Wayne Johnson

Piano Music of Alan Hovhaness

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Wayne Johnson's Piano Music of Alan Hovhaness covers a small portion of the composer's large body of keyboard works, but his selections are representative of every creative stage. As a Hovhaness scholar and as a personal friend, Johnson is qualified to render these piano pieces with insight and sympathy. Two mature works -- the Blue Job Mountain Sonata and Sonata Ananda -- stand out as the most coherent efforts since the imposition of even a loose sonata structure gives Hovhaness' poetic but meandering material shape and context. Without such a framework, his music often tends toward impressionistic washes. Such ephemera as Mystic Flute, Dance Ghazal, and Love Song Vanishing into Sounds of Crickets belong to this category of ambiguous and undisciplined tone painting. Hovhaness' Macedonian Mountain Dance and Mountain Dance No. 2 leave stronger impressions and are striking examples of his interest in his Armenian heritage. Reminiscent of early Bartók or Kodály, these brusque pieces have a strong ethnic flavor that makes them memorable. The most adventurous piece is the Fantasy, Op. 16, full of low rumblings, exotic scales, ringing bell sounds, and percussive playing on the piano's strings. These unusual effects were inspired by the Asian instruments and religious music that strongly influenced Hovhaness throughout his career.

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