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Hanson: Symphony Nos 1 & 2, Song Of Democracy / Hanson


Release Date: 09/12/1990 
Label:  Mercury Living Presence   Catalog #: 432008   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Howard Hanson
Conductor:  Howard Hanson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eastman-Rochester Symphony OrchestraEastman School of Music Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

If you know the history of favourite works by Sibelius, Nielsen, Peterson-Berger and others it should come as no surprise that the Nordic was actually written in Rome where he was studying with Respighi…The recording here was made 35 years later. It positively throbs with soulful Scandinavian feeling….The Second Symphony is in the grand romantic manner with melodic material to match.

"I loved the Romantic Symphony long before I knew what it was, as the opening crescendo served as the sound track to "Rocketship XM," one of the first science fiction movies about a trip to Mars. The composer’s monophonic LP for CBS was very popular during the forties and fifties and came as close as possible to making the
Read more composer well known...The Romantic Symphony is a superb work, tending to follow the early Dvo?ák mould of theme-and-repetitions-in-different-colours. Constructed entirely on two motifs — a rising minor third scale, and a mordant followed by a descending third, and all possible inversions, permutations, combinations, and concatenations of these, including the arpeggiated fifth and seventh — the composer creates the impression of rolling waves of delicious ‘Rachmaninovskian’ melody, a knack he could have learnt from Telemann. The work is generally considered, along with the Barber First and the William Schuman Third, among the very greatest* of the American Symphonies. Lasting a full 26 minutes, it always seems to be finished almost at once."

- Paul Shoemaker, MusicWeb International,

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Was it really almost thirty years ago that I first heard the music of Howard Hanson? A friend had taped a miscellaneous Radio 3 programme of American music. It was broadcast one Sunday in 1973. Apart from including Griffes’ Pleasure Dome there was also the middle movement of Hanson's Romantic. It was the first time I had heard any Hanson. In due course I got the Charles Gerhardt LP of the whole Romantic Symphony. Then having started my first qualified job I threw caution to the winds and ordered via the then Crotchet Records mail order a batch of USA LPs selected from a Schwann catalogue I had picked up in a jazz specialist shop in Plymouth. That bulky parcel came by surface mail from the USA (I seem to recall the name ‘Harlequin Records’ as Crotchet’s suppliers). It included some fascinating Hanson, Piston, Schuman, Hovhaness, Harris and Randall Thompson. The Hanson was the Mercury LP of the first two symphonies - the same two tapes as appear here. I played that LP to death and came to know the Nordic complete with one or two clicks and groove skips as if those blemishes were integral parts of the music. I was, and remain, a resolute Sibelian; the music of Hanson has some Sibelian resonance with a Tchaikovskian pungency. It is highly emotional and emotive music. If you know the history of favourite works by Sibelius, Nielsen, Peterson-Berger and others it should come as no surprise that the Nordic was actually written in Rome where he was studying with Respighi. It was premiered by the Augusteo Orchestra with the composer conducting on 30 May 1923. The recording here was made 35 years later. It positively throbs with soulful Scandinavian feeling. Hanson is no dawdler and keeps the pressure on his players who respond with the alacrity of an orchestra that has grown up under Hanson's shaping hands. The precision of the final 'crump' of the Nordic is deeply impressive.

The Second Symphony is in the grand romantic manner with melodic material to match. Just listen to the horn 'fall' at 4:31 and the easy-does-it solo that follows. This is Hollywood before the grand Rózsa, Herrmann and Korngold scores were written. Here the accent is even more Sibelian. This is particularly heard in the woodwind writing. Hanson wrote a gift of a tune in the first movement and matched it in the tender balm of the andante con tenerezza even if it does remind most people of a passage from the song Born Free. The strings glow with a Hollywood sheen - ample in tone with only a feint suggestion of ‘dated-ness’. The plungingly bright allegro con brio is well named with darting winds, commanding brass (00.49) all grippingly exciting (3.20). The reprise of the great theme from the first movement appears at 5:20 and is a spectacularly moving moment.

Only Charles Gerhardt (now on Chesky) has excelled the composer in the Romantic although Montgomery (Arte Nova) is I think very fine even when taken at the almost parodied distended pace he adopts. Schwarz and Slatkin each have their own strengths but lack the belligerent passion the composer brings to this music-making.

As for Hanson, even after his retirement from the Eastman in 1964, he remained faithful to his star, writing music that remained lyrically accessible, intricately crafted and with a dramatic sense of structure. The Sixth Symphony in 'six panels', from 1968, is for me his other great symphony alongside these two.

The notes on the symphonies are by James Lyons and Arthur Loesser. The composer provides his own note for the Song of Democracy and the Whitman text is printed in full. The piece sidles modestly in. The singing is well coached and marvellously clear. The wild dance of 3.23 must have been in Hanson’s mind for the scherzo elements of the Sixth Symphony. There are some Waltonian triumphalisms (3:52). Memorable moments include the opulent and increasingly urgent chiming obbligato at 10.03. If we flinch and wince in the face of the sincere sentiments then let us also recall works such as Ireland's These Things Shall Be and wonder if we have become too knowing ... too cynical.

- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 1 in E minor, Op. 21 "Nordic" by Howard Hanson
Conductor:  Howard Hanson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922 
Date of Recording: 12/16/1958 
Venue:  Eastman Theater, Rochester, NY 
Length: 26 Minutes 42 Secs. 
2. Symphony no 2, Op. 30 "Romantic" by Howard Hanson
Conductor:  Howard Hanson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/04/1958 
Venue:  Eastman Theater, Rochester, NY 
Length: 27 Minutes 54 Secs. 
3. Song of Democracy by Howard Hanson
Conductor:  Howard Hanson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra,  Eastman School of Music Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957 
Date of Recording: 05/06/1957 
Venue:  Eastman Theater, Rochester, NY 
Length: 12 Minutes 4 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Symphony No.1 in E minor, Op.21 "Nordic": 1. Andante solenne - Allegro con forza
Symphony No.1 in E minor, Op.21 "Nordic": 2. Andante teneramente, con semplicita
Symphony No.1 in E minor, Op.21 "Nordic": 3. Allegro con fuoco
Symphony No.2, Op.30 "Romantic": 1. Adagio - Allegro moderato
Symphony No.2, Op.30 "Romantic": 2. Andante con tenerezza
Symphony No.2, Op.30 "Romantic": 3. Allegro con brio
Song of Democracy

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Worth listening to September 29, 2012 By Anthony G. (valley stream, NY) See All My Reviews "I would invite my Classical music loving friends to listen to Hanson's work. These symphonies capture the listener's attention, but require second and third hearings to grasp the profundity of the music and its nuances of feeling and craft. The Song of Democracy causes it to lose a start for it is a vapid, inconsequential assemblage of tonal mediocrity. Hanson's piano concerto should have been featured instead." Report Abuse
 Hanson Conducts Hanson August 31, 2012 By W. Brown (Centerburg, OH) See All My Reviews "Sometimes it is nice to venture off the beaten path of standard classical masterpieces, and venture into different territory. Such is the case for me with this recording. I was familiar with Howard Hanson by name only, not really familiar at all with his works. With that all said, this is a great introduction to his works for those not so familiar with his compositions. Howard Hanson is a modern romantic composer. The music is beautifully played, though sounds "dated" in some spots, but whose to complain when the recordings were made in the late 5o's. A great recommendation for those who want to add something different to their collection." Report Abuse
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