for winds/band/brass speaks in another language, a language he clearly loves-and it is one that Hovhaness seems truly comfortable using for some of his greatest possible expression.

Deep into space a spirit rises in its quest for truth. Ever higher it ascends toward the heavens, leaving earth and earth's moon in shadow. Darting comets sprinkle fragments of light like jewel dust, illuminating the path through "invisible vault beyond the stars, to the essential heaven of Light and Love". (The final two levels of Dante's ascent into heaven) Beyond each successive horizon glow new worlds, each a milestone along the path to enlightenment: Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the constellation of Gemini (Dante's ordering of the planets, the traveller is Dante Alighieri and the journal of his travels is The Divine Comedy.

In Symphony No. 53, "Star Dawn" Hovhaness makes a similar journey and quest. Commissioned by and dedicated to Charles D. Yates and the San Diego State University Wind Ensemble, the symphony was completed in July of 1983 and premiered in February of 1990 by the Yale University Concert Band, Thomas Duffy conducting. The composition derives its inspiration from Dante's monumental work, particularly from part 3, "Paradiso". Hovhaness explains: "The thought for the symphony initiated with a phrase from Dante, "star dawn", which suggested traveling in space. Bells symbolize the stars, long flowing melodies create a sense of journey, and great chorales symbolize humankind. My life-long interest in astronomy has suggested the thought that and hope that we may colonize Mars. As we overcrowd the Earth, we must eventually confront this issue. Mars, although cold, seems to have a climate which may make this possible." 

Keith Brion offers, with the composer's sanction the following note as an interpretive guide:
"1st movement - A powerful opening theme urgently suggests a grand departure from the Earth. Fugal clarinets intimate the coldness of space. A hymn for safe deliverance of humankind is intoned, as a solitary soul (solo clarinets) begins winding through the stars (bells and chimes). In the heavens, gravity disappears (undulating clarinet chords), as a floating trumpet melody introduces weightlessness. The opening theme returns, triumphally indicating a successful landing. 2nd movement - A solo saxophone tests the strange gravity as man begins to adapt to a new planet. A brief chorale symbolizes successful ascent into the heavens. Trumpets begin to intone a long, graceful and nearly weightless hymn to their newly found world. Suddenly, the stars shine brightly in a new sky, as the symphony majestically concludes."     

Initially I was going to post a disc on Crystal that has AH's Symphony No. 23 "Ani" as well as the rare "Spirit of Ink" for Three Flutes. The mystery now, however, is that I left the cd on my bed and it has decided to float away-and I looked everywhere (not difficult in an apartment that could easily double as a matchbox) and still it's gone. "Star Dawn" is clearly toying around with the gravitational pull, I have no doubts about it. Been listening to it all day.

The composer's grasp of the long-lined vocal style is nowhere more evident than in his Symphony No. 29 for Baritone Horn/Trombone and Band. It's original incarnation, in 1976, was for orchestra and soloist. In March of the following year Hovhaness made the version for winds and soloist heard here. Henry Charles Smith (who commissioned the work, along with C.G. Conn, Ltd.) premiered the version for baritone horn and orchestra with the Minnesota Orchestra and the band version at the National Music Camp at Interlochen. Once again, Hovhaness took his inspiration for the Symphony from nature. Two mountains were the focus of his attention: Mount Baker and Mount Rainer, the latter known to the composer by its 'Indian' name, Tahoma. Once an avid mountain climber, Hovhaness has long been impressed by the beauty and grandeur of the Cascades, which, as he points out, are portrayed in this music by means of "giant melodic lines".

"The Flowering Peach" (1954) is a concert suite for chamber ensemble (alto saxophone, clarinet, harp, and varied percussion) drawn from Hovanhess's incidental music to Clifford Odet's fanciful serio-comic Broadway play that retells the familiar Biblical story of Noah and the ark with an irreverently humorous twist. The saxophone is the voice of Noah, portrayed in the play as a boozy visionary. In the course of its seven short movements (plus overture), the music sustains a sense of wonderment and magic, and it is is impressionistically descriptive in several places-as in the "Building of the ark" movement where one can hear the 'blows' of the hammers on nails, and the magical "Rain" movement, where harp, timpani and glockenspiel conspire to evoke a grey melancholy of musical raindrops and other fluid sounds.

"Grand Final Processional" (originally the third movement of Symphony No. 20 of 1968) was inspired by Mount Blackomb, and is a grand pilgrim's march in the form of a fugal chorale prelude. It was commissioned by Ronal Soccarelli and the Ithaca New York High School Band. 




