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CD reviews

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Alessandra Pompili delivers more Hovhaness gems


Most folks know Alan Hovhaness' music -- if they know it at all -- only know through his Second Symphony. As beautiful as "Mysterious Mountain" is, there's much more to this composer's catalogue.

Hovhaness wrote over 500 works (including 67 symphonies). Among them are about seventy works for piano. Alessandra Pompili is committed to recording all of them.

This release is the second in the series. It includes three major piano compositions, plus three shorter pieces. The works cover about three decades and are remarkably consistent.

Komachi, Op. 249 was inspired by the legendary Japanese poetess of the same name, and by nature. This seven-movement piece has a simple delicacy. The texture is very thin - often just a single-line melody. Hovhaness manages to capture the essence of Asian music while still writing in his own voice.

Greek Rhapsody No. 1, Op. 63 is an early work. Hovhaness completed it in 1944 when he completely reinvented his style. The melody sounds Grecian and is given a mostly monophonic treatment. This free-flowing rhapsody that entices with its improvisatory beauty.

Hovhaness' 1981 Piano Sonata, Op. 354 is a major work and is over twenty minutes in length. But don't expect a traditional sonata-allegro four-movement structure. The subtitle "Journey to Arcturus" provides the context. This is about moving from one destination to another. As the work does over the course of its six movements.

Hovhaness was a pianist, but one with a unique idea of what piano music should be. Alessandra Pompili gives us Hovhaness' vision in her performances. Her playing is expressive and fluid. An excellent recording. Highly recommended for anyone wanting a fuller understanding of Alan Hovhaness' music.

Ralph Graves

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