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Monday, April 26, 2021

Alan Hovhaness, Selected Piano Compositions, Sahan Arzruni


I count myself fortunate that when I was first getting myself into classical music seriously I stumbled on to a cutout LP of Hovhaness's Lousadzak on Wergo, the Ajemian recording,  without knowing anything about it. I bought it and it started in me a lifelong love for the composer and Armenian music in general. The minor mode and distinctive melodic brilliance still give me great pleasure, whether it is classical composers in that vein or "Folk" songs. I love it all. And of course Hovhaness is special in his own right.

So when I heard there was a new volume of mostly unknown Hovhaness piano works out I arranged to get a review copy ASAP. It arrived and I am here to report in. The pianist is Sahan Arzuni. The album is beautifully produced with a booklet and box design that stands out. It is simply titled Selected Piano Compositions (Kalan 733).

Arzruni was a close friend of the composer and ended up with a sizable stack of unpublished Hovhaness works in manuscript by the time of Alan's death in 2000. The CD at hand consists almost solely of world premier recordings, of solo piano works from that stack. The album came out in 2019 but was not widely distributed then. Now it is readily available on Amazon.

The works all reflect to a lesser or greater extent Hovhaness's love for the Armenian melodic-tonal world. A number of pieces at the beginning and the end of the program include a percussion part, nicely played by Adam Rosenblatt. The remaining middle cluster of these 34 movements or short works are for piano alone. Nothing is superfluous here. All are excellent Hovhaness and so very much a treasure trove. That fact and the wonderful sympathy Arzruni brings to this music makes for an ideal circumstance, a celebration of Hovhaness for all who love his music or for that matter a wonderful introduction for anyone who does not!

My strongest recommendation I give to this one. Wow!

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