Saturday, November 21, 2015

Alan Hovhaness - Symphony No. 3 Op. 148 - Mystery of the Holy Martyrs (Khorhoort Nahadagats), for Guitar and String Orchestra Op. 251 - Michael Long, Guitar - KBS Symphony Orchestra, Vakhtang Jordania - Soundset Recordings 1996

What a spectacular Hovhaness release this is and was back in 1996-I pretty much flipped my musical lid, snapped my ("I-am-a-hardcore-Hovhaness-freak") cap, and needless to say played this treasured release a good 1,000 times..but who is counting?? I literally had difficulty driving with this disc playing at first; it was such a knock-out to me, so damn exciting (Symphony No. 3) and so very beautiful (Mystery of the Holy Martyrs) that I had to pull over, somewhere shady and quiet, and only then proceeding to listen to the whole thing from exuberant, (surprisingly non-Eastern) beginning to mystical, gorgeous and somewhat aleatoric end. Soundset is one of the smallest of labels, however Hovhaness followers surely will find this to be a holy grail-like experience. Those of you that I have been fortunate enough to come to know on my blog surely already own this; but hopefully this will be new to enough people, thus enabling others across the globe to also flip their wigs for a 65 minutes and 51 seconds!

The energetic Symphony No. 3 is surprisingly (although its content is far from entirely so) of a traditional Western classical mold and likely it will induce something of a listening "double-take" if one is mostly familiar with AH's brilliant "Armenian period", or most of his other better-known (available) works in general, as so many are to greater or lesser degrees influenced by early polyphony, Baroque counterpoint, ancient Asian court music, Eastern modes and techniques among others (the final movement does contain a good measure of counterpoint however). This might not produce the sort of spiritual transcendence and spine-tingling chills that Symphony No. 2 provides, but that's not it's motivation, after all-instead one's pulse is instantly quickened, and likely one's posture is inadvertently "at attention", either that or simply nearing the edge of the seat! This symphony is often the equivalent of ecstatic dancing-at least in the outer movements.  Symphony No. 3 was premiered by Stokowski in 1956, as Symphony No. 2 was famously the year before. 

"Mystery of the Holy Martyrs" is in 17 sections and here performed by solo guitar and string orchestra. It can also be performed on a Lute or an Oud, with optional string quartet accompaniment instead of string orchestra. I would love to hear a performance with an oud soloist! This just might be one of Hovhaness's most sublime creations. I believe that it is. -I am including the booklet notes, especially helpful so as to curb my enthusiasm, I have to go out but hopefully will post a few more things late late tonight! 

Take a look below. This is just too too amusing. And REAL. Just when you think you've seen it all, along comes the opportunity to own your very own Hovhaness "Mystery of the Holy Martyrs" iPhone case!!!! YES! The St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral I believe is the new ultra-obscure-chachkies-for-smartphones capital of the *whole* world.  Hipper/more culturally stylish-than thou (or than me!) for sure!! This image made my day ;)
Talk about putting concert flyers to shame!

The best ring-tone for this bedazzled phone surely would be an excerpt from Hovhaness's "Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints" for marimba (or xylo-iPhone).  Again-I'm so happy that this phone cover
actually exists.

Enjoy everyone!!

Hovhaness_Mystery_Of_The_Holy_Martyrs_Symphony_3-Tzadik .zip


-I don't think it should matter but once again there is a space between the 'dot' and the extension 'zip'.
If you have an issue, just delete the space so it's: .zip instead of . zip

Brass Bonanza - Alan Hovhaness, Six Dances - Malcolm Arnold, Quintet - Michel Leclerc, "Par Monts et Par Vaux" Liadov-Glazunov, Fanfares for the Jubilee of Rimsky-Korsakov - Giavanni Gabrieli, Canzona & works by Brade, Dutton, Speer, Horovitz & Kessel - Crystal Records 1986

Here's a disc for brass quintet that I bought war back when for the "Six Dances" of Hovhaness. The Quintet of Malcolm Arnold was a nice bonus, not to mention the brief (1:43) Liadov/Glazunov work which is an arrangement for brass quintet. Michel Leclerc's "Par Monts et Par Vaux"  is an interesting listen as well. As for the rest, it's standard in comparison, although a couple works are rather obscure and brass enthusiasts likely will enjoy everything.

