Hovhaness Symphony No 63; Guitar Concerto No 2
Following guitarist David Leisner’s superb account of Alan Hovhaness’s First Guitar Concerto, also for Naxos, comes an equally fine recording of the composer’s Concerto No 2 for guitar and strings, this time by the dedicatee of the earlier work, Bolivian-born guitarist Javier Calderón.
The Second Concerto was commissioned by the great Narciso Yepes in 1985 but wasn’t premiered until 1990, shortly before Yepes’s death. It’s classic Hovhaness, with numerous hymn-like passages for the strings contrasted with lively pizzicato sections and fugal textures; the guitar meanwhile rejoices in puckish, modally rich dances enlivened by frequent changes of time signature and broad cantorial utterances. Calderón’s playing is tonally refined and rhythmically supple, qualities which are best savoured in his own third-movement cadenza.
The disc opens with Hovhaness’s Fanfare for the New Atlantis, in which a slumbering orchestra gradually awakens to the call of a solo trumpet before rushing strings, rumbling timpani and bold brass chords bring the work to a thrilling, Wagnerian climax as the lost city of Atlantis rises anew from the waves. The Symphony No 63, Loon Lake, which closes the disc, was commissioned by the New Hampshire Music Festival and the Loon Preservation Society in 1987. Here, songs both avian and pastoral for a multitude of wind soloists punctuate a luminous, if occasionally overcast, orchestral skyscape.
The RSNO under Stewart Robertson is excellent throughout; good recorded sound and notes by Hovhaness’s widow Hinako Fugihara Hovhaness further enhance what is another excellent release in Naxos’s American Classics series.