Alan Hovhaness Symphonies - Part 4 : Overview of Symphonies 31 - 45

Overview & List of Symphonies Symphonies
Symphonies  1530  Symphonies  3145  Symphonies  4667 
 Symphony No.31  Op.294 (1976-77)

This symphony is essentially a seven movement suite for string orchestra totalling about 22 minutes. The scheme is Andante (with a troubador style viola line), a dancing Presto, a Lento "love song", Fuga which is a "lively but strict" fugue, a dance-like Allegro Vivace, a love song marked Andante, and finally a gigue-style Fugue marked presto. It has been recorded on LP for Fujihara Records, with the Northwest Chamber Orchestra conducted by Louis Richmond. Some of the dance movements are rather Baroque sounding.

 Symphony No.32  The Broken Wings  Op.296 (1977)

Information on this symphony to follow

 Symphony No.33  Op.307 (1977)

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 Symphony No.34  Op.310 (1977)

Scored for bass trombone and strings, this work was commisioned by the trombonist David Taylor. It was premiered by him in Alice Tully Hall, New York on January 17th 1980. Throughout its 25 minutes, the work features the lyrical trombone part as a soloist almost constantly, and is really a concerto in all but name.

 Symphony No.35  Op.311 (1978)

This symphony is scored for two orchestras, one being an orchestra of ancient ah-ak Korean instruments. The work was commisisoned by the Korean government for the opening of the Seoul Art Centre on June 9, 1978. This commission perhaps symbolised Hovhaness's continuing unique status in the Far East for a Western composer. (The much earlier Symphony No.16 employed the Korean kayagum, a zither-like instrument).

 Symphony No.36  Op.312 (1978)

Scored for flute and orchestra, commissioned for flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal.

 Symphony No.37  Op.313 (1978)

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 Symphony No.38  Op.314 (1978)

This is a large Hovhaness symphony, clocking in at 55 minutes. It featured a prominent vocal part written for the composer's wife, a coloratura soprano. The description that follows is edited from the composer's own sleeve notes for its first LP recording :

    "Symphony No.38 for coloratura soprano, trumpet, flute and string orchestra ... was composer in June and July 1978. The music is in five movements.
    The first movement grows from a tiny two-note motif. This movement is related to the classical sonata-allegro form and also to the principle of 'jo-ha-kyu' of Japan. A raga-like devotional melismatic melodic line grows out of the motif and is sung by the trumpet in a priest-like cantorial style. A grand string fugue is built on the same motif with all episodes in strict four-part canon. After the stretto climax of the fugue, the trumpet returns with a new adorational melodic line created out of the same motive in a new and more exotic raga. The tambura is an Indian stringed instrument restructured to tonic and dominant, and is used as an accompaniment for vocal sacred music. At the end of the first movement we hear the string bass drone with ornamentation based on the motif of the symphony reminding us of the tambura. In closing, the strings have free rhythm creating an effect of 'spirit murmur' as an accompaniment to the long melody. It is an oriental effect.

    The second movement begins with a three-part motet in violins and violas. A love song in violin solo composed on the notes of the popular Armenian church scale 'kim tzar' leads to a presto dance in a newly composed tala or metrical scheme of 2+2+2+2+3+3+2+2 also within 'kim tzar'.

    The third movement is a cantata. A short processional-like string prelude introduces a new raga-style melody of worship for the trumpet, followed by a bird-like melody for the flute. The coloratura soprano sings a short recitative: "My soul is a bird, flying to the distant, cloud-covered mountain". A duet in the form of a sparkling fugue for soprano and flute ends the cantata.

    In the fourth movement, a short lyrical prelude for violins leads to a song for soprano - the flute echoes the voice with bright flashes of light.

    The fifth movement finale is a religious motet for trumpet and strings with a short fugue-like introduction and interlude in strings leading to the cantorial-like trumpet singing prayers. The sound is ceremonial and triumphant.

The third and fourth movements are included on a CD issued by Koch Classics.

 Symphony No.39  Op.321 (1979)

Scored for guitar and orchestra. Together with Symphony No.46, available on a CD issued by Koch Classics.

 Symphony No.40  Op.324 (1979)

The original Symphony No.40 was lost just before Hovhaness could deliver the manuscript for printing. Whilst dining at a restaurant with his wife, the briefcase which contained the manuscript was stolen from his hotel room. He told the New York Times:

    "It was the only copy and it would be impossible to recreate the work. I suppose I should be thankful that only hours before the burglary, I had delivered the manuscript of a new guitar concerto to the printers, so that wasn't lost."

Although the stolen symphony represented "almost two months of round-the-clock work", the composer prepared a new version in February 1980. Scored for brass quintet, timpani and strings, in its second form it is in three movements. Devoid of any exoticisms, the work in hymnal and dance-like, with prominent fugal and canonic writing.

 Symphony No.41  Op.330 (1979)

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 Symphony No.42  Op.332 (1979)

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 Symphony No.43  Op.334 (1979)

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 Symphony No.44  Op.339 (1980)

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 Symphony No.45  Op.342 (1954)

This 'symphony' is in actuality a 1954 concerto grosso-like work for orchestra with two pianos. It was originally entitled Concerto No.10 (Op.123 No.3), thus the composer viewed the prominent piano parts in a concerto grosso-like role, and the pianists are indeed essentially part of the tutti. However, in 1988 another Concerto No.10 (Op.433 for piano, trumpet and strings) was composed, thus this unpublished and unperformed work was re-titled Symphony No.45, that number being the next available number in his symphonic canon. It is not yet known for sure whether Symphony No.45 is the same as Op.123 No.3 or whether there are revisions to it, however, this highlights perfectly the composer's somewhat arbitrary attitude to naming his orchestral works.

The work was composed for the Vera Appleton / Michael Field piano duo, who never played it; thus it went unperformed for some 50 years. The following summary of Symphony No.45 assumes it is exactly the same work Op.123 No.3.

The music incorporates many 1950s Hovhaness-isms: neo-Renaissance polyphony, Indian melodic and rhythmic concepts, polytonality and functional dissonace -- an unlikely but intriguing agglomeration. The first movement's extended and searching preface is at times suggestive of nature and gamelan music. From this an oboe emerges with a melody that builds fugally, leading to a noble hymn. As the hymn climaxes, the pianos crash down with harsh note clusters, apossible influence of the composer's associate Herny Cowell. The foreboding opening of the second movement -- which uncharacteristically alludes to serialism with its 12-note ascents -- gives way to an improvisatory raga (using A, C, D, E flat, G) where the piano imitates the kanun, a zither-like instrument played pricipally in old Armenia (now Eastern Turkey). The second piano joins the raga, but at a highly dissonant transposition. The third movement juxtaposes hymnal and contrpuntal writing for the orchestra with piano episodes in the Indian 'jhala' style. Jhala is the speeded-up and intense culmination of classical Indian improvisation where skillful permutations of both raga (scale) and 'tala' (rhythmic cycle) result from rapid alternation of meloday note and repeated drone note.

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