Alan Hovhaness's "Six Dances" for Brass Quintet has straight forward melodies and harmony. It is brief but delightful (each contrasting movement is a study of rhythmic division however, with meters of 13/8, 5/8, 3/4, & 3/8, 7/8, 5/8 & 4/8, and 2/2). I for one can easily imagine the dances with a small string ensemble accompaniment, especially with AH's signature usage of pizzicato intermittently adding to the already courtly and mystical quality. Then again we enjoy enough works with such forces in his catalog I suppose!

Anatol Liadov and Alexander Glazunov originally wrote their "Fanfares for the Jubilee of Rimsky-Korsakov" for large brass ensemble and percussion. The arrangement here for Quintet was made by Richard Barth, tuba player with the Metropoliltan Brass Quintet. It's a nice little morsel! 

Giovanni Gabrieli's "Canzona per sonare" is part of a collection of six canzonas published in Venice in 1608. I wish all six had been recorded here, there certainly is room on the disc for the whole collection! 

Malcolm Arnold's Quintet for Brass, composed in 1961, is one of the mainstays of the brass quintet literature and it's an entirely charming work from start to end (it's Malcolm Arnold, so no surprise there!) that I'm sure most of you will know quite well. 

Michel Leclerc, born in Belgium in 1914, studied at the Royal Conservatory of Liege and the Paris Nat'l Conservatory of Music. He played violin in the Liege RSO and was a member of several string quartets. He beam Professor of Chamber Music at the Liege Conservatory in 1946. The composer made the following translations and descriptions of the five movements of "Par Monts et Par Vaux"(Over Mountains and Valleys): 1) The Willow Hill, 2) The Undergrowth, 3) Play of the Lienne, a small river, 4) Chapel in the Pines, 5) Dance of the Follerie, a small tributary of the Lienne river. 

Brent Dutton was born in 1950 and began his musical studies at the age of nine in his native Canada. He writes the following of the "Carnival of Venice": "The composition is a fond and loving tribute to the grand brass tradition of the 19th century. The Variations are based on J.B. Arban's classic setting of the traditional theme." ".......I will admit to adding touches of Wagner and Bruckner as well". 

Joseph Horovitz, born in 1926 is an English composer who has written music in every genre. "Music Hall Suite" was composed in 1964 and is considered to be among the finest in popular brass chamber music. The four movements presented characterize various vaudeville and burlesque entertainment forms. I am personally not that 'entertained' by the results but that's just me..

Who is cooler, hipper and more playful than a brass quintet?? No one! -This is not from this disc.

Enjoy everyone



Thursday, November 19, 2015

Alan Hovhaness - Lousadzak, Concerto No. 1 for Piano and String Orchestra - Concerto No. 2 for Violin and String Orchestra - Maro Ajemian, Piano - Anahid Ajemian, Violin - MGM String Orchestra, Carlos Surinach - Heliodor Records 1957

This historic recording of Hovhaness's Piano Concerto "Lousadzak" (Coming of Light) Op. 48, and the 'Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Strings Op. 89a' is what I put on after returning home from work, and it's really wonderful. The interpretations are spot-on, which should come as no surprise; the "Friends of Armenian Music", a committee headed by the pianist Maro Ajemian and her sister, violinist Anahid Ajemian (who are the soloists on this album), knew Hovhaness and his music very well. Maro Ajemian was one of his greatest champions and recorded much of AH's works (during the mid 1940s-late 50s). While there are some rare LPs floating around, most are simply not available at this time. 

A bit of info about the pianist Maro Ajemian. I do not recall where it's from.

Maro Ajemian, an American pianist, was of Armenian heritage.  Because of this shared heritage, she chose to give the American premiere of Khachaturian's fabulous new piano concerto as a graduate student at the  Juillard School.  She subsequently took the concerto on tour, and gained a reputation as a performer of contemporary music.

During this concert tour, she had the opportunity to meet a number of contemporary composers including Ernst Krenek, John Cage, Henry Cowell, Alan Hovhaness, Lou Harrison, and Gunther Schuller, all eager for her to play their music.  Many premieres of works by these composers followed.  She became a real champion of the work of her contemporaries, also performing often with her sister, the violinist Anahid Ajemian.

The four sonatas for prepared piano by John Cage, philosopher and composer of music, are fabulous pieces and wonderfully, and sensitively, played by Maro Ajemian to whom Cage dedicated the Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano.

