ARLINGTON, Mass. — “I welcome you to this special event dedicated to the 110th anniversary of the birth of Alan Hovhaness, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.”
This is how Dr. Ara Ghazarians, curator of the Armenian Cultural Foundation (ACF) opened a moving tribute on April 17. Conducted over zoom, the commemoration was organized by the Board of Trustees of the ACF, and co-sponsored by Amaras Art Alliance and the Friends of Armenian Culture Society and Alessandra Pompili.
For an hour and a half, participants from the US and Europe would hear from scholars as well as personal acquaintances of Hovhaness, learning not only about his extraordinarily vast compositional achievements but gaining insight into him as a person. Renowned musicians contributed performances of his works, on the violin, clarinet and piano. A special guest would be Hovhaness himself, in a video recording of the composer playing his “Shalimar” on the piano.
As Ghazarians noted in his introductory remarks, much of his early work has unfortunately been lost, as he reportedly destroyed 1,000 of his compositions in 1940. The extant works include chamber operas as well as works for soloists, chorus, and orchestra. He wrote for keyboard instruments as well as chamber ensembles, composed over sixty-six symphonies and other orchestral compositions, including scores for films.
For many reasons, it was fitting for the Armenian Cultural Foundation to be among the organizers; it is located in Arlington, Massachusetts, which was the home of Hovhaness. In addition, Ghazarians said, the ACF “is proud to house one of largest archives on Alan Hovhaness in the world, which is available for academic researchers and musicologists.” Other important collections of the composer’s materials, Ghazarians continued, “made up of scores, sound recordings, photographs and correspondence, are located at several academic centers, including Harvard University, University of Washington, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., Yerevan’s State Museum of Arts and Literature in Armenia.”
The first to speak was Dr. Jack Johnston, who had known Alan Hovhaness since childhood. Johnston, a long-term resident of Arlington, grew up in the same neighborhood as Hovhaness.