Eventually, if you enjoy Hovhaness as much as I, you will want to find much of his major works. There is no better place to start a collection of Hovhaness that his Symphony # 1 - "The Exiles".
This disc starts with a musical interpretation of Omar Khayyam's "Rubaiyat", and Hovhaness, with his fascination with Eastern music and motifs, brings a joy to a reading of Khayyam's poetry that cannot be denied. The narration is fine, and the background music is superb. Don't be put off by the fact that there's an accordion used in the orchestra. You will never find a better contrast between what most people think of when they hear the words "accordion music" and what is on this piece.
But it's the recording of Hovhaness' First Symphony that makes this disc worth purchasing for Hovhaness fans. At once bold and tragic, "The Exiles" gives new expression to what Hovhaness will find in later compositions. Although very bold and brassy, the underlying tone of futility gives "The Exiles" its edge.
"The Exiles" is a symphony in three parts. In the first movement, although you hear the people's lament as they are exiled, you also are aware that their heads are held high and proud. In the second movement, you really can imagine the people's desire to return home. In the third movement, the majesty seems to indicate that the exiles have returned home. It's as though Hovhaness was thinking of the Holocaust when composing this piece, and I'm sure some will agree.
The remaining two works, "Meditation on Orpheus", and "Fantasy On Japanese Woodprints" just add lesser known Hovhaness works to this fine CD.
Gerard Schwarz is one of the leading advocates of Hovhaness today, and gives a masterful rendition of Hovhaness' works which you will find adds to your enjoyment of this composer. If this is your first Hovhaness CD, you will still find the interpretations of the sounds of the East done by someone who I feel will be eventually revealed as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.
A good selection to start a true collection of the genius of Hovhaness.