August 2008   Keith Jarrett's 1989
Lousadzak recording re-issued by Nimbus

Alan Hovhaness: Lousadzak (1944) Op.48
Symphony No.2 Mysterious Mountain (1955) Op.132
Lou Harrison: Symphony No.2 Elegiac (1942-75)

Nimbus NI2512 | 67" | DDD

Symphony No.2 (Mysterious Mountain)
1. Andante con moto [5:07]
2. Double Fugue [5:38]
3. Andante espressivo [5:28]

Lousadzak (Coming of Light)
4. Concerto for piano and string orchestra [16:29]
Keith Jarrett, piano

Lou Harrison: Symphony No.2 'Elegiac'
5. Tears of the Angel Israfel [8:08]
6. Allegro, poco presto [3:28]
7. Tears of the Angel Israfel [6:13]
8. Praises for Michael the Archangel [7:12]
9. The Sweetness of Epicurus [8:37]
American Composers Orchestra
conducted by Dennis Russell Davies

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In 1989 the music of lifelong composer-friends Alan Hovhaness and Lou Harrison finally came together to share an entire commercially-released disc. The label was New Jersey-based Music Masters and the conductor the ever-enterprising Dennis Russell Davis, directing The American Composers Orchestra. The two longer works were the second symphonies of each composer - beautiful and heartfelt pieces which juxtaposed high drama with a pronounced serenity. However, it was the presence on this disc of world-class jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, giving a truly scintillating performance of Hovhaness' breakthrough piano concerto 'Lousadzak', that ensured its stellar sales in the Billboard classical chart. But like all discs, this one eventually went out-of-print.

As an increasingly sought-after item (not just amongst Hovhaness/Harrison newbies, but presumably Jarrett fans wanting to hear him in modern classical mode) UK-based label Nimbus has now reissued the disc. The UK release date was 24 April 2008, the US release date 12 August. Instantly noticeable is the decidedly more attractive package; whereas Music Masters' front cover featured not so much a mysterious mountain as an active volcano, Nimbus' beautiful blue-hued sunrise provides an apt visual metaphor for 'Lousadzak', literally "coming of light", although the light Hovhaness saw was in the musical watershed he reached with this work.

For those wondering how a living jazz legend like Jarrett came to record the almost-forgotten Lousadzak concerto (remember, this was its first recording since the 1950s), there are two likely connections to Hovhaness. In 1988 Jarrett recorded the piano concerto which Lou Harrison wrote for him, and Harrison would likely have brought the piano concerto of his friend (which he gave a rave review to in 1945) to the younger pianist's attention. The other connection is through Jarrett's publishing partner, producer and ex-manager, George Avakian. Avakian personally financed the earliest Hovhaness recordings on the Dial and Disc labels in the late 1940s, and in the 1940s and '50s Avakian's wife and sister-in-law (violin and piano duo Anahid and Maro Ajemian) performed Hovhaness coast-to-coast, recording over 40 of his works (including Lousadzak), again secured through the influence of Avakian. Whatever the connection, Jarrett's foray into classical recordings effectively began with the Harrison and Hovhaness piano concertos, and throughout the '80s and '90s he continued with widely acclaimed recordings of more traditional repertoire: interpretations of Bach, Handel, Mozart and Shostakovich. These days he's back where he began, with the jazz.

Keith Jarrett speaking on 'Lousadzak' in 1989 ...

"I understand what Hovhaness is doing. 'Lousadzak' certainly isn't a virtuosos piano piece. It's so simple that it's almost impossible to get anything into it. But when you do, it's like someone telling you a very simple truth that you thought of as a cliché all your life. [But] when you hear someone say it as though they had really experienced it, you know right away that it's a cliché because people just say it wrong."

The Lou Harrison Elegiac symphony (1942-75) is a deeply-felt spiritual work, dedicated to the memory of conductor Serge Koussevitsky and his wife. As kindred musical spirits, Harrison and Hovhaness complement each other well, so anyone buying this re-issue for the one composer, may well find themselves an unwitting convert to the other.

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