Alan Hovhaness – Selected Piano Compositions | Arzruni
What better way can there be to get to know the unique character music of Alan Hovhaness than listening to his profoundly beautiful and meditative music from the 40’s and 50’s? The answer is to have his friend, the prodigious pianist Şahan Arzruni perform it for us. Not only is there a deep cultural empathy in the repertoire represented on this disc, but there is also a kind of symbiosis that has occurred in the seamless and process of making the black dots of Mr Hovhaness’ legendary scores lift off the page and hover like celestial beings vibrating with elemental sound. This is, no doubt, what Mr Hovhaness would have been aiming to achieve: the imbuing of his hymn-like monophony; single-line melodies with a kind of transcendent rhythms felt in the throes of a sacred conversation.
Mr Hovhaness’ contribution to the canon of music – the musical continuum if you will – gets little to no recognition at all. Even when the cognoscenti is full of adulation for such magical works as And then God Created Whales [Opus 299, 1970], a symphonic poem for orchestra and recorded whale sounds, and his penultimate Symphony No 66, Hymn to a Glacier [Opus 428, 1992], much of Mr Hovhaness’ work remains obscure. As a matter of interest, though, the great improvising pianist, Keith Jarrett often displays a marked influence in conception [in what is often referred to as the pianist’s spontaneous improvisations], influenced – if not rooted – in what might appear to be a deep dive into Mr Hovhaness’ oeuvre.
However, the unseemly ignoring of Mr Hovhaness contribution to music is hard to explain – even though in these piano works, at least, the composer harks back to the glorious principles of simple, yet hypnotic monophonic [melodic] conception. These premiere recordings of the piano compositions are not merely a relief to loyal lovers of Hovhaness’ music, but are to be celebrated for Mr Arzruni’s interpretations too. Mr Hovhaness’ gift for brightly memorable melodies, swathed in mesmeric monophony is superbly highlighted here by the mystic sensuality with which pianist, Arzruni explores their hidden recesses.
The proverbial aphorism-like brevity of the short works such as “Invocation to Vahakn” and “Laona”, for instance, nestles cheek-by-jowl with the long, sculped inventions of “Suite on Greek Tunes” and “Sonata ‘Hakhpat’” Mr Arzruni’s appropriately sinuous yet emotive pianism is wonderfully complemented the melodic lightning and thunder of Adam Rosenblatt’s percussion colouristic ingenuity. The rich and detailed sound of Mr Hovhaness’ invocations are eloquently and deeply interiorised by both musicians who return the favour with wonderful idiomatic interpretations of this mystical music that – time ans again through the recording – comes at you in rapturous cascades.
Track list – 1 – 5 Invocations to Vahakn; 6 – 11: Yenovk; 12: Lalezar; 13 – 16: Suite on Greek Tunes; 16: Mystic Flute; 17 – 21: Journey into Dawn; 22: Laona; 23 – 25: Lake of Van Sonata; 26: Vijag; 27 – 34: Sonata “Hakhpat”
Personnel – Şahan Arzruni: piano; Adam Rosenblatt: percussion.
Released – 2021
Label – Kalan Music 
Runtime – 1:13:47