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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Saturday, October 31

Hovhaness in "HOOS-ton"

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1955, Leopold Stokowski gave his first concert as the new music director of the Houston Symphony—or, as Stoki pronounced it, the “HOOSTON Symphony.” It was a major cultural event in those days. NBC even televised a bit of the famously white-maned conductor rehearsing the Texans in a brand-new work that Stokowski himself had commissioned for the occasion: the second symphony of Alan Hovhaness, subtitled “Mysterious Mountain.”

At the time, Hovhaness explained his subtitle as follows: “Mountains are symbols, like pyramids, of man’s attempt to know God. Mountains are symbolic meeting places between the mundane and spiritual worlds.” The new piece proved to be a terrific success for all concerned. The next day, the Houston Post’s music critic wrote, “The real mystery of Mysterious Mountain is that it should be so simple, sweetly, innocently lovely in an age that has tried so terribly hard to avoid those impressions in music.” For his part, Hovhaness once said, “Things that are complicated tend to disappear and get lost. Simplicity is difficult, not easy.”

Before his death in the year 2000, Hovhaness would complete 67 symphonies.

Music Played in Today's Program

Alan Hovhaness (1911 – 2000) Symphony No. 2 (Mysterious Mountain) London Symphony; John Williams, cond. Sony Classical 62729

Additional Information

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