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Alan Hovhaness

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Alan Hovhaness (March 8, 1911 – June 21, 2000) was an American composer of Armenian and Scottish descent.

His music is accessible to the lay listener and often evokes a mood of mystery or contemplation. The Boston Globe music critic Richard Buell wrote: “Although he has been stereotyped as a self-consciously Armenian composer (rather as Ernest Bloch is seen as a Jewish composer), his output assimilates the music of many cultures. What may be most American about all of it is the way it turns its materials into a kind of exoticism. The atmosphere is hushed, reverential, mystical, nostalgic.”

He was among the most prolific composers of the 20th century, composing 67 symphonies and more than 400 opus numbers.[1]

He was born as Alan Vaness Chakmakjian in Somerville, Massachusetts to Haroutioun Hovanes Chakmakjian (an Armenian chemistry professor at Tufts College who had been born in Adana, Turkey) and Madeleine Scott (an American woman of Scottish and English descent who had graduated from Wellesley College). At the age of five, the family moved from Somerville to Arlington, Massachusetts. Upon his mother’s death (October 3, 1930), he began to use the surname “Hovaness” in honor of his paternal grandfather, and changed it to “Hovhaness” around 1944. The name change reflected increased pride in his Armenian heritage, something that had earlier been discouraged by his mother. Alan was interested in music from a very early age, writing his first composition at the age of four after being inspired by hearing a song of Franz Schubert. This first attempt at composition, a cantata in the early Italian style, was poorly received by his family, so he decided at this time to pursue astronomy, another of his early loves.

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  • meginrunar

    What wonderful music!

    28 Jun 6:05pm Reply
  • noiresque

    Can anyone rec the best recording of Alleluia and Fugue?

    17 Oct 2012 Reply
  • fearimpaired

    I only want to collect all his works available! :(

    13 Oct 2012 Reply
  • fearimpaired

    My favorite classical composer ever! And he will always remain one, I'm sure.

    13 Oct 2012 Reply
  • gwalla

    The Saint Vartan Symphony is seriously amazing.

    19 May 2012 Reply
  • STOYOTS

    Does anyone have "Spirit Murmur" and would be able to upload it for me? I can't find it anywhere

    17 Feb 2012 Reply
  • fearimpaired

    I ask other listeners of Hovhaness to tag him with "armenian", not only for his origins, but also for many of his works which are based on Armenian music and themes, most obviously "Achtamar", "Kohar", "Khrimian Hayrig", "Tzaikerk", "Prayer of Saint Gregory", "Lousadzak" etc. :)))

    1 Nov 2011 Reply
  • Rainman45

    Symphony No. 2, Op. 132 "Mysterious Mountain" is good)

    30 Jul 2011 Reply
  • akglumstubble

    "His music is accessible to the lay listener and often evokes a mood of mystery or contemplation."...as opposed to the high priesthood of initiated music scholars. Truly damning with faint praise.

    12 May 2011 Reply
  • Topographic23

    His music should have been used more in movies...especially the big 'epic' movies. It was perfect for that kind of art.

    19 Apr 2010 Reply
  • Phil-between

    And God Created Great Whales gives me gooseflesh... Hovhaness and Harrison should be canonized.

    20 Dec 2009 Reply
  • Organbook

    Interesting comment StDionysus. Seems Hovhaness himself was anti-elitist. The biography at the alan Hovhaness site strongly implies that he fought against elitist criticism most of his life. So I guess hovhaness got the last laugh, in that he antisipated musical attitudes from audiences were changing.

    8 Nov 2009 Reply
  • StDionysus

    "His music is accessible to the lay listener and often evokes a mood of mystery or contemplation." most elitist description ever.

    9 May 2009 Reply

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