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NICCOLO ATHENS: A STUDY OF SHARED THEMES IN THE WORKS OF ALAN HOVHANESS

Composer Niccolo Athens has kindly sent us his ongoing study of Alan Hovhaness' use of shared thematic material among his compositions. This is a fascinating documentation, perhaps of a "life-leitmotif" running through Hovhaness' vast output. Hopefully, it is food for thought, encouraging further scholarship and observations.

We thank Mr. Athens for his generosity in sharing his work with us.


Shared Thematic Material in the Music of Alan Hovhaness

Alan Hovhaness was a composer who was in the habit of constantly borrowing melodies from himself and reworking earlier works in new ways. While most examples of this that I have found took place in his pre 1970’s compositional period, he continued the practice throughout his life. He made mention of this same habit in Handel, a composer he greatly admired. Often it seems that he wished to give melodies he thought especially deserving a grander and nobler casting so that they might have a wider audience. This certainly seems to be the case with such titanic monothematic works as Fra Angelico and Floating World (Ukiyo), whose main themes were both present in the tiny Suite for English Horn and Bassoon of 1933. This work seems to have been a veritable melodic treasure trove for Hovhaness; the piece shares themes with no less than six other works.

At other times, entire sections of music were arranged and expanded in other pieces. It was in this way that all of the String Quartet No. 1 ‘Jupiter’ save one small slow movement made it into other works. Much of the Missa Brevis was treated in the same way. Sometimes, however, the references can be startlingly obscure and brief. For instance, Hovhaness lifted a seemingly insignificant little tune for use in Symphony No. 53 ‘Star Dawn’ from a piano piece of the same name he had written 50 years earlier!

The list below contains all the examples of this thematic borrowing that I have so far encountered while chasing down much of Hovhaness’ music. I hope it will be of interest and that listeners will be able to explore these relationships themselves. While there are many examples here, I am sure that the list is by no means complete. I would welcome any additions: they can be sent to me at nda@juilliard.edu.

There is sometimes difficulty in determining when material was first created. Because of the amount of music that was destroyed or remains unpublished, there is no way to tell if the first surviving work containing a given melody was also its first genesis. In the case of a composer like Hovhaness, whose entire inspiration seemed to exist in an elevated sphere from which he could pluck (and re-pluck!) melodies at will, it is possible that some of them had been floating around in his head since he was a very young man until he found a suitable use for them. On top of this, many of the earlier works are numbered out of chronological order.

In order to be consistent, I have listed all the works with shared material in order of opus number only, with earlier unnumbered works at the beginning listed by date of composition. A description of the thematic relationship can be found next to the earliest numbered work in which the shared material occurs, while the listing for a later example directs back to the earliest one.

Finally, I would like to thank Martin Berkofsky and Marco Shirodkar for their help in assembling this list by providing me with materials for study as well as with their own insight.

List of Thematic References

- (1933, no Opus listing) The Sea Angel (Piano and Narrator) – chorale theme at bar 10 reused as theme A of first Mov. in Op. 186, Symphony No. 11 ‘All Men are Brothers’

- (1933, no Opus listing) Saga No. III (Piano) material from Part II reused in Op. 17 No. 2, Symphony No. 1 ‘Exile’ second Mov. (original discarded version)

- (1933, no Opus listing) Eight Sketches (Piano) material at first Allegro in No. VII reworked in Op. 6 No. 1, Toccata and Fugue (Piano) original discarded version of Toccata

- (1933, no Opus listing) Star Dawn (Piano) opening melody reused in Op. 377, Symphony No. 53 ‘Star Dawn’ first Mov. 3:10 in the naxos recording (Measure #?)

- (1936, no Opus listing) Lament (song) – reworked into Op. 180, Symphony No. 9 ‘St. Vartan’ Mov. 14 ‘Death Vartan’

-(1942, no Opus listing) Symphony No. 2 (discarded), second Mov. theme used in Op. 117, Concerto No. 8 for Orchestra second Mov., and third Mov. theme used in Op. 236, Symphony No. 22 ‘City of Light’ fourth Mov.

