The Choirs and Orchestra of St. John’s Cathedral, Denver
Donald Pearson, conductor
Eric Plutz, organ

A rare opportunity to hear choral music by “American Mystic” Alan Hovhaness. A haunting blend of Eastern and Western style. A John Eargle sonic spectacular in Surround Sound Delos’ best-selling Hovhaness series – a series which could be called “The Essential Hovhaness,” offers the composer’s most significant works (a view shared by Mr. Hovhaness himself). There has, however, been one “essential” work missing in this series: the much-requested “Magnificat.” Hovhaness shows us another side of his spirituality in “Magnificat,” of which he says “I have tried to suggest the mystery, inspiration, and mysticism of early Christianity in this work.” His blend of Eastern and Western styles allows him to suggest the Near Eastern and Orthodox elements of early Christianity in this music, which is as haunting, as mesmerizing as we’ve come to expect from Hovhaness – perhaps even more so with its chant-like vocal lines. The 23rd Psalm, from the Symphony No. 12, will be a surprise to many, as it echoes the Near Eastern roots of its text. The remainder of the program offers a capella and organ-accompanied anthems which also reflect Mr. Hovhaness’ special view of religious inspiration – an inspiration he shares with fellow bestselling composers Taverner, Part and Gorecki. The “Magnificat” is the 4th release on Delos featuring the St. John’s Cathedral Choirs conducted by their Music Director Donald Pearson.

Robert Whitney, The Choral Review: Following its premiere in 1959, Alan Hovhaness’ “Magnificat” for four soloists, chorus, and orchestra enjoyed a long period of popularity, especially among college and community choirs. Its accessible yet “modern” idiom melodic passages, big chords moving in parallel, and sections where rhythm and melody were liberated from the confines of meter and tempo, brought the singers in touch with identifiable new music that also was audience friendly. If you think I am crazy, or you just love this music anyway, the Delos recording is far superior to the Crystal release. The latter recording suffers from very poor sound (close, lack of depth, no sense of space), some rough editing, and only average performances. While the Louisville forces present an earnest and transcendent vision of the work, Donald Pearson and his St. John’s performers take a more refined, even reverent approach that revels more in the sheer sound of the harmonies and the spin and spiral of the melismatic passage.

Alan Hovhaness:

Magnificat, Op. 157 [29:15]
I. Celestial Fanfare (1:50)
II. Magnificat (2:01)
III. Et Exsultavit (1:43)
IV. Quia Respexit (1:48)
V. Omnes Generationes (1:06)
VI. Quia Fecit Mihi Magna (2:05)
VII. Et Misericordia (1:45)
VIII. Fecit Potentiam (2:29)
IX. Esurientes Implevit Bonis (2:17)
X. Suscepit Israel (0:55)
XI. Sicut Locutus Est (5:03)
XII. Gloria Patri (6:13)

Psalm 23 – Cantata from Symphony No. 12, Op. 188 [9:52]
I. The Lord is my Shepherd (Psalm 23:1-3) [mountain waterfall ad lib] (4:58)
II. Thou Preparest a Table (Psalm 23: 5,6) (4:54)

A Rose Tree Blossoms, Op. 246, No. 4 (2:13)

Jesus, Lover of my Soul, Op. 53b (3:18)

Jesus Christ is Risen Today, Op. 100, No. 3b (1:42)

The Lord’s Prayer, Op. 35 (3:27)

Peace be Multiplied, Op. 259, No. 1 (2:30)

O For a Shout of Sacred Joy, Op. 161 (2:38)

Out of the Depths, Op. 142, No. 3 (2:28)

O God, our Help in Ages Past, Op. 137 (2:57)