Hovhaness: Love songs of Hafiz; Dawn at Laona; Three Odes of Solomon,

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COMPOSERS: Hovhaness
LABELS: Crystal
WORKS: Love songs of Hafiz; Dawn at Laona; Three Odes of Solomon,
PERFORMER: Ara Berberian (bass) Alan Hovhaness (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 815 ADD Reissue (1970)
This collection was first issued around 1970, and has been transferred from the original LP, the master tape having gone missing. Though it has been taken up by a number of prominent musicians (notably Stokowski), Hovhaness’s music has won the affection of a small band of loyal devotees rather than the wider public. It’s fundamentally naïve in conception, with a few harmonic and textural frills adding spice to sparse textures and melodies notable for a strong suggestion of various folk influences. Though born in America, Hovhaness showed considerable interest in his Armenian roots, as well as later studying the musical cultures of India, Japan and Korea. His songs, quite a few of which set the composer’s own texts, reflect his keen interest in the exotic and the spiritual (as in the Three Odes of Solomon, which include a version of Psalm 130) and sometimes, particularly in the Love Songs of Hafiz, mine a vein of sensuality. But a little goes a long way, with the same melodic and textural procedures cropping up again and again. Both words and notes find a worthy interpreter in the rich and resonant bass of Ara Berberian. The composer, who died last year aged 89, accompanies effectively. George Hall

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