June 2011  Sony Classical re-issues 1968 Kostelanetz Floating World recording


Hovhaness Floating World / Rachmaninoff Aleko Suite

This long overdue re-issue of a
1967 LP features the celebrated premiere recording of Hovhaness's Floating World, arguably one of his orchestral tours-de-force.

Some of the most admired recordings of Hovhaness's orchestral music were made by renowned Russian-born conductor Andre Kostelanetz for Columbia Records. Kostelanetz is remembered chiefly as a conductor of popular orchestral music and pioneer of the 'easy listening' genre, but conducted much classical repertoire too. Between 1967 and 1977 he recorded six Hovhaness works in total (five in premiere recordings) some of which were commissions. The two men's relationship was mutually beneficial, Kostelanetz being attracted to colourful and exotic repertoire, whereas Hovhaness's overtly Neo-oriental soundscapes of the mid-to-late 1960s were able to gain wide exposure on disc and in New York through the frequent concerts that "Kosty" gave.

A crucial ingredient in the calibre of these recordings was the involvement of Columbia's recording engineer Teo Macero, famous for his work with the label's roster of jazz luminaries such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck, but equally adept at working with a full symphony orchestra. Thus the Kostelanetz Columbia recordings are especially admired within the Hovhaness community, because they beautifully captured and preserved the nuances and dynamism of some of the composer's most daring scores, travelling the full gamut from iridescent serenity to cataclysmic fortissimos.

Floating World, written for Kostelanetz and the New York Philharmonic, is one of the best examples of Hovhaness as a virtuoso and highly individual orchestral painter. The title relates to the Buddhist concept of impermanence and a constantly changing universe, perhaps alluded to in the work's many eerie textures calling for static-but-buzzing whirlpools on the low strings or similar textural stasis in shimmering tuned percussion:

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The work also has one of the composer's most rousing and sinuous melodies, which achieves epic proportions in the final climax:

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The two other premiere recordings on the original disc are Rachmaninoff's suite from his opera Aleko and Mussorgsky's Daybreak introduction to his opera Khovantchina.

Hovhaness Floating World / Rachmaninoff Aleko Suite Buy at Amazon