Alan Hovhaness, also of Armenian extraction, was a favorite composer.  Ajemian's performances of his music were instrumental in bring him national attention. 

Anahid Ajemian

Maro Ajemian, Hovhaness and Anahid Ajemian.

And one of my favorite images of the great A.H.

1) Lousadzak: Concerto No. 1 For Piano and String Orchestra, Op. 48 (17:43)

Concerto No. 2 For Violin And String Orchestra, Op. 89a
2) 1. Pastoral (2:21)
3) 2. Aria  (5:11)
4) 3. Allegro (1:23)
5) 4. Aria  (2:31)
6) 5. Presto (2:47)
7) 6. Recitative And Lullaby (6:15)
8) 7. Hymn (5:56)




Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Arnold Rosner "Songs Of Lightness And Angels" Psalm XXIII - The Leaving Light - Three Elegiac Songs - Minstrel to an Unquiet Lady - Into Thy Hands (from The Chronicle of Nine) - A Plaintive Harmony - Songs of Lightness & Angels - Poseidon - Of Songs & Sonnets - To the Keen Stars - Strictly Personals - (2 CDs) - Albany 2012

I am surprised that I have not posted all of Rosner's music already; I was listening to one of my favorite vocal works by Rosner earlier, and indeed again right now as I cannot ever get enough - his "Songs of Lightness and Angels" for Soprano, Horn and Piano. Texts from Finnish poetry are used and the work is sung in Finnish. It was such a sheer delight for me when Albany released this two disc set; I already had all but one of the pieces recorded here on private cassette recordings, and the performances here are equally as fine, more so as they benefit from a crisp digital recording. But back then Rosner was doubtful that these works would reach the public; as a composer writing gorgeous and accessible music in the late 20th century it was just something that he became sadly used to-I think all of us know how trendy and over emphasized minimalist and neo-minimalist types of music were at the time (this was a time for instance, when I had every Hovhaness recording-all FIVE of them on cd...of course there were many LPs but only one had been transferred to cd at the time!). Rosner's sublime song cycle "Nightstone" was recorded on Albany Records in 1995, however it remained (and remains) a hidden gem unless one is a seasoned Rosner enthusiast. 

Another gem, among dozens and dozens (I'd confidently call it a masterpiece) which I hope sees the light of day, is Arnold's Chamber Opera "Bontsche Schweig" for Two Sopranos, Alto, Two Tenors, Baritone, Bass, and Chamber Orchestra. It is based on a poignant Jewish folk-tale about a man who has had the hardest life, with many tragedies and tribulations, yet remained a mensch (from Yiddish for a selfless, wise and noble individual, of the highest honor etc.) til the very end. When I first met Rosner, it was an invitation to sit in on a performance of Bontsche Schweig at Kingsborough Community College, one of the schools that Arnold had been professor of composition and music theory for many years. It was a "reduction" (oh how I wish it had been included in this collection) of the Chamber Opera, performance by two sopranos, alto, two tenors, baritone, bass and piano. It was one of the finest experiences of my life. I would have enjoyed it even more had I not been nervous the entire time (first meeting with the composer after a year-long correspondence solely via email). My hands were as clammy as the nearby Sheepshead Bay! Anyhow I have been worried for a long time that the recording I have, also a cassette, will degrade and I'm desperate to transfer and preserve it. -If anyone out there has the appropriate equipment, or better yet a studio within 100,000 miles of the Eastern U.S....let me know.

Here's Arnold's personal and illuminating booklet notes:

This recording essentially completes my entire “oeuvre” to this date of songs (“art songs,” or “lieder”) on compact disc, given the presence already of two song-cycles. In addition we have included in this program only those examples from opera that have beginnings, endings and structures which enable them to stand as integral pieces without the remainder of the theatrical work.

The texts range widely and their sources range from the gospel according to St. Luke and the Jewish Aramaic liturgy to friends writing occasional poems, as early as at age five. The predominant language is English, but in addition to the aforementioned Aramaic, there are songs in French, German and Finnish.

I wrote my setting of the 23rd Psalm in three or four days some months before my 18th birthday. One learns the words only too well at funerals, and at that early stage I was suffering from the usual youthful “crush” directed to a certain mezzo-soprano, for whose voice the piece was intended. 

