WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Hovhaness: Symphonies No 7, 14, 23 / Brion, Trinity College Wind Orchestra

Hovhaness,Alan / Brion / Tcmw
Release Date: 05/25/2010 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559385   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Alan Hovhaness
Conductor:  Keith Brion
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trinity College Of Music Wind Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Admirers of the composer need not hesitate.

An hour’s worth of Hovhaness in ‘wind band plus percussion symphonic garb’ is the raison d’être of this Naxos release. It bears all his most obvious hallmarks, sometimes starkly: vistas, intense tattoos, hieratic brass, convulsive dialogues, chimes, noble perorations, edifices of almost Mayan splendour.

The Seventh Symphony dates from 1959. The purity of its rhythmic percussion tattoos and the hieratic nature of its brass calls give one an idea of the processional intensity of its dramaturgy. The loquacity of his wind writing implies a raft of interior monologues. The writing becomes more concentrated in the central movement where Hovhaness ensures themes
Read more are less fragmentary and by the finale things have turned positively Olympian. The percussion is now subservient to the to the brass calls, themselves more legato and ushering in a sunset glow, and a cooling, reflective consonance.

The following year he wrote Ararat, Symphony No.14. It makes much of ‘dragon fly’ sonorities, bright trumpets and glittering percussion once again but adds a further percussive layer via bell chimes and a buzzy series of terraced sonorities – dramatic, florid, and ground shaking in the central movement. The percussion starts up immediately in the finale but is gradually worn down by the sheer pugilistic insistence of the conquering brass.

The final symphony of the three is written on a much broader canvas than these two quarter of an hour works. But it too is a powerful construction, its chattering winds and terse declamation capturing the ear with great trenchancy. Drunken lowering lower brass add a leering patina as well, as do the aero engine and gamelan evocations. The finale is a wonderful example of nobility and processional tread with repeated figures passed from brass to wind adding a layer of sonic depth. We feel as if some vast castle is being evoked, as the brass calls resound from battlement to crenellation; Gormenghast in music.

Keith Brion has a long track-record with Hovhaness and he directs his forces with great vitality and precision. This splendid disc has been excellently engineered and admirers of the composer need not hesitate.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International


These three symphonies for wind orchestra treat some recurring themes in Alan Hovhaness' work: mountains (Symphonies Nos. 7 and 14) and his Armenian heritage (Symphony No. 23, evocative of the medieval city of Ani, "The City of A Thousand and One Cathedrals"). The later work is by far the most substantial, but all of them constitute worthy additions to the repertoire for winds and percussion. They are very well played here by the Trinity College ensemble under Keith Brion, who has lived with this music for many decades. Perhaps the English horn soloist in "Sunset", the last movement of Symphony No. 7, is a touch "quacky", but this and any other criticisms would be mere quibbles. The brass play with confidence and the sort of imposing serenity that Hovhaness so often requires, while the drums, bells, and tam-tam punctuate the texture atmospherically. Sonics are very fine, and the entire production is dedicated touchingly to the memory of Lady Evelyn Barbirolli (d. 2008), who some readers may recall was a noted oboist in her day. Recommended to fans of the composer, and of good music for concert band.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Read less

Works on This Recording

Symphony no 7, Op. 178, "Nanga Parvat" by Alan Hovhaness
Conductor:  Keith Brion
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trinity College Of Music Wind Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959 
Symphony no 14, Op. 194, "Ararat" by Alan Hovhaness
Conductor:  Keith Brion
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trinity College Of Music Wind Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960 
Symphony no 23, Op. 249 "Ani" by Alan Hovhaness
Conductor:  Keith Brion
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trinity College Of Music Wind Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; USA 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Evocative, Powerful Music June 10, 2017 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "Like many other symphonic compositions by the prolific American composer Alan Hovhaness, the 3 symphonies contained on this Naxos disk each have a noticeable programmatic aspect. Symphony #7 depicts nature at work in its most striking and elemental mode with a musical tribute to a forbidding mountain in Kashmir, in the border region between India and Pakistan. Symphony 14 likewise emphasizes nature's raw, uncontrolled inner soul with its attempt to recreate musically earthquakes and avalanches at work in Hovhaness' frequent geographic point of attack- mountains and mountain ranges (in this case Mt. Ararat). Finally, in Symphony # 23, Hovhaness musically returns to his ethnic roots with a much more extended composition, which depicts Hovhaness' nostalgic vision of a medieval Armenian city ('Ani'). Throughout all three works, the listener becomes immediately aware of Hovhaness' distinctive approach to orchestration, especially the innovative compositional techniques used to integrate different instrumental effects in a constantly shifting sound world. These 3 symphonies are performed by England's Trinity College of Music Wind Orchestra under conductor Keith Brion. There is not even a hint of strings anywhere, just winds and percussion, all of it reflecting Hovhaness' somewhat laid-back approach with regard to tempos and pacing. On the other hand, this by no means indicates a lack of dynamics or creativity, as there is plenty of contrast and color everywhere the listener looks. While I do think this recording fully merits a 5 star rating, I readily acknowledge that many classical music fans may have difficulties with Alan Hovhaness' unconventional, out-of-the-mainstream world view. In my opinion, there is always room in the world of serious music for the iconoclastic outlier, which is what Hovhaness seem to represent. The technical aspects of this Naxos compact disk are excellent, especially the crystal clear sound of the orchestra's percussion section, as the composer regularly turns it loose with drums, bells, etc. Would these symphonies work with a full symphony orchestra playing them? Hard to say with certainty, but for me this performance by a very fine wind orchestra is clearly sufficient." Report Abuse
Review This Title