Hovhaness, Alan

Portrait
Born: Mar 08, 1911 AD
Died: 2000 AD, at 89 years of age.

Nationality: American
Categories: Composers


1911 – He was born on the 8th day of March this year in Somerville, Massachusetts. He was among the most prolific composers of the 20th century, composing 67 symphonies and more than 400 opus numbers.

 

1916 - At the age of five, the family moved from Somerville to Arlington, Massachusetts.

 

1925 - By age 14, Hovhaness decided to devote himself to composition. Among his first and most important influences were the recordings of Gomidas Vartabed, a great Armenian composer who had lived through the Armenian Genocide.

 

1929 - Following his graduation from high school in this year, he studied with Leo Rich Lewis at Tufts and then the New England Conservatory of Music, under Frederick Converse.

 

1930 – His mother passed away on the 3rd day of October this year.  Upon his mother's death, he began to use the surname "Hovaness" in honor of his paternal grandfather, and changed it to "Hovhaness" around 1944.

 

1932 – He won the Conservatory's Samuel Endicott prize for composition, for a symphonic work entitled Sunset Symphony (elsewhere entitled Sunset Saga).

 

1934 – In July of this year, he and his first wife, Martha Mott Davis traveled to Finland to meet the composer Jean Sibelius, whose music he had greatly admired since childhood. The two remained in correspondence for the next twenty years.

 

1936 – He attended a performance in Boston by the Indian dance troupe of Uday Shankar (with orchestra led by Vishnudas Shirali), which began the composer's lifelong interest in the music of India.

 

1942 – He won a scholarship at Tanglewood to study in Bohuslav Martino's master class. However, Martino had a serious fall in the early summer which made it impossible for him to teach. Instead, the composer's seminar which Hovhaness attended was led by Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein.

 

1948 - He joined the faculty of the Boston Conservatory, teaching there until 1951. His students there included the jazz musicians Sam Rivers and Gigi Gryce.

 

1951 – He moved to New York City, where he took up composing full-time. Also that year, he worked at the Voice of America, first as a script writer for the Armenian Section, then as Director of Music, composer, and musical consultant for the Near East and Trans-Caucasian section. He was also inducted into the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

 

1954 – He wrote the score for the Broadway play The Flowering Peach by Clifford Odets, a ballet for Martha Graham (Ardent Song, 1954), and two scores for NBC documentaries on India and Southeast Asia (1955 and 1957). Also during the 1950s, he composed for productions at The Living Theatre.

 

1955 - His biggest breakthrough to date came in this year when his Symphony No. 2, Mysterious Mountain, was premiered by Leopold Stokowski in his debut with the Houston Symphony.

 

1958 – He received honorary D.Mus. Degrees from the University of Rochester in this year.

 

1959 – From this year through 1963, he conducted a series of research trips to India, Hawaii, Japan, and South Korea, investigating the ancient traditional musics of these nations and eventually integrating elements of these into his own compositions.

 

1963 – He composed his second ballet score for Martha Graham, entitled Circe.

 

1965 – He visited Armenia (then under Soviet control); the only time during his life that he would visit his ancestral homeland.

 

1981 - Continuing his interest in composing for Asian instruments, in this year, at the request of Lou Harrison, he composed two works for Indonesian gamelan orchestra, which were premiered by the gamelan of Lewis & Clark College, under the direction of Vincent McDermott.

 

2000 – He died on the 21st day of June this year.

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