In high school I met and became good friends with one Michael Sussholtz. He was something of a mystic, played flute, and while we got along very well our musical tastes largely diverged—with the notable exception of agreeing on a very warm feeling about Renaissance music. Mike later sang in various small non-professional choirs devoting their time largely to that repertoire, and indeed many of the choir colleagues attended his funeral in 1989 to sing motets (in Hebrew) of Salamone da Rossi. (Mike died of AIDS at the age of 45.) He was a poet, but I must confess I generally found his pieces heavy in both words and meaning. He often asked me to consider setting one of them—and I finally decided to read them one at a time—not as a collection, and determined that one untitled two-stanza poem did indeed suit me. The ending, especially, struck me as a “coup”—where one verse concludes with “the brilliance of the night” and the second with “the brilliance of the light.” I reached into my harmonic bag of tricks, found the passage I wanted, and, of course, marked “night” fortissimo, and “light” subito pianissimo. This was written in 1972, and I went on to use the piano introduction as a passacaglia pattern in my extremely tragic 4th String Quartet (recorded on Opus One, no. 150)

In the 60s and 70s the films of Ingmar Bergman were all the rage, at least among my friends. And the piece de resistance among them was The Seventh Seal, where Max van Sydow stars as Antonius Block, a knight, who, when confronted by death, challenges him to a chess game, for his life. All this is among sub-plots and other characters, and wonderful if fatalistic visual cinema. The film has music, by Erik Nordgren, but I found it severe, which I suppose was intended and in agreement with Bergman’s direction but to my ears it seemed understated. I decided to obtain the printed screenplay and use it as a libretto for an opera. I was in my 20s and arrogant enough to believe that the director would be pleased with such a project. 

I tried to reach him—my letters were unanswered (this was years before e-mail, of course). In the summer of 1972 I went to Europe—celebrating the completion of my doctorate, and during a few days in Sweden, got as far as meeting Bergman’s attorney and speaking briefly via telephone with the great man himself. I volunteered at my own expense to make my way to his little private island and play and sing what I had already written. But I met with cold stone. He claimed he did not like ANY interaction of cinema and opera (although soon after he produced a movie version of Die Zauberflöte), and that he did not even like the Seventh Seal anymore and wanted to discour-age its proliferation. It was made clear that I would be sued, and anybody performing the project would be sued—if I went ahead with this idea.

I was youthful, but not entirely irrational, so the idea had to be scrubbed. However, there was some good music already. One aria described young people eating strawberries and drinking milk; and there was a duet for male voices describing the chess/life struggle and match between the hero and death. So I did what composers generally do in reverse, and searched extensively for words that would both emotionally and spiritually fit the music I had. Of course, the usual procedure is to find the text and then write the music to fit. The first piece did indeed fit Francois Villon’s Ballade des dames du temps jadis, and the second, now using just one voice, fit Gottfried Benn’s Ein Wort, ein Satz. These became two movements of what developed into a 10 movement Requiem, consisting of vocal, choral and instrumental sections from many ethnic traditions and spiritual viewpoints. Only one other movement turned out to be a one-singer aria, and that is the setting of the Mourner’s Kaddish in the Jewish tradition.

Anticipating a “slow-go” in ever getting the Requiem performed, I gave a separate title and opus number to the three arias—thus constituting the Three Elegiac Songs here recorded.
My next venture into art songs was written in 1979 and is a setting of three extracts from the Song of Songs. The title is Nightstone and it is recorded on Albany (TROY163).

Having been defeated by Ingmar Bergman in my first attempt to write an opera, it took me a while to consider the idea again, but in 1980 my friend and bridge partner Jack Millstein, an attorney who also dabbled in theatrical production, told me of a drama by one Florence Stevenson, which read very well but did not seem to play effectively on stage. It was called The Chronicle of Nine and was something of a history of Lady Jane Grey. I contacted the author who was more than happy to give me permission to write an operatic version. The complete work has never been per- formed, but piano/vocal recitals of some 50 minutes of excerpts have been successful, and the four main orchestral excerpts are available on CD (Albany TROY548). That suite is substantial enough that I have now somewhat belatedly re-titled it “Symphony No. 7 in A Minor, The Tragedy of Queen Jane, Opus 78.”

The structure Ms. Stevenson used, and that I carried through, includes a minstrel introducing each act in the drama. This was not uncommon in English opera and drama—we know it best these days in Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera (set in England, despite its German words and style). While my three minstrel ballads are fairly similar in design and dynamic, I strove for a really mellow and vocally tender, yet deep sadness, and I felt they would work as a separate piece, so again assigned a separate title and opus number, thus constituting Minstrel to an Unquiet Lady. In the main action of the opera there is only one really clear self-standing aria, although a lot of the style is “arioso” or “recitativo appassionato.” The aria is scene 2 of Act I and young Lady Jane has just learned that a marriage has been arranged for her, by virtue of which she will likely become queen. Having no desire for either the crown or the marriage bed, she opens her bible and sings the passion as described in the gospel according to Luke.

