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Alan Hovhaness: The Historic Moscow Recordings

Release Date: 11/27/2012 
Label:  Cristofori   Catalog #: 889   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Spoken WordAlan Hovhaness
Performer:  Martin BerkofskyAndrei IkovAtakan SariSergei Podobedov,   ... 
Conductor:  Konstantin Krimets
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HOVHANESS The Prayer of St. Gregory. 1 Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra 2. Mihr 3. Ko-olo-u 4. Vijag. 4 Lousadzak 5 2,3,4,5 Martin Berkofsky, 2,3 Atakan Sari, Read more class="SUPER12">4 Sergei Podobedov (pn); 1 Andrei Ikov (tpt); 1,2,5 Konstantin Krimets, cond; 1,2,5 Globalis SO CRISTOFORI 889 (63:27) Live: Tchaikovsky Hall, Moscow 3/24/2004

The spoken introduction to the one live performance ( The Prayer of St. Gregory ) certainly sets the scene for this event. Even for the non-Russian speaker such as myself, the sense of occasion is palpable. Hovhaness’s music can split critical opinion, and his vast output can be variable. As a sampler of his music, it has to be said, this disc would be hard to beat. Although billed as “The Historic Moscow Recordings,” there is precious little historic about the sound for The Prayer of St. Gregory (1966): this is a gorgeously deep recording, tremendously consonant, with a pre-Vasks/Pärt aura. The sound of the entire disc is good, for that matter. The profundity of the inspiration (the Armenian Church) shoots through the piece. The trumpeter, Andrei Ikov, is very forthright in both balance and approach. This piece is in fact an intermezzo from a 1940s opera which lends itself to arrangements (search the Fanfare Archive and you will find versions for trumpet and organ, and for wind band). And yet the purity of the strings seems perfect (why meddle?), especially in a performance as committed as this one. It is difficult to imagine a more auspicious opening to either a concert or a disc.

There is the added bonus of a world premiere recording here, the Concerto for Two pianos and Orchestra of 1954. It was composed for a two piano team who went their separate ways and so the performance failed to come to fruition, hence the long gap between composition and recording. A chance meeting of the present soloists and conductor in Turkey has led to the present recording. The first movement, an Andante , holds some of the radiance of The Prayer of St. Gregory , yet the pianos’ comments take the music to a significantly more acerbic place, and the underpinning of timpani rolls adds power to the close of the movement. The low clouds of the central Largo find ascending piano gestures pitted against outcries from a selection of soloists. The effect is relentless (note all three tempo directions are slow to slowish: Andante, Largo then Moderato ), with the pianists’ filigree in the finale intensifying rather than lightening the ongoing load. The pianists seem perfectly suited.

The three short pieces that follow all feature Berkofsky, the first with Sari. Mihr (1945) can also be performed as a solo piano piece (as the composer sometimes did). It is tremendously atmospheric, its Armenian influences never in doubt. The recording here is bright, resulting in the piece’s conclusion sounding like a beautiful, high-frequency carillon, cruelly curtailed. The 1962 piece Ko-olo-u was composed while Hovhaness was composer-in-residence at the University of Hawaii and explores the contrast between the city and the stiller mountains. Here, as in the next piece, Berkofsky is joined by Sergei Podobedov. Minimalism informs the brief Vijag (an Armenian Ascension ceremony), composed in 1946. It is delightful, hypnotic, and blissfully short. The performance here, by Berkofsky and Podobedov, is perfect; glistening and alive.

Finally, Lousadzak (Coming of Light), a Concerto for Piano and Strings from 1944. It embodies Hovhaness’s idea of “musical cloudwork,” or uncoordinated repetitions of phrases, inspired by the mystical painter (and Hovhaness’s mentor) Hermon di Giovanno. The actual harmonic palette is determinedly modal. The performance, again, is excellent, with Berkofsky in top form (Berkofsky’s superb attunement throughout is hardly surprisingly, as he helps coordinate the Alan Hovhaness International Research Center). The violinist Nikolai Zherenikov provides the long, atmospheric violin solo lines which are essentially interior monologs.

The documentation accompanying this release is a dream. Lavishly illustrated, with booklet notes not only on the pieces themselves but also a selection of essays, it completes a disc that is effectively a must-have for anyone remotely interested or curious about this composer. This appears to be a near-identical release to Black Box 1103, reviewed by Walter Simmons in Fanfare 29:3 (2006).

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Spoken Introduction from Tchaikovsky Hall, Moscow by Spoken Word
Date of Recording: 03/26/2004 
Venue:  Tchaikovsky Hall, Moscow, Russia 
Length: 2 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Prayer of St Gregory, Op. 62b by Alan Hovhaness
Performer:  Martin Berkofsky (Piano), Andrei Ikov (Trumpet)
Conductor:  Konstantin Krimets
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/26/2004 
Venue:  Tchaikovsky Hall, Moscow, Russia 
Length: 5 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Concerto for 2 pianos & orchestra by Alan Hovhaness
Performer:  Atakan Sari (Piano), Martin Berkofsky (Piano)
Conductor:  Konstantin Krimets
Period: Modern 
Written: 1954 
Venue:  Mosfilm Studios, Moscow 
Length: 20 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Mihr, for 2 pianos, Op. 60 by Alan Hovhaness
Performer:  Martin Berkofsky (Piano), Atakan Sari (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1945 
Date of Recording: 03/31/2004 
Venue:  House of Sound, Moscow, Russia 
Length: 9 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Ko-ola-u, for 2 pianos, Op. 136 by Alan Hovhaness
Performer:  Martin Berkofsky (Piano), Sergei Podobedov (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1962 
Date of Recording: 03/31/2004 
Venue:  House of Sound, Moscow, Russia 
Length: 2 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Vijag, for 2 pianos, Op. 37 by Alan Hovhaness
Performer:  Martin Berkofsky (Piano), Sergei Podobedov (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1946 
Date of Recording: 03/31/2004 
Venue:  House of Sound, Moscow, Russia 
Length: 3 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Lousadzak for Piano and String Orchestra, Op. 48 by Alan Hovhaness
Performer:  Martin Berkofsky (Piano), Nikolai Zherenkov (Violin)
Conductor:  Konstantin Krimets
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/04/2004 
Venue:  House of Sound, Moscow, Russia 
Length: 18 Minutes 56 Secs. 

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