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«Alan Hovhaness Folkish Piano Works»

Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) was one of the most original American composers of the 20th century. He had Armenian and Scottish roots, admired Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and later in his life explored the Armenian culture, had a life-long interest in the classical music of India, learned to play the sitar and studied Carnatic music in Madras and Japanese gagaku music in Hawaii. He has written over 60 symphonies and more than 400 opuses. His most famous work is «And God Created Great Whales» from 1970 for symphonic orchestra and recorded songs of humpback whales.

Swedish, Stockholm-based classically-trained pianist Mårten Landström has been a soloist in all the major Swedish symphony orchestras, was one of the founders of the experimental Peärls Before Swïne contemporary ensemble, and a member of the Gothenburg ensemble Gageego. He is also the pianist and ensemble leader of Norrbotten NEO since the start of the ensemble in 2007. In the last few years, he immersed himself with Hovhannes’s piano works. «Alan Hovhaness Folkish Piano Works» is the first of two volumes and will be followed later this year by «Visionary Landscapes».

Landström performs Hovhaness with natural authority, elegance and grace. The album begins with Hovhaness’ Armenian Period, the 1940s when he drew inspiration from Armenian folk music and traditional musical themes. The «12 Armenian Folk Songs» are a series of brief and playful piano miniatures, some of them are dance pieces, and most of them last a few dozen seconds, but all demand precise, virtuous performances. The earlier «Ghazals» compositions rely on the Middle-Eastern form of poem or ode and offer the lyrical and mystical veins of Hovhaness’ pioneer work.

The three movements of «Sonata op. 145» are less reverent pieces but highlights Hovhaness’ rich and inclusive language that keeps flowing between Western classical music and Eastern traditional forms. «Mystic Flute op.22» is another playful miniature for piano and the dramatic «Mountain Dance no.2 op.144b» relates to Macedonian dance tradition. The piano suite «Shalimar» from 1959 is Hovhaness’ homage to Kashmir and is one of his most beautiful compositions of Hovhaness. It is mysterious and spiritual, exotic and rhythmic, and integrating organically instrumental figurations of the East with modal harmony and structures of Western classical music. And, performed masterfully by Landström.

Eyal Hareuveni    

Mårten Landström (p)

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