The Garden of Adonis - Alan Hovhaness (b. 1911)



Alan Hovhaness is an American of Scottish/Armenian descent. As a composer he is astonishingly prolific: for instance, he has written well over 50 symphonies, and The Garden of Adonis, which was written as long ago as 1971, is his Op. 245! Much of his output is influenced by Indian and far Eastern music, and this is evident in parts of TheGarden of Adonis. Western music of the renaissance is also a strong influence.

The title of the piece is taken from The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser: The Garden of Adonis is a garden of rebirth where souls appear as flowers.

There are seven movements:

I. The flute plays a seven-bar phrase three times, each time reaching higher than before, accompanied by the harp, which plays arpeggio figures outlining slowly changing harmonies.

II. Although this cheerful movement is in 2/2 time, much of the structure depends on the number 5: there are 5-bar phrases, groups of five beats, groups of 5 crotchets etc. The harp plays a long solo, which is repeated with the addition of a flute obbligato.

III. This has a similar form to the second movement, but the atmosphere is quite different: this is a slow, solemn oriental dance. After the repetition of the opening harp solo, with its added flute line, the flute itself has an unaccompanied solo.

IV. The influence of oriental music is again clear in the harp solo which forms the first half of this movement. It is followed by an unaccompanied flute cadenza: the two instruments do not actually play together at all in this movement.

V. A simple piece in a slow 6/8 rhythm. A single-bar introduction leads to a melody consisting of a 4-bar phrase. This is varied once, and then its first half appears at a higher pitch. The whole piece is only 14 bars in length.

VI. Like movements II and III, this lively movement consists of a harp solo which, when repeated, has the addition of a flute obbligato. Although the harp part is based on an oriental scale, the flute part is reminiscent of a Western mediaeval dance.

VII. As in movement I, the harp defines slowly shifting harmonies with continuous arpeggio figures - now descending, unlike the ascending figures used earlier. The flute has a slow melody consisting of a long phrase played four times, but each time with different intervals and other details. After a long, low note, the flute recalls the first part of its phrase, and the harp arpeggios die away, leaving an atmosphere of peace and mystery.

Programme notes copyright David Sumbler 1998. You may use them elsewhere, but please credit the author, and also inform Aeolia by e-mail.

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