In the late 80s, I tried at first to find texts in the Judeo-Hispanic language “Ladino,” spoken by the Sephardic community in Spain before being scattered by decree of Queen Isabella in 1492. However what texts I found in that language were still extant largely because they had been set to music during that period. These settings were beautiful and I saw no reason to compete with them.

Thus I reverted to non-Judeo Spanish and wrote Besos sin Cuento, for contralto, flute, viola and harp, available on Albany (TROY553). In this program of some 23 songs it seems opportune to provide a break from verbal content and vocal sonority, and thus it was decided to include A Plaintive Harmony, for unaccompanied French horn. Fortuitously, in the chronology of these pieces, that work precedes a three-movement work of which much of the “ethos” involves a horn obbligato. The Israeli horn player Meir Rimon had heard my Sonata for Horn and Piano, Opus 71 (available on Albany TROY163) and wanted me to write a horn concerto for him. Somehow nothing seemed to “flow” for me in that genre—so I went the other way and composed the unaccompa- nied piece. In European languages “harmony” has two meanings. One, of course, is the simultane- ous combination of pitches—chords, as we know them. The lesser-known meaning associates the word with any wind instrument. So—for example, the French call the concert band “l’Orchestre d’harmonie.” Thus it seemed an interesting play on words to title the unaccompanied work as I did considering that the work has no actual acoustical “chords” at all. The horn is the most difficult of orchestral instruments, and the demands on breath and lip created by a fairly long unaccompanied composition are arduously physically and artistically. Meir Rimon died prematurely of cancer so never had the chance to play it. On this recording, Daniel Grabois is more than equal to the challenge.

I was approached in 1989 by a student both of Slavic and Nordic languages AND of the French horn. He had heard my horn sonata and asked me to write songs for medium female voice, horn and piano, to help fill out a concert including Schubert’s Auf dem Strom, for the same combination. As his companion as singer and language teacher was Finnish, that was the language he requested. Of course I said words to the effect that I was very good indeed at writing pieces that never got performed, but such a project would “take the cake” and likely lie on the shelf perpetually. I wrote it anyway, and sure enough, the horn player and singer had parted ways by the time the work was completed, although they had helped me find good texts amongst Finnish poets, and to coach me as to phonetics and rhythm with full translations.

One hears that there is a certain mysticism to the Finnish soul. I never quite heard that to any great extent in Sibelius—but it is there in Rautavaara and in Kokkonen and others, and there they are in the far north, with a language that does not relate to neighboring Sweden and Norway at all, but rather to the Finno-Ugric family including Hungarian and Turkish—none of which countries border one another. I wrote my piece double-texting for performance either in Finnish or English (Lauluja Kevedeista ja Enkeleista; Songs of Lightness and Angels) and trying to evoke this spirit and Nordic atmosphere in various technical ways—never having visited Finland myself. There is not one single bar in rhythm of 3, 4 or 6 or 9 throughout. The songs are in 5/4, 11/8 and 7/8 respectively. In the particularly spiritual third poem, the music moves fairly fast and I have attempted a textural/harmonic scheme that I do not believe has ever been used before. Each 7/8 bar has one main “tonic” pitch, throughout the bar, with no particular rules about how one connects to the next bar. Within each bar, however, there is plenty of texture for the pianist. The scheme is that any bar with a tonic “G” will have EXACTLY the same piano figuration. If the tonic is “B” the figuration is identical for each bar, but distinct from the one on “G.” Thus for each of the 12 possible pitches (and each one comes in at least once), there is one precise textural filling out of the 7/8 measure. I did not, of course, mean this as a technical game. Rather the idea was to give each harmony, even pitch, a certain color and fantasy-attitude of its own. Both horn and voice parts are not under similar restraint, so there is plenty of room for melody and variety, but one hopes the general texture will be atmospheric and hypnotic.

