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IN MEMORY OF ALAN HOVHANESS (1911 - 2000) - PERSONAL MEMORIAL TRIBUTE


by Marvin Rosen, June 22, 2000

Last Evening, on June 21st, I received the phone call that I hoped would never come. It was from the gifted American composer and very dear friend Arnold Rosner.

He called to tell me that my musical idol, Alan Hovhaness, had passed away earlier in the day. I guess it was very apropos that the call would come from Dr. Rosner because both of us wrote our doctoral dissertations on the music of Hovhaness.

I can remember the first time I heard Dr. Hovhaness's music.
I was about 16 years old and I was listening to the Masterwork Hour on WNYC. All of a sudden a work for violin and string orchestra came out of the little speaker on my bedside radio. I don't remember what I was doing when the music started, but what I do remember is that I totally stopped what I was doing, paying special attention to the music, not knowing who wrote it. I can actually recall crying during part of this very spiritually moving music which turned out to be the Concerto No. 2 for Violin and String Orchestra.
Shortly after the above experience I was off to Trenton State College and played double bass in the orchestra. During my freshman year we did Hovhaness's Psalm and Fugue and I experienced the spiritual feeling as I had earlier in the Concerto. At this point I had to find out more about this American composer. I purchased the great Reiner recording of Mysterious Mountain as well as a number of recordings on the composer's own Poseidon label. Every piece I heard attached me more and more to the music by this truly great American composer.

Although I was a double bass player in my college orchestra I was a piano major and was beginning to purchase Hovhaness's piano works. I began actually studying his works for the keyboard in the mid 1970s and it was without a doubt some of the most unique and at the same time most beautiful music I had ever worked on. During this period I had also read about a recording of some of Hovhaness's piano music by the late William Masselos on the MGM label. Although I had the opportunity to hear this recording it took me literally years to find a copy for my own ever growing Hovhaness collection. If tapes were still available it would be great to see this recording reissued on CD along with the other magnificent early recordings of Hovhaness's music on MGM. Although these ancient records were hard to find, they were surely worth the hunt. Some of the highlights to me, in addition to the Masselos performances of the piano music, were of Alleluia and Fugue, the Viola Concerto Talin, the St. Vartan Symphony, the Celestial Fantasy, and the Concerto #2 for violin and strings mentioned earlier.

In January 1980 I met Hovhaness for the first time in New York after the world premiere performance of the Symphony #34. I was so excited to just shake his hand and thank him for his wonderful music. He was very cordial to me and signed my copy of his Madras Sonata for piano, a work that was commissioned by the Madras Academy of Music for their first concert of western music. After this very brief but friendly chat with Hovhaness I decided that I had to try to really get to meet him for an extended period of time. I had his address and wrote to him wondering if I would ever get an answer.
As a pianist who had by now played a number of his compositions I proposed that we get together so I could play some of his works for him. Literally 10 days after I mailed the letter to him I got a hand written reply. I could not believe that this composer whose music was so important to me answered my letter so quickly. He said that he would be very happy to hear me play his music. I was so excited and began to make plans to fly to visit him in Seattle where he lived. After a couple of correspondences I received a letter from him saying that he would be visiting New York and that we could have a meeting during his visit. I was ecstatic and had the crazy idea to invite him to my home in Princeton, New Jersey for dinner. I called the Hotel Wellington and asked to speak to Alan Hovhaness. I was very excited and also very nervous to say the least. When Dr. Hovhaness answered the phone I remember something happened to me inside. I invited him, his wife, and mother-in-law to dinner. They accepted!!

The date of our meeting was June 22, 1980 and will always be remembered as a high point in my life. The thing that was unbelievable was that after speaking to Hovhaness for just ten minutes I felt that I had known him for a good part of my life. He was such a friendly, down to earth human being. Before dinner, I played a number of works and he was very happy with my performances. In fact, we hit it off so well at the piano, my mother was literally forcing us to come up to eat dinner. She could not split us apart. We had so much to talk about and share with each other. After dinner, Hovhaness played a recently composed Sonata from his manuscript.
Anyway, about 11:00 PM it was time for my father and me to bring him and his family back to the Hotel in New York. Without a doubt this was a day that I was never going to forget!!!

