Alan Hovhaness

Prolific American composer Alan Hovhaness, of Armenian and Scottish descent, was born Alan Vaness Chakmakjian in Somerville, Massachusetts on 8 March 1911. He was interested in music when very young, and wrote his first composition aged four.

Hovhaness was influenced deeply by nature. Mountains, in particular, became a recurring theme in the titles of his works, such as: Three Journeys to a Holy Mountain, Mysterious Mountain, To the Green Mountains, Mountains and Rivers without End and Two Macedonia Mountain Dances. Other influences were the philosophies and music of other countries, including China, Europe, Japan, Korea and Russia.

Significant influences were astronomy: an early fascination, Sibelius, who he befriended, and the music of Armenia and India.

Extremely self-critical, Hovhaness destroyed about a thousand early works, and was probably the most prolific composer since Haydn able to make a living entirely from writing music.

Music & Vision Magazine's Bill Newman met Hovhaness several times: 'He was a fabulous man, a wonderful composer and totally original. The Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz recording of the Mount St Helens Symphony took people by storm.'

Hovhaness died on 21 June 2000, aged eighty-nine, leaving more than five hundred works, including at least sixty-seven symphonies.


A selection of articles about Alan Hovhaness

CD Spotlight. Absolutely Enthralling - Music for brass and organ, strongly recommended by Gerald Fenech. 'Barbara Bruns and the Thompson Brass Ensemble give dazzling performances full of compelling virtuosity and brilliantly executed musical stunts that never fail to surprise ...'

CD Spotlight. Very Satisfying - Orchestral music by Alan Hovhaness, recommended by Geoff Pearce. '... an almost trance-like mysticism and beauty ...'

CD Spotlight. Natural Habitats? - Orchestral music by Alan Hovhaness, heard by Robert Anderson. '... the whole team under Stewart Robertson gives of their best ...'

Record Box. Curious and Evocative - Quarter-tone keyboard music played by Joshua Pierce, reviewed by Patric Standford