-Op. 4, Missa Brevis, Kyrie and Dona Nobis Pacem reworked into Op. 44, Celestial Fantasy (String Orchestra), fugue subject from Sanctus is shared by Op. 158, Look Toward the Sea (cantata), No. 11 (final fugue)

-Op. 6 No. 1, Toccata and Fugue (Piano) – see Eight Sketches, 1933

-Op. 8, String Quartet No. 1 ‘Jupiter’ Mov. I and II reworked into Op. 128, Prelude and Quadruple Fugue (Orchestra), Mov. IV reworked into Op. 132, Symphony No. 2 ‘Mysterious Mountain’ second section of second Mov.

-Op. 14, Tapor for band, expanded and reworked into Mov. IV of Op. 199, Symphony No. 15 ‘Silver Pilgrimage’

-Op. 17 No. 1, Concerto for Cello and Orchestra – second Mov. theme shared by Op. 21, Suite for English Horn and Bassoon, second Mov. and by Op. 245, The Garden of Adonis, Mov. 5

-Op. 17 No. 2, Symphony No. 1 ‘Exile’ chorale theme in third Mov. transformed into Op. 137 O God Our Help in Ages Past (Hymn) – see Saga No. III (1933)

-Op. 21, Suite for English Horn and Bassoon first Mov. theme shared by Op. 220, Fra Angelico (orchestra), Op. 221, Adoration, and Op. 222 ‘Praise the Lord with Psaltery’ (cantata); second Mov. - see Op. 17 No. 1, Concerto for Cello and Orchestra; third Mov. theme shared by Op. 36, Ghazal No. 1 and Op. 209, Floating World (Ukiyo)

-Op. 25, Lament for clarinet, used in its entirety at Reh. 80 in Op. 217, Symphony No. 19 ‘Vishnu’

Op. 32, Starlight of Noon (Song), worked into the piano part in Mov. III of Op. 75, Sosi (piano concerto)

-Op. 33, Love Songs of Hafiz (Song Cycle, later revised version), Introduction to No. VII ‘Where Is My Beloved?’ is identical to the Mov. 1 coda of Op. 177, Shalimar

-Op. 34, Watchman Tell us of the Night (song) worked into Op. 356, Symphony No. 49 ‘Christmas Symphony’ fourth Mov.

-Op. 36, Ghazal No. 1 – see Op. 21, Suite for English Horn and Bassoon

-Op. 37a, Dance Ghazal reworked as the third Mov. of Op. 236, Symphony No. 22 ‘City of Light’

-Op. 40b, Alleluia and Fugue ‘Alleluia’ reworked into Op. 305, Celestial Canticle fourth movement ‘Alleluia’

-Op. 43, 12 Armenian Folksongs Nos. II, VI, VII, and XII compiled for use in Op. 45, Armenian Rhapsody No. 1

-Op. 44, Celestial Fantasy – see Op. 4, Missa Brevis

-Op. 45, Armenian Rhapsody No. 1 – see Op. 43

-Op. 49, Khrimian Hairig reworked in Op. 213, Return and Rebuild the Desolate Places second Mov., and into the coda of Mov. VIII of Op. 125, Suite from the Flowering Peach

-Op. 57, Anahid, florid wind melody at Reh. 9 also used in Mov. I of Op. 89, Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Strings

-Op. 66 No. 2, Agori, melismatic English horn melody quoted in Mov. III of Op. 93 No. 1, Talin

-Op. 65, Avak the Healer, the coda of the fifth Mov. ‘Strangeness’ reused in Op. 157, Magnificat as coda of the Gloria Patri 9 before Reh. 70

-Op. 71, Haroutiun (aria and fugue) material from first Mov. shared by Op. 155, Meditation on Orpheus at seven after Reh. 15

-Op. 75, Sosi (piano concerto), see Op. 32, Starlight of Noon (song)

-Op. 89, Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Strings, see Op. 57, Anahid

-Op. 93 No. 1., Talin, see Op. 66 No. 2, Agori

-Op. 93 No. 2, I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes (Cantata), two sections included in Op. 249, Symphony No. 23, ‘Ani’, opening nine bars of the cantata used at Reh. 41 in Mov. III in Ani, and fugal finale reh. 17 in Mov. III arranged in its entirety at Reh. 52 in Mov. III in Ani

- Op. 117, Concerto No. 8 for Orchestra, see Symphony No. 2 (discarded) (1942)

-Op. 125, Suite from the Flowering Peach, see Khrimian Hairig, Op. 49

-Op. 127, Sonata for Harp, opening theme from Mov. III reused in Op. 346, Piano Sonata ‘Prospect Hill,’ Mov. III

