Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Saturday, October 6

Hovhaness reaches No. 65

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1991, the American Composers Orchestra gave a concert at Carnegie Hall, intended as an 80th birthday celebration 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 certainly ranks as one of the most prolific composers of orchestral music 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. "I become more and more simple,” Hovhaness explained. “I hate every dishonest note I may have written."

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 Times critic wrote: “Mr. Hovhaness seems to have used liturgical roots to create his own imaginary Armenia, a music that may exist only in one American’s imagination. Ernest Bloch, a Swiss who spent years in the United States, invented an Israeli style in much the same way.”

This music is from the most famous of all Hovhaness symphonies, his Symphony No. 2, subtitled “Mysterious Mountain,” music premiered by Leopold Stokowski and the Houston Symphony in October of 1955.

Music Played in Today's Program

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

Additional Information

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