Gerard Schwarz, conductor
Seattle Symphony

“With their reflections of Nature, the spiritual, and the oriental, the symphonies of Alan Hovhaness are rapidly acquiring cult status.” – CD Review (UK)

Mysterious Mountain is probably Hovhaness’ most famous symphonic work; And God Created Great Whales features some of the most majestic soloists ever recorded: humpbacked whales. It is clear that Hovhaness’ music is finally finding a wider audience. This American mystic has long been a part of the international fabric, but has been waiting many decades for the extended recognition which is now coming to him. Certainly the symphonic sound stage that recording engineer John Eargle has established allows Hovhaness’ music to be heard in a dimension never before available. For this album, everything was recorded 20-bit, and transferred in CD mastering via a 20-to-16-bit noise-shaping process. Mr. Hovhaness was present for the recording sessions, as he was for the Mount St. Helens recording. His emotion at hearing his music realized by Schwarz, Seattle, and the Delos team was evident to all in the sessions for both discs.

Comments from the Composer
“Mountains are symbols, like pyramids, of man’s attempt to know God. Mountains are symbolic meeting places between the mundane and spiritual worlds. To some, the Mysterious Mountain may be the phantom peak, unmeasured, thought to be higher than Everest, as seen from great distances by fliers in Tibet. To some, it may be the solitary mountain, the tower of strength over a countryside – Fujiyama, Ararat, Monadnock, Shasta, or Grand Teton.” (Mysterious Mountain) “Free rhythmless vibrational passages, each string player playing independently, suggest waves in a vast ocean sky. Undersea mountains rise and fall in horns, trombones, and tuba. Music of whales also rises and falls like mountain ranges. Song of whale emerges like a giant mythical sea bird. Man does not exist, has not yet been born in the solemn oneness of Nature.” (And God Created Great Whales) – Alan Hovhaness

Press Commentary

CD Review (UK): “A marvellous introduction to the work of this multi-faceted composer. Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony offer a searching, introspective interperetation of the works in hand… Unmissable for Hovhaness’ masterpiece And God Created Great Whales, which incorporates the song of the humpbacked whale to stunning effect… Full of golden moments from a composer who is not ashamed to speak to ordinary music lovers. Seek and buy!”

Classic CD: “After the successes of Gorecki, Tavener and the various modern mystical composers, it is high time that the music of Alan Hovhaness was given a chance… Schwarz has the two best-known of Hovhaness’ pieces together, Mysterious Mountain and the extraordinary concerto for orchestra, and the voices of whales – prerecorded of course – of And God created Great Whales. Both these pieces have been recorded previously, but the Delos disc is superior in sound quality.”

American Record Guide: “A comparison to the Reiner recording is required of the critic. It was a great recording, and has served us well for 35 years, but perhaps it is time to retire it. First of all, the sound here is just beautiful. The Reiner sounded good but not this good. The Chicago strings don’t have the sweetness of Seattle’s and I think that is more than sound engineering; I think it’s Seattle’s superior strings. They certainly sound ethereal in this music, and that makes the Chicago ones seem even more earthbound. The faster tempos seem to serve the music, making it speak whole sentences instead of stream-of consciousness. None of the mystery of the opening movement is lost, but a certain rapt fascination is added. There’s never been anything wrong with the Reiner, but it can’t stand up next to something this good. “Delos has filled the rest of the disc with some of this composer’s best music. Certainly Delos and Seattle have made a wonderful thing of their continuing partnership. They are now producing discs like this one, on the highest possible artistic and technical level. I wish Delos a lot of sales so they can double their Seattle recording schedule. What they are doing is a lot more interesting than what is being recorded in Boston, New York, or Philadelphia.”

In Tune: “It’s good to see the music of Alan Hovhaness returning to wide public attention again. His is an utterly original, inventive style of nobility, free of pretense. Hovhaness’ insistence on simplicity and his love of tonal modality obscured his worth during the 1970s and 1980s when complexity was all the rage. I dare say the new disc will sell like hotcakes, for it represents fine performances in sensational 20-bit sound. It is also the first to gather so much of the best Hovhaness creations onto a single disc. “Schwarz gets a splendid performance, but cares more about inner depth of spirit than in showing off his virtuoso orchestra. All these works have had previous versions, but few are better played and none recorded with anywhere near the sonic splendor of the new Delos release.”

Vox (UK): “This new disc offers a compelling coupling of his oldest surviving work, 1933’s Second Symphony, and his newest piece, And God Created Great Whales, a haunting marriage of symphony orchestra and humpback whales as well as a quartet of short pieces that describe sublime, almost transcendental, states of mind… An essential purchase.”

Gramophone: “If Gorecki, why not Hovhaness, one begins to ask, and there is something of the same flavour in this obviously dedicated music… The obvious dedication behind the performance, a quality which marks the playing of the Seattle symphony under Gerard Schwarz in all the works here. The recording too is full and atmospheric. Who knows, lightning might strike again, just as it did with Gorecki’s Third Symphony.”

1. Mysterious Mountain (Symphony No. 2) * Andante con Moto * Double Fugue * Andante Espressivo
2. Prayer of St. Gregory
3. Prelude and Quadruple Fugue
4. And God Created Great Whales
5. Alleluia and Fugue
6. Celestial Fantasy