American Composer Alan Hovhaness

Monument Mountain, Massachusetts, where Alan Hovhaness, the composer of "Mysterious Mountain" grew up.(Photo: dougtone)
Monument Mountain, Massachusetts, where Alan Hovhaness, the composer of "Mysterious Mountain" grew up.(Photo: dougtone)

American composer Alan Hovhaness was born on March 8, 1911 in Somerville, Massachusetts and passed away in June of 2000. He was of Armenian and Scottish descent, and his music is as eclectic as his mixed heritage.

Hovhaness wrote pieces that were beautiful to listen to and often went against the current of modernism in the 20th Century. Although he went through periods of experimentation with exotic sounds, blending Eastern and Western musical idioms (both of which he studied thoroughly), he clearly came down on the side of accessible melody, harmony and beauty.

He didn’t fit in very well with the more edgy trend in modern music, which sometimes seemed to champion dissonance of sound and difficulty in comprehension as ends in themselves.

The mystical vision of the divine as expressed in nature and the harmony of the spirit that results in its contemplation, were ultimately at the heart of his personal and musical vision.

This is nowhere more apparent than in his Second Symphony from 1955, called Mysterious Mountain, a work of timeless beauty in which past, present and future are all rolled into one. Here’s that work performed by John Williams, Judith LeClair and the London Symphony Orchestra in 1997.

The only thing comparable to this symphony, written in the 20th Century (I think) is Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, from 1911.

Comments
  • Phil Rudell, music lover

    Thanks to John for posting (and playing at 7 p.m.) music by the underrated composer Hovhaness.

    • John Rittmeyer

      You’re welcome. Hovhaness certainly does rate being heard more. Glad you liked it.

  • Phil Rudell, music lover

    Thanks to John for posting (and playing at 7 p.m.) music by the underrated composer Hovhaness.

    • John Rittmeyer

      You’re welcome. Hovhaness certainly does rate being heard more. Glad you liked it.

  • http://www.hovhanesscentennial.com David

    Thanks for the post John. They’re doing some tribute Hovhaness concerts in Seattle, WA soon, his home town. Also, there’s a Hovhaness centennial site with a list of centenary celebrations and tribute concerts. http://www.hovhanesscentennial.com

    • John Rittmeyer

      Glad you liked it, and thanks for the link to the web site. That’s a great source of information about this fascinating composer.

  • http://www.hovhanesscentennial.com David

    Thanks for the post John. They’re doing some tribute Hovhaness concerts in Seattle, WA soon, his home town. Also, there’s a Hovhaness centennial site with a list of centenary celebrations and tribute concerts. http://www.hovhanesscentennial.com

  • John Rittmeyer

    Glad you liked it, and thanks for the link to the web site. That’s a great source of information about this fascinating composer.