Sonata Mt. Chocorua, Op. 335 - Alan Hovhaness

Sonata Mt. Chocorua, Op. 335, by Alan Hovhaness is a solo piano piece that embodies the composer's deep connection with nature and his innovative approach to music. This composition, named after the iconic Mount Chocorua in New Hampshire, mirrors the mountain's majestic and spiritual presence through its unique musical language. Hovhaness, known for his extensive output and incorporation of Armenian and Far Eastern musical influences, brings a distinctive voice to the realm of piano music with this piece.

Background and Release

Composed in the later years of Hovhaness's prolific career, Sonata Mt. Chocorua, Op. 335, was penned in 1982. This period marked a time when the composer had already established his legacy through the fusion of Eastern and Western musical traditions. The sonata's dedication to one of nature's landmarks signifies Hovhaness's ongoing theme of integrating the natural world into his musical narratives. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Hovhaness often turned to the environment for inspiration, crafting compositions that seek to transcend mere sound and evoke a deeper spiritual experience.

The release of the sonata coincided with a growing interest in Hovhaness's work, coming at a time when the musical world was increasingly receptive to diverse influences. Though firmly rooted in classical tradition, Hovhaness's experimentation with modal melodies, unconventional harmonies, and mystical themes set his compositions apart, offering listeners a gateway into uncharted sonic territories.

Dissecting the Sonata: A Theoretical Analysis

Sonata Mt. Chocorua stands out through its unique harmonic structure and melodic development. Hovhaness's preference for modal scales over the more traditional major and minor scales provides the piece with an ethereal quality, evoking the untamed beauty of its namesake. The composition's architecture is built on a foundation of Eastern scales, interwoven with counterpoint techniques that are more commonly found in Western classical music.

The sonata's structure defies conventional forms, opting instead for a seamless flow that mirrors the organic unfolding of nature itself. Hovhaness employs a mixture of tonal and atonal elements, creating a dynamic interplay between dissonance and resolution that reflects the rugged landscape of Mt. Chocorua. This approach not only challenges the listener's expectations but also paints a vivid musical picture of the mountain's essence.

A Profound Impact: The Sonata's Enduring Popularity

The Sonata Mt. Chocorua's appeal lies in its ability to transport listeners to a space where music and nature converge. Hovhaness's skill in merging the visceral with the ethereal resonates with audiences seeking more than just auditory stimulation from classical music. The sonata's popularity extends beyond mere appreciation of its technical brilliance; it touches on a universal longing for connection with the natural world.

Furthermore, the piece has become a staple in the repertoire of contemporary pianists who are drawn to its unique challenges and expressive potential. Its role in promoting an understanding of Hovhaness's broader corpus, and its contribution to the evolution of piano music, cannot be understated. The sonata not only encapsulates the composer's philosophical inquiries but also stands as a testament to the power of music to evoke profound emotional and spiritual responses.


The Sonata Mt. Chocorua, Op. 335, serves as a fascinating exploration into Alan Hovhaness's musical ideology and his reverence for the natural world. By seamlessly blending elements of Eastern and Western music traditions, Hovhaness creates a piece that is reflective, evocative, and entirely unique. As both a significant contribution to the piano repertoire and a compelling representation of Hovhaness's artistic vision, the sonata continues to captivate and inspire.

Publication date: 23. 02. 2024