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The Seattle Symphony Orchestra - "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Op. 308" (1995 Delos)

Cover Image for The Seattle Symphony Orchestra - "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Op. 308" (1995 Delos)

c Alan Hovhaness; from The Rubaiyat, Delos – DE 3168

Alan Hovhaness, one of America's great and greatly underappreciated composers, produced this musical setting to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in 1975, and in 1995 the Seattle Symphony Orchestra made this wonderful recording of it.

Omar Khayyam was a tentmaker at one time, or so the narration tells us his name suggests, but he was known in the medieval Islamic world for being a brilliant scientist. In more recent times he's known for the collection of rubāʿī (a Persian poetical form comprising four-lines, i.e. a quatrain) attributed to him, particularly as translated by the English Romantic Era poet Edward FitzGerald. It's the 1859 FitzGerald Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám that we hear narrated over and between Hovhaness' mystical score, and while it's a fairly loose translation of the source material (which is itself of a dubious provenance), the combination of the reading and the music is magnificent. The poems as transmitted by FitzGerald (which you can read online with the classic illustrations of the 1st edition) have been described as hedonistic, what with the day drinking and overall YOLO theme, but Hovhaness' setting makes gives it more of an...Epicurean bent.

Hovhaness was unsurprisingly known for blending musical styles from around the world, including his ancestral Armenia and particularly Japan, with classical "Western" music. You can hear more of that synthesis in a couple more of his works below...

Also Check Out:

By the Seattle Symphony Orchestra:

"Symphony No. 22, Op. 236 'City of Light': III. Allegretto grazioso" - YouTube | Spotify

By the Boston Modern Orchestra Project:

"Song of the Sea: I. Moderato espressivo" - YouTube | Spotify

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