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Great American Composers - Copland, Harris, Hovhaness, Hanson, Diamond, Creston, Piston


Release Date: 11/18/2008 
Label:  Delos   Catalog #: 6012   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Aaron CoplandAlan HovhanessHoward HansonDavid Diamond,   ... 
Performer:  James Earl JonesCarol Rosenberger
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony OrchestraNew York Chamber Symphony
Number of Discs: 6 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Reviews of some of the recordings in this set:

Hovhaness: Symphony No 2 "Mysterious Mountain" & other works
Amiable is the word to describe the music of Alan Hovhaness, as presented in this collection of shorter works. His birth-date, March 1911, came only a few months after Vaughan Williams had completed the masterpiece which seems to lie close behind many if not most of this music, the Tallis Fantasia. It is almost as though in a mystic way the infant composer had captured overtones from