I was composer in residence at a community orchestra in San Diego in 1992-1994 and an ancillary event to this would include a performance of the Three Elegiac Songs. The singer first engaged took a good look at the Kaddish and changed her mind. Not only was it vocally demand- ing, but she was Jewish and had recently lost close family members, and it was simply nothing she wanted to handle. She recommended a certain very talented young singer, with all the vocal stamina on earth, named Barbara Post. All this worked out and Barbara and I became friends. She showed me certain poems she had written, including Poseidon, about a woman and a male God-like figure. She included musical settings attempted by a friend or two, which did not fully satisfy her. Well—that was challenge enough to me, and my setting was written forthwith. Barbara, by the way, is now in full mid-career singing in opera and concerts and living in Milan.

Around the turn of the century—or millennium—I was commissioned by the foundation The Lark Ascending to write settings of such poets as John Milton and Percy Bysshe Shelley. The three-movement Milton example, Of Songs and Sonnets, is for either medium female voice or counter-tenor, with harpsichord accompaniment. I have used the lute stop in the first movement more than I usually do—tried for some musical tricks in the second (such as setting the word “AC-cent” with a syncopated moment) and attempted for the graceful parental feelings of the third to lie comfortably in a 7-rhythm. In the Shelley (To the Keen Stars; his title was “to Jane”) we are back to the piano again, and the text tries to bring together earthly romance with music of the spheres and the stars. Quintuplet subdivisions of bars already in five beats spin around the ear, requiring not only virtuosity but a lightness of hand and voice on the part of the performers.

I had often wondered whether my head is in the clouds too much, and perhaps my music does not address how we feel right here and right now. During such a period of contemplation I attended a performance of a work about the poet Allen Ginsburg by the composer Elodie Lauten. This was enough to start me writing Strictly Personals—a song-cycle consisting essentially of texts one might actually find in “personals” ads in print or on-line. These are, of course, humorous and needy at the same time, and bespeak various individual viewpoints on the loneliness and vulnerability of the human condition. I wrote the texts entirely myself, though they may well resemble real examples of such advertisements. The work is for soprano, baritone and either piano (as recorded here) or string quartet. The soprano sings in nos. 1 and 3, the baritone in 2 and 4, and no. 5 is a duet. Yes, I have considered Strictly Personals “too” and may yet write it. Despite the variety of the characters in the present piece, there are considerably more personas out there.

The violinist Paul Vanderwerf has been instrumental (no pun intended) in the performance and recording of my string chamber music (see Albany TROY210 and TROY553). He and his wife Sarah have two children as of current count, and the older one is Mattias. Apparently one day, when he was five years old, mom and dad were out, he was in the care of a baby-sitter, and he made up a song—about the state of BEING five years old—too old for this, not old ENOUGH for that—at odds with life, either way. The baby-sitter managed to get the words of the song written down, and proud Papa sent them via e-mail to all his friends. Getting words but not music meant I was not going to engage with a five-year old in an unfair musical competition, so I was “in the clear,” and Five, Opus 120 is the result.

—Arnold Rosner

"Songs of Lightness and Angels" and the humorous, touching and witty "Strictly Personals" were among the works performed at Rosner's memorial concert last year. Once again it was as if the great maestro was with us in the hall, lifting the audience up and out, albeit briefly, from any earthly problems or discomfort. It was like a long, radiant (and musical) hug goodbye.

-I have included the booklet (pdf) which has the same notes by the composer that I typed out here-I felt it important to include them on the blog. Also included are the texts to the works.

Enjoy everyone!

Arnold_Rosner_Songs_of_Lightness_&_Angels[Disc 1]-Tzadik.zip


Arnold_Rosner_Songs_of_Lightness_&_Angels[Disc 2]-Tzadik.zip


Monday, November 16, 2015

Happy Birthday Paul Hindemith!! - Hindemith - Violin Sonatas - Eliot Lawson, Violin - Jil Lawson, Piano - Brilliant Classics 2014

This is a great day for all lovers of Paul Hindemith, brilliant music, and therefore the entire world; even if the entire world isn't aware of this quite yet. Paul Hindemith was born today, November 16th in the year 1895 (and have we not been better off ever since??). Here we have Hindemith's Violin Sonatas, played superbly imo by the Lawsons on this recent-ish Brilliant Classics release. 

A young Paul Hindemith, aged 15 years.

Time I have not, however you visit here for the music, not the poster anyhow. The truth hurts.....me  ;)

Enjoy everyone!!



