Hovhaness, Alan


Prolific 20th century Armenian-American composer of 67+ symphonies



Autograph ID: 2857
Condition: Very good
Description: “(1911-2000) Armenian/Scottish-American composer, one of most prolific of 20th century composers with 67 numbered symphonies (surviving manuscripts indicate over 70) and 434 opus numbers. Wrote first composition at 4, fascination with astronomy remained with him his entire life with many works titled after various planets and stars. Wrote 2 operas in his teenage years, in 1932 won New England Conservatory's Samuel Endicott prize for composition. Became interested in Armenian culture and music in 1940 as organist for St. James Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, Mass. In 1941 devoted himself to Armenian subject matter with modes distinctive to Armenian music, and continued for several years, achieving some renown and support of other musicians, inc. John Cage and Martha Graham, while continuing as church organist. He also had a strong interest in Indian classical music, and brought well known Indian musicians to Boston. In the mid-1940s Hovhaness was helped considerably by the NYC immigrant Armenian community who sponsored several high-profile concerts of his music. Their help led directly to many recordings of Hovhaness' music in the 50s on MGM and Mercury records, placing him firmly on the American musical landscape. In 1951, he moved to NYC, composing full-time, branching out from Armenian music, adopting styles and material from a variety of sources. In 1953 & 1954, received Guggenheim Fellowships in composition. In 1954 he wrote the score for Clifford Odets’ Broadway play The Flowering Peach, a ballet for Martha Graham (Ardent Song, 1954), and two scores for NBC documentaries on India and Southeast Asia (1955 & 1957). During the 50s, composed for productions at The Living Theatre. Biggest breakthrough came in 1955 when his Symphony No. 2, Mysterious Mountain, premiered by Stokowski in his Houston Symphony debut. From 1956-58, at urging of Howard Hanson (admirer of his music), taught summers at Eastman School of Music. In 1963, composed 2nd ballet score for Martha Graham, Circe. In 1965, visited Armenia (under Soviet control), his only visit to his ancestral homeland. In 1970, Hovhaness wrote And God Created Great whales with recorded humpback whale voices, in 1973 his 3rd and final ballet score for Martha Graham, Myth of a Voyage, and from 1973-92, produced no fewer than 37 new symphonies. Carl Sagan’s 1980 PBS series Cosmos featured his music. ”

Type: Letter

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