Composers Datebook®

Hovhaness reaches No. 65

Alan Hovhaness (1911 – 2000) — Symphony No. 2 (Mysterious Mountain) (Chicago Symphony; Fritz Reiner, cond.) RCA 61957

Composer's Datebook - October 6, 2021


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October 06, 2021


On today’s date in 1991, the American Composers Orchestra gave a concert at Carnegie Hall, celebrating the 80th birthday of the Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness. Hovhaness himself was on hand, and conducted the world premiere performance of his Symphony No. 65.

By the time of this death in the year 2000, Hovhaness had composed 67 symphonies, and ranks as one of the most prolific composers of symphonies in the 20th century. “I write too much, far too much,” he once wrote to a friend. “This is my insanity.” Even so, performers and audiences seemed to respond to the emotional forthrightness of his music.

Hovhaness rejected the mid-20th century trends towards complexity and atonality, and instead turned to archaic and Eastern musical models. Many of his works were inspired by Armenian themes, real or imagined.

In reviewing the premiere of his Symphony No. 65, the New York Timescritic wrote: “Mr. Hovhaness seems to have used liturgical roots to create his own imaginary Armenia, a music that may exist only in [his] imagination.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Alan Hovhaness (1911 – 2000) — Symphony No. 2 (Mysterious Mountain) (Chicago Symphony; Fritz Reiner, cond.) RCA 61957

On This Day


  • 1882 - Polish composer Karol Szymanowski, in Tymoszówska, Ukraine;

  • 1943 - German composer Udo Zimmermann, in Dresden;


  • 1909 - American composer and organist Dudley Buck, age 70, in West Orange, N.J.;

  • 1947 - Finnish composer Leevi Medetoja. Age 59, in Helsinki;


  • 1600 - Jacopo Peri: opera, "Euridice," at the marriage of Maria de Medici to King Henri IV of France, in Florence, Italy. The oldest surviving complete opera;

  • 1868 - Offenbach: operetta "La Périchole," at the Variétés, in Paris;

  • 1911 - Reger: “A Comedy Overture,” by the Boston Symphony with Max Fiedler conducting;

  • 1939 - William Schuman: "American Festival" Overture, by the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky conducting;

  • 1963 - Ibert: "Symphonie marine" (composed in 1931), in Paris;

  • 1977 - Tippett: Symphony No. 4, by the Chicago Symphony, Sir Georg Solti conducting;

  • 1991 - Hovhaness: Symphony No. 65, Op. 428 (Artstakh), at Carnegie Hall in New York, with the composer conducting;

  • 1996 - Zemlinksy: opera "Der König Candaules" (King Candaules), posthumously, in Hamburg at the Staatsoper; This unfinished opera was written in 1936, and completed for its 1996 premiere by Anthony Beaumont;


  • 1739 - Handel completes in London his Concerto Grosso in e, Op. 6, no. 3 (Gregorian date: Oct. 17);

  • 1802 - Beethoven files his will, the so-called "Heiligenstadt Testament," to be opened after his death.