Paul Hindemith - Nobilissima Visione, the Complete Ballet - Five Pieces for String Orchestra - Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz - Naxos 2014

Hindemith’s ballet about St. Francis of Assisi, "Nobilissima Visione" is better known as the orchestral suite taken from the ballet, which has three movements or five sections. Here the ballet is presented in it's entirety, eleven sections of beauty, power and lyricism composed during the early stages of Hindemith's "mature" style. The brilliant "Mathis der Maler" had been introduced to the world only two years earlier. The inclusion of the "Five Pieces for String Orchestra" is a welcome bonus, as it's an early delicious work, unmistakably Hindemith.

Naxos is actually incorrect about this disc being the "first complete recording" of the ballet, however the earlier recordings, and I believe there's at least two-are both out of print. 

                     Hindemith conducting in (I believe) 1960

While I'd rather be visiting Hindemith's childhood home in Hanau, with an ipod dedicated to his music, regrettably I have to get to work instead. It is your duty, fellow explorers, to enjoy as much Hindemith on his birthday as is possible! Do take water/food/bathroom breaks when needed!

A pea-sized Hindemith grew up here




Saturday, November 14, 2015

Charles Roland Berry - Cello Concerto - Symphony No. 3 "Celestial" - Quileute Overture for Cello & Orchestra - Mariners Fanfare - Veery Thrush with Cedars - Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, Theodore Kuchar - Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra, Joel Eric Suben - Centaur 2007

Here is one of the finest American composers that you have never heard of (yes, you are a cultivated bunch, and surely a handful of you out there will know this great music!). Also a guitarist and film composer, Charles Roland Berry (born 1957 in Boston, MA) has written symphonies, concertos, string quartets, and solo works. Among Berry's composition teachers was the American master Paul Creston, whose tutelage came about rather late (Creston worked with Berry during 1982-1983) and to my ears (happily), Creston had a lasting effect on the composer. The rapturous Cello Concerto is a very fine and exciting work, and the Symphony No. 3 "Celestial" is a simply beautiful, modal work with a clear tonal center. There are several passages that are somewhat reminiscent of Hovhaness (especially during the first movement), and for me that's always a delight.

Charles Roland Berry

Here are some of the notes by the composer:

"The works on the new Centaur Records CD were composed in 2002 and 2003 in Seattle, Washington. They show a variety of style and structure, all with predominantly tonal harmonies. I have experimented with Form, more than with tonality. I am also interested in the interactions between Melody and Rhythm. I will often contrast irregular halting rhythms against a lyrical melodic line. Olympic Mountains Overture is tribute to the grandeur of these mountains, and can be considered a tone poem. Quileute Overture was inspired by a visit to La Push, Washington, home to the Quileute Indian tribe. This tribe lives between the mountains and the sea, a stormy place, which gave rise to myths of the Thunderbird. This piece uses no Native American music, though I attempted to create an exotic mood, using unusual orchestration, with ocarina.

Symphony No. 3 and the Cello Concerto are large scale works, with contrasting movements. My intention was to explore different ways, to create a coherent form for each of these movements. The overall mood of Symphony No.3 is calm and optimistic, which led me to subtitle the work, "Celestial".The first inspiration for my Cello Concerto was recordings of standard repertoire, performed by Lynn Harrell. After the piece began, I drew inspiration from the performance techniques of Walter Gray. I have dedicated the work to Walter Gray, in gratitude for his artistry and friendship. He was the first cellist play the solo score of the Concerto, and the solo cello part for Quileute Overture.

My intention with each of these works was to compose music which is both accessible and modern, music which can be enjoyed by the concert-goers who enjoy standard romantic and classical repertoire. I have deliberately avoided many well-established, contemporary composition techniques, because I feel those techniques alienate many listeners. I believe a composer can be adventurous and original, without inventing new musical languages, arcane languages, which are unintelligible to most listeners. My intention is to offer some familiar reference points, and then reach beyond those references to new forms of expression. Coherence in any piece is achieved by some kind of repetition. By choosing which fragments are repeated, how often, and in what disguise---I am able to create Forms which have infinite variety, and  rely little on any historical forms. I use intellectual planning, only to get started with a piece - later I find preconceived plans, whether Classical, Romantic, or Serialist, get in the way of the music."

Meanwhile I have no idea if the "Olympic Mountains Overture" Berry mentions in the notes is recorded...it's not on this Centaur release!)

*Thank you to anyone who was kind enough to leave comments over the last couple days; it's a hectic time right now but I wanted to at least offer a great weekend post. I shall read and reply to everyone by Sunday evening :)