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CD Review

Mysterious Mountain

20th-Century Symphonies

* Keith Jarrett, piano
American Composers Orchestra/Dennis Russell Davies
Nimbus NI2512 67m DDD

This beautiful and timely disc celebrates two contemporary American composers that have many similarities. Both lived on the West Coast and they were also near contemporaries. Hovhaness was born in 1911, Harrison six years later. The two share a fascination with cultures that are outside the mainstream and both form a strong attraction towards mysticism, and above all, their music always leans heavily towards melody.

Hovhaness' Second dates from 1955, and the subtitle "Mysterious Mountain" is the composers' own invention, an obvious tribute to the composer's love for all that is mountainous and despite its brevity evokes great spectacle. "Lousadzk" means "Dawn of Light" and was written in 1945. It was planned as a one-movement concerto but in the end, it worked out as a symphonic piece where the soloist is given ample chance to shine and demonstrate technical bravura.

Harrison's "Elegiac" was completed in 1975, a quarter of a century after the first sketches. Dedicated to Serge Koussevitzky, the work is in five movements, and imparts a constantly evolving spiritual impasse. An interesting feature of the composition is the inclusion of movement titles which are meant to assist the listener in comprehending his message.

Russell Davies and his orchestra are completely attuned to these fine works and their interpretations smack of authority and intense commitment. More works from this source recently refurbished on the enterprising Nimbus label are eagerly awaited.

Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech