One incontrovertible fact about Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness is that he was an individualist. His idiosyncratic music, which eclectically incorporated Medieval through contemporary styles and procedures, as well as a variety of world musics, was put together in a way that blithely ignored the standard notions of what constituted good form or, sometimes, good taste. His deeply personal vision led him to produce at least one masterpiece, his Second Symphony, "Mysterious Mountain," but there is a broad spectrum of quality in his over 400 works, which include 67 symphonies. Mountains remained an ongoing source of inspiration, and at least 10 of his symphonies have names related to mountains. This album featuring fine performances by Trinity College of Music Wind Orchestra led by Keith Brion (their second release of Hovhaness symphonies for Naxos), includes three symphonies, two of which are mountain-themed. The symphonies are typical of Hovhaness in that they sound more like tone poems than symphonies, have a generally mystical tone, rely on lots of repetition, and incorporate an array of musical styles and techniques, including the extensive use of Western and non-Western modes, arcane Renaissance procedures, big swaths of gamelan-like percussion, and unabashedly sentimental chorales, all assembled with varying degrees of coherence and credibility. It's undeniably evocative program music, and reading the program notes helps considerably in appreciating what exactly is going on because it is not always evident from a purely musical standpoint. Not all of the composer's symphonies have been recorded, and this CD helps fill the gap; these are the first recordings of Symphony No. 7, "Nanga Parvat," and No. 14, "Ararat," and only the second recording of No. 23, "Ani." Naxos' sound is clean and clear, but nicely atmospheric. This CD should delight the composer's advocates and could be of interest to fans of 20th century music for symphonic band.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Symphony No. 7 'Nanga Parvat', Op. 178|
|Symphony No. 14 'Ararat', Op. 194|
|Symphony No. 23 'Ani', Op. 249|