Hovhaness: Guitar Concerto No. 2; Symphony No. 63

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

No qualms about the performances: Javier Calderón is a fine guitarist and he plays this very attractive four-movement work for solo plus strings extremely well. Similarly, conductor Stewart Robertson gets excellent results from his always proficient Scottish orchestra. The problems, such as they are, lie with the music. In the concerto there is a sameness to each of its four movements that is difficult to describe, but very evident when listening. There seems to be little difference in the feeling of movement between andante and allegro; the same textures permeate each movement, as do similar modal melodies and vaguely exotic harmonies. It’s pretty, but static.

This is also true of the symphony, the rather unfortunately named “Loon Lake”. With only two movements, it’s as long as the concerto (about 26 minutes). Most of the time is taken up by the second movement, a sort of rondo in which arabesques for woodwinds flecked by Hovhaness’ characteristic bell sounds alternate with a model hymn straight out of Vaughan Williams’ Tallis Fantasia. Eventually, these two elements begin to intermingle, but it takes an awfully long time, and each listener will have to decide if the music overstays its welcome. Of course, Hovhaness has an intensely characteristic style, but the devil is in the details: in the balance of elements and sense of timing. Fine as the performances are, it’s hard to make the case that these works find Hovhaness at his best.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: none

ALAN HOVHANESS - Guitar Concerto No. 2; Symphony No. 63 "Loon Lake"; Fanfare for the New Atlantis

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