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Thread: Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000)

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    Senior Member handlebar's Avatar
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    Default Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000)




    Alan Hovhaness was born in 1911 in Somerville, Massacussetts which is a suburb of Boston.
    He was the child of an Armenian father and mother of Scottish background. His father, Haroutian Hovanes Chakmakjian was from Adana,Armenia. That region is now part of present day Turkey. Alan always had an affinity for music showing his love for it at an early age. Eventually he started to compose and produced various operas during his young years. His father, who was a college professor at Tufts College, at first was not sure if music should be the way to a career for young Alan but eventually realized that his son had a superb gift. He supported his son through his life ,helping him where he could in times of uncertainty and depression. Alan played the violin and also the piano,which he learned with help from a local teacher. he eventually went on to study with Heinrich Gebhard and Adelaide Proctor.

    After graduating high school in 1928, he went to the New England Conservatory of Music and studied with Frederick Converse. He also won , in 1932, the award of the Conservatory's Endicott prize for composition. He then traveled to Finland in 1934 and met Jean Sibelius,whom he delighted to meet.

    The 1930's were a decade of change for Hovhaness as his interest in other types of music started to influence his works. The music of India had a profound effect on the young Hovhaness and he took up the study fervently. Eventually,however, he received criticism form various circles regarding his works and their influence,notably from Roger Sessions.
    Alan burned over 500 of his works in an effort at a new start of his own "voice".

    After that, Hovhaness became much more interested in his family background and the Armenian culture. This proved to be a lifelong passion, with Alan visiting the country many times.He even went back to learning more about Indian music. he learned to play the sitar and collaborated with other musicians in performing Indian music.

    It was then that Hovhaness started to compose with "aleatoric music", or a technique of composition that involves a "carpet or cloud" of sounds that envelops the listener.This would be a trade mark of Hovhaness for many years to come.
    Eventually Alan would move back to New York and composed until his big break came with the performance of his Symphony #2 "Mysterious Mountain". This was premiered by Stokowski in 1955 and put him on the classical map. It was later recorded by famous conductors such as Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony and also by the conductor himself. Subsequent symphonies include Symphony #6 "Celestial Gate", Symphony #25"Odysseus ", and popular works such as Prayer of St Gregory,Lousadzak,and two guitar concertos along with "And God Created Great Whales", the first work to include actual whale song. These works brought him honors among some in the music community. But he still did not have the recognition he deserved.
    As he grew older,Hovhaness started to explore more in the fields of Eastern music and to also incorporate it into his own works.He studied Japanese gagaku music and learned what he could about the instruments used in Eastern ensembles.

    He later married the coloratura soprano Hinako Fujihara, who helped him with his work and was devoted to spreading the word about her husband and his music. Alan lived his last years in the pacific northwest in the Seattle area.

    Alan Hovhaness composed up to his last days, always writing things down on scrap paper before moving on to other themes. He incorporated these into works that proved his love for the Eastern instruments such as the gamelan,sitar and marimba. But he also composed for traditional instruments such as the guitar and brass sections.

    He passed away in the year 2000. Fortunately,his legacy is being preserved and remembered in The Alan Hovhaness International Research Center in Yerevan,Armenia.

    http://cristoforifund.tripod.com/alanhovhaness1.html


    The world renown pianist Martin Berkofsky is a tireless advocate of Hovhaness and worked with him extensively during his lifetime,recording many of his works and even giving World Premiers. His website above is a prime source for information on Hovhaness and his works.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Berkofsky

    There is also a Yahoo group dedicated to Hovhaness at:

    http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/hovhaness

    Recordings of Hovhaness are available from various companies the prime sources being Crystal Records and various other labels such as Delos and Koch.

    Alan Hovhaness was a very prolific composer and many of his works remain unrecorded. But this is slowly changing as many start to explore the works of this delightful composer.


    Jim Ross
    Vancouver,Washington

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    Senior Member handlebar's Avatar
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    What?? No comments??? LOL

    Jim

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    Default Alan Hovhaness

    Quote Originally Posted by handlebar View Post
    What?? No comments??? LOL

    Jim
    Extremely individualistic composer. Wrote with spirit. I like two compositions of his: Hymn to Yerevan and 'And God created Whales.'

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    It is very good of you to write such an interesting article for this section of the Board. I found your article of much value and it has encouraged me to explore this composer's work in more detail. The only work I have currently is his Symphony No 50 (Mount St Helens) by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, which is very enjoyable indeed.

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    Senior Member handlebar's Avatar
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    Thanks for the comments folks!!!! I'm an ardent admirer of Mr Hovhaness and his legacy. The music world still needs to recognize this man a bit more as he does not receive his just due. Hence one reason why Martin Berkofsky is a tireless champion in his cause. More concerts need to be programmed with Alan's music.

    Jim

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    His countenance is as mystical as his music, maybe due to his mixed heritage. All the photos I've seen of him appear serene. It makes no sense at all in our politically correct society, but many composers seem to look like their music to me.

    Thanks for the article.

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    It's only this week that I heard anything by Hovhaness: Mysterious Mountain and Lousadzak.

    I liked it, and will definitely be checking out more of his work.

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    I've only heard 'Mysterious Mountain,' of which I have a recording. I remeber hearing this work on the radio late one night and, thus, I was listening to it in the dark. Very moving experience.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    Senior Member handlebar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marco01 View Post
    It's only this week that I heard anything by Hovhaness: Mysterious Mountain and Lousadzak.

    I liked it, and will definitely be checking out more of his work.
    You heard two of his most famous works. Try Prayer of St Gregory and Symphony #1. Both are delightful!

    Jim

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    Thanks, Jim! I like Hovhaness a lot and have probably most of his recorded music on CDs or otherwise. Berkofsky even sent me some of Alan's music on CDs and DVDs recorded at concerts or studios.

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    Senior Member handlebar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zasranec View Post
    Thanks, Jim! I like Hovhaness a lot and have probably most of his recorded music on CDs or otherwise. Berkofsky even sent me some of Alan's music on CDs and DVDs recorded at concerts or studios.
    Wonderful!!! Yes, Martin is a delightful man. There is so much Hovhaness music out there now as compared to only 20 years ago. He is an underrated composer no doubt.

    Jim

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    I wish his music would be performed at least sometimes... I don't think I have ever heard it in concert...

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    Senior Member marval's Avatar
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    I don't know a lot of his work, but I love his "Prayer of St Gregory." It is a very special piece.

    Thank you for letting us know more about the man and his music.


    Margaret

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    Senior Member handlebar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zasranec View Post
    I wish his music would be performed at least sometimes... I don't think I have ever heard it in concert...
    While I admit it is a bit more rare now than when AH was alive, there are still some doing so. Check out this link for upcoming concerts:

    http://www.hovhaness.com/Hovhaness.html

    Jim

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    Senior Member haydnguy's Avatar
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    A belated thanks to you, handlebar, for the informative post. I will definitely search his music out and listen.

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