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Howard Hanson

Biography

Born: October 28, 1896; Wahoo, NE   Died: February 26, 1981; Rochester, NY  
Howard Hanson was among the first twentieth century American composers to achieve widespread prominence. In contrast to the angular Stravinskian and Americana-influenced sounds that dominated American concert music prior to World War II, Hanson wrote in an unabashedly Romantic idiom influenced by his Nordic roots. Of particular importance to the composer was the music of Sibelius; however, he also acknowledged the influence of composers such as Read more Palestrina and Bach.

After boyhood studies on the piano, Hanson studied music at the Institute of Musical Art in New York City and Northwestern University, where he earned a degree in 1916. In 1921, he became the first American to win the Prix de Rome, which provided him the opportunity to study with Ottorino Respighi, whose colorful orchestral language was clearly an influence on Hanson's own. Upon his return to the United States, Hanson was appointed head of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester at the age of 28. Under the composer's guidance over the course of more than four decades, Eastman became one of the world's preeminent educational institutions. During his tenure there Hanson continued to compose prolifically; he also embarked on a career as a conductor, in which capacity he proved himself one of the great champions of American music. At Eastman, it has been calculated, he presented some 1,500 works by 700 composers. Hanson also commercially recorded a number of modern works in a series for the Mercury label in the 1950s, drawing much attention to otherwise neglected repertoire.

Hanson's most characteristic works are undoubtedly his seven symphonies. The first of these, the "Nordic" Symphony (1922), dates from the composer's studies in Rome. The Second Symphony ("Romantic"), remains Hanson's best-known work, a characteristic realization of the lush, lyric aesthetic with which he is closely associated. Further notable among Hanson's symphonies are the Symphony No. 4 (1943), awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and the Symphony No. 7 (1977), one of a series of works inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman. Other important works in Hanson's catalogue include The Lament for Beowulf (1925) for chorus and orchestra; the opera Merry Mount (1933), well received at its premiere and in subsequent productions, but now rarely performed; and a variety of other chamber, vocal, and orchestral works. Read less
Hanson: Symphony No  3, Merry Mount Suite / Schwarz, Seattle Symphony
Release Date: 11/15/2011   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559702   Number of Discs: 1
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Hanson: Symphony No 1, The Lament For Beowulf / Schwarz, Seattle Symphony
Release Date: 09/27/2011   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559700   Number of Discs: 1
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Hanson: Symphonies 4 & 5, Elegy In Memory Of Serge  / Schwarz, Seattle Symphony
Release Date: 12/13/2011   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559703   Number of Discs: 1
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American Classics - Hanson: Orchestral Works Vol 1
Release Date: 07/18/2000   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559072   Number of Discs: 1
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American Classics - Hanson: Organ Concerto, Etc / Spalding
Release Date: 07/25/2006   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8559251   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Symphony no 1, "Nordic"

 

About This Work
Hanson was always considered a "Romantic" composer, looking back at and retaining many popular elements of Romantic era music even when that style was considered ouy-dated. This writer considers the Second Symphony, composed in 1930, to be Read more the first of his major works in which that description applies; Hanson even named it the "Romantic" as though to signal his retention of elements of Romantic style in 20th-century music. This symphony, though, was composed in 1920, before many elements of 20th-Century style had permeated into American concert halls. So it is not "neo-romantic" or "looking back at" Romantic; rather it is a genuine and un-self-conscious work of the Romantic Era, similar to music being written at the same time by such composers as Alfven, Madetoja, Magnard, and Bax. The subtitle is a proud one, for Hanson was, as his name indicated, of Nordic descent and his subject was his forebears, particularly in their role as pioneers in the Northern tier of states. While the relative immaturity of the composer shows here in the relative looseness of the symphony's organization, this is a work with grand, sweeping ideas which is good listening. Read less

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