"Alan Hovhaness (who passed away just a few weeks ago as of this writing) was an amazingly prolific composer, with literally hundreds of works to his credit. Some have unfairly complained that much of his music sounds alike, but I believe that it simply reflects his ultra-distinctive style, in which many thematic and stylistic elements return again and again. Any serious study of his work reveals an amazing variety from piece to piece, while all are linked by a comon reverence for the natural world.In that sense, ST HELENS SYMPHONY makes a wonderful "bookend" to his career with his other great "nature painting", MYSTERIOUS MOUNTAIN (check out the classic Reiner-CSO recording of that one). While the two works have much in common (even to the point of including some of the same sounds), there is a feeling of appropriateness since both describe a mystical mountain setting in its many moods.The difference, of course, is that this one includes an eruption at the end. As far as I know, this is the only piece of classical music ever written to commemorate a single real-life natural event (the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980). After two movements of "setting the mood", the third movement "volcano" bursts on the scene in a truly frightening (and sonically very satisying) rush of energy. It is an overwhelming listen, especially when the aural image of the mountain's restored dignity is asserted at the piece's end. Someday, future generations will remmeber the Mt. St. Helens eruption through this piece, and look back in wonder and awe. Thank you, Alan Hovhaness."
Turn down your amplifier...the third movement is starting!
Doc Sarvis | 05/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Alan Hovhaness was one of America's great cultural treasures and will be greatly missed. His Symphony No. 50 (opus 360, yes this is not a typo!) commemorates the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. While others may enjoy the aural spectacle of the bombastic third movement during which the volcano sonically erupts, I was particularly drawn to the two luminous movements preceding it...a striding, haunting memento in sound to the majesty of the mountain BEFORE the eruption and the sparkling allegro movement about neighboring Spirit Lake. The accompanying Symphony No. 22 (City of Light) has many memorable features, too. The symphonies are wonderfully played by the Seattle Symphony, the former under the direction of Gerard Schwarz and the latter by the composer himself. The "Mount St. Helens Symphony" has recently been re-issued in a Delos "Double" collection of Hovhaness's works (as "Hovhaness, Vol. 2"), which includes the "Mysterious Mountain" symphony and several other of the composer's greatest works performed mainly by the Seattle Symphony under Schwarz, all for the price of a single CD. This may be a better bargain for those wishing to sample a larger portion of this composer's glorious output."
Richard Jack | Regina,Sk.,Canada | 11/26/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a survivor of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines I found this disc rekindling many emotions. It is a powerful example of how music can effect you. Even my 2 year old says volcano every time he hears it. The rumbling sounds are similar to my experience and the sounds of debris falling are great. If you like the timpani effects you will love this recording."
The Don Wood Files | Fredericksburg, VA | 04/21/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What makes Hovhaness great? Certain patterns linger in the mind -the repeating phrases, over and over again (often in elegiac, minor keys) until the music flows into a kind of major chord bloom, where all the pieces come together and then 'morph' into something completely new. The skillful use of bass lines, always weaving. And, often, a lone trumpet. I think there is a lot of the loner in Hovhaness' music. (He himself was a loner on the American music scene, and proud of it. In an answer to a biographical survey for the American Music Center in 1949, he wrote in his own hand "It is best that no mention be made of my scholarships or education because my direction is completely away from the approved path of any of my teachers - thus the responsibility will be inflicted one no one but myself"). Above and beyond this is the magic, mystery and majesty of the natural world in Hovhaness' music. No where is this more true than in this CD."
patrick dubois | belgium | 04/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I heard for the very first time this symphony my cat ran out of my house, running like hell, when the volcano percussions burst out of the two loudspeakers. This is the first real narrative volcano eruption heard through music. This is, what I call : rhapsodic music ! Thank you Mr Hovhaness."