This week I offer you an extended musical work, partly in resonance with the celebration of Earth Day.
American composer Alan Hovhannes grew up in affluent Boston and found musical champions in the burgeoning orchestral world of Boston and New York. His second symphony, titled ‘Mysterious Mountain’ was commissioned by Leopold Stokowski. Composed in 1955, the piece was labeled “accessible” by the critics, a virtual death-knell for composers in the 21st century, but the work’s lush harmonies were a stark contrast to 12-tone and avant garde music of the 1950s and critics seemed relieved to experience music that welcomed them instead of making them work for their pay…and the audiences did too. This symphony has become Hovhannes’ most recorded work.
Hovhannes travelled extensively in the later half of the 20th century, as a Fulbright Scholar in India and as an established composer in Japan. His later music reflects these Eastern influences but his aim thorough out his career was this: “My purpose is to create music not for snobs, but for all people, music which is beautiful and healing. To attempt what old Chinese painters called ‘spirit resonance’ in melody and sound.”
The music is beautiful, and mysterious in places. I would love to listen to it at the top of a mountain.
Mysterious Mountain (Symphony No. 2)