Mark at Occam's Razor (not to be confused with another blogger I read -- Marc at Occam's Razor) says to not "snub" the music of the prolific Alan Hovhaness. As he describes his introduction to the music, Mark particularly enthuses about Alleluia and Fugue for string orchestra:
Godly music worthy of Bach himself.
Dunno, haven't heard it. But at its peak, I agree Hovhaness' music is superb.
I happen to be listening to a library CD lecture set by Robert Greenberg about the life and
sic /sic?/ music of Franz Joseph Haydn. (It's ok but hasn't inspired me to seek out new music by the man. I suppose I need to care more about the music to care about the life and vice versa). Still, Greenberg points out that while only experts can recognize all of Haydn's vast output, it nonetheless represents a transcendence of the style of the time, and thus to be treasured, even if not easily distinguished.
Well, it occurred to me to ask if the same will eventually be said for Hovhaness and Glass, two of the most prolific composers of our time?
For Glass, I think so and for Hovhaness, I think not. Off the top of my head, Glass' greatest achievements (Music in Twelve Parts? the operas, Mad Rush?) are not significiantly better than much of the rest of his output while I think Hovhaness' peaks do outshine the rest of his output (or at least what I've heard, maybe 15 or so works). Although, It's possible that Hovhaness will be seen as someone with a unique and authentic expression of American assimilation. Of course, only time will tell if either composer ultimately transcends his times (or proves to be folly -- Barbara Tuchman historical criteria via Digby here).
Let's see some examples of what critics think about Hovhaness so far:
Paul Griffiths in the Penguin Companion to Classical Music:
...an enormous body of music (434 Op. numbers) in which Western Renaissance-Baroque counterpoint is fused with the entranced harmonic stasis and representation of Asian traditions and given colourful scoring.
Norman Lebrecht in the 20th Century Music Companion:
...he indulged the melismas of his paternal ancestry in a wearisome profusion of 65 symphonies and 23 concertos.
So far, I side on the music being colorful rather than wearisome although I find the "Mount St. Helens" symphony both colorful and wearisome. The last time I played it was in the car and it startled me...