-Op. 128, Prelude and Quadruple Fugue (Orchestra) – see Op. 8, String Quartet No. 1 ‘Jupiter’

-Op. 132, Symphony No. 2 ‘Mysterious Mountain’ – see Op. 8, String Quartet No. 1 ‘Jupiter’

-Op. 136, Ko-ola-u shares a main theme with Op. 229, And God Created Great Whales

- Op. 137 O God Our Help in Ages Past (Hymn) – see Op. 17 No. 2, Symphony No. 1 ‘Exile’

-Op. 147 String Quartet No. 2, Melody from ‘Gamelan in Sosi Style’ reused in Op. 203 Symphony No. 16

-Op. 155, Meditation on Orpheus – see Op. 71, Haroutiun (aria and fugue)

-Op. 157, Magnificat – see Op. 65, Avak the Healer

-Op. 158, Look Toward the Sea (Cantata) – see Op. 4, Missa Brevis

-Op. 177, Shalimar (suite for piano) prelude theme shared by Op. 180, Symphony No. 9 ‘St. Vartan’ first Mov. Yerk, and by Op. 239 Flute Player of the Armenian Mountains (song cycle), ‘Lalezar’

-Op. 180, Symphony No. 9 ‘St. Vartan’ theme from Mov. 19 ‘Bar’ reused in Op. 238 Four Songs No.1 ‘Gurge Dikran’ piano part– see Lament, and Op. 177, Shalimar (suite for piano)

- Op. 186, Symphony No. 11 ‘All Men are Brothers’- see The Sea Angel (no Opus listing) (1933)

-Op. 199, Symphony No. 15 ‘Silver Pilgrimage’, see op. 14, Tapor for band

-Op. 207, Mediation on Zeami, bell like transitional passage reused in Mov. III of Op. 428, Symphony No. 66 ‘Hymn to Glacier Peak’

- Op. 209, Floating World (Ukiyo) – see Op. 21, Suite for English Horn and Bassoon

-Op. 213, Return and Rebuild the Desolate Places, see Op. 49, Khrimian Hairig

-Op. 215, melody at Reh. 10 shared by Op. 217, Symphony No. 19 ‘Vishnu’ at Reh. 52

-Op. 217, Symphony No. 19 ‘Vishnu’ – see Op. 25, Lament for clarinet, and Op. 215, The Travelers (opera)

-Op. 219, reworked into Op. 225, Mountains and Rivers Without End (Chamber Symphony)

-Op. 220, Fra Angelico (Orchestra) – see Op. 21, Suite for English Horn and Bassoon

-Op. 221, Adoration, see Op. 21, Suite for English Horn and Bassoon

-Op. 222, Praise the Lord with Psaltery (Cantata) – see Op. 21, Suite for English Horn and Bassoon

-Op. 225, Mountains and Rivers Without End (Chamber Symphony) – see Op. 219, The Leper King (Opera)

-Op. 229, And God Created Great Whales (Orchestra)– see Op. 136, Ko-ola-u

- Op. 236, Symphony No. 22 ‘City of Light’ – see Symphony No. 2 (discarded) (1942), and Op. 37a, Dance Ghazal

- Op. 238, Four Songs – see Op. 180, Symphony No. 9 ‘St. Vartan’

- Op. 239 Flute Player of the Armenian Mountains (song cycle) – see Op. 177, Shalimar (suite for piano)

-Op. 245, The Garden of Adonis – see Op. 17 No. 1, Concerto for Cello and Orchestra

-Op. 303, Sonata Ananda final Mov. reworked into Op. 384, Starry Night (flute/perc./harp) … (is this reversed despite Op. numbering)

-Op. 305, Celestial Canticle – see Op. 40b, Alleluia and Fugue

-Op. 346, Piano Sonata ‘Prospect Hill’, see Op. 127, Sonata for Harp

-Op. 356, Symphony No. 49 ‘Christmas Symphony’ – see Op. 34, Watchman Tell us of the Night (song)

- Op. 377, Symphony No. 53 ‘Star Dawn’ – see Star Dawn (no Opus listing) (1933)

-Op. 384, Starry Night – see Op. 303, Sonata Ananda

-Op. 428, Symphony No. 66 ‘Hymn to Glacier Peak,’ see Op. 207, Meditation on Zeami



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