My friendship with Hovhaness over the years became closer and closer. I made many trips up and down the east coast to hear premieres of new works and had dinner with him and his wife on a number of occasions. The most noteworthy meetings with the composer were the ones in his home in Seattle in May of 1992. At this time we went over all of the music that I was getting ready to record on my first CD of Hovhaness piano music.
I also had the opportunity to be present for the recording sessions with the Seattle Symphony of the Mount St. Helens Symphony that was being taped during my stay.

My wife whom I met in 1985 because of our common interest in Hovhaness's music was also very excited whenever we would all get together. I know that all of the meetings have meant much to her as well. It is truly amazing how much one person can affect one's life, even down to meeting one's spouse. Alan Hovhaness never, in all the years, had an unkind word to say to me. He was always warm and cordial. He was a sensitive man who loved cats. Even many, many years after his death, Hovhaness talked about his furry friend Rajah Hoyden whom he dedicated some of his music to.

There have been many new recordings of Hovhaness's works during the last eight years or so. For this, I am very grateful and hope that the music will continue to be exposed to the world not just in recordings, however, but also through many live performances. These are compositions that are very original but also very accessible and composed with the heart. Good old-fashioned melody can often be found in these pieces.
As a person who will probably be presenting Alan Hovhaness's works for the rest of my life, I can only hope that many others will share my love and sincere enthusiasm. Through exposure and dedication, this musical genius should be looked upon as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. He may not be alive in the traditional way now but his music of spiritual feeling will live on forever and ever making the world a more beautiful place for all of us who allow his musical message to enter into our lives.
God bless you Dr. Hovhaness. There will always be a special place for you in my heart and in the hearts of all of your admirers throughout the world.

Marvin Rosen

 

 

 

Radio program CLASSICAL DISCOVERIES hosted by pianist, Marvin Rosen on WPRB 103.3FM - Princeton, NJ, has supported the music of Alan Hovhaness from its beginning.

Alan & Marvin 80th birthday

On June 27, 2000 Classical Discoveries presented a special 5 hour radio program featuring the music of Alan Hovhaness:
06-27-2000
- HOVHANESS MEMORIAL TRIBUTE,

as well 5 hours Memorial Tribute at 5th Anniversary of composers death:
06-22-2005 - THE 5TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF AMERICAN COMPOSER ALAN HOVHANESS - MEMORIAL TRIBUTE

Marvin and Alan Hovhaness at 80TH Birthday celebration in New York

 

 

Every year the Classical Discoveries celebrates Hovhaness with a special programs devoted to his works (in March or June, around the composers birthday or death anniversary). See links below for the listing of programs:
02-29-2012 - ALAN HOVHANESS - 101TH BIRTHDAY
12-26-2010 - ALAN HOVHANESS - 100TH BIRTHDAY MARATHON - "MOUNTAINS AND RIVERS WITHOUT     END" - 24-HOUR LIVE WPRB RADIO BROADCAST
02-24-2010 - ALAN HOVHANESS - 99TH BIRTHDAY
06-26-2009 - HOVHANESS ON VINYL - MEMORIAL TRIBUTE
03-08-2007 - 2007 BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE
03-24-2006 - 95TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE
06-22-2005 - THE 5TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF AMERICAN COMPOSER ALAN HOVHANESS
03-15-2005 - 2005 BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE
03-01-2004 - 2004 BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE
03-05-2003 - 2003 BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE - A COLLECTORS HOVHANESS - only LPs recording never released on CDs
03-05-2002 - 2002 BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE
06-27-2000 - HOVHANESS MEMORIAL TRIBUTE

 

 

To find more about Alan Hovhaness go to:
ALAN HOVHANESS - most comprehensive website created by a fan of the Composer
ALAN HOVHANESS - A composer for our time - by Frank Perry
AN OVERVIEW OF THE MUSIC OF ALAN HOVHANESS ON CD - by Eric Kunze

You can also find on this website 2 pages devoted to Alan Hovhaness:
Marvin's Recordings and Tribute to Hovhaness

November 12, 2006 - YouTube - Gene De Lisa with Marvin Rosen on Hovhaness
Gene De Lisa with guest Marvin Rosen discuss American composer Alan Hovhaness before a Princeton Symphony Orchestra concert on November 12, 2006.

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Page updated: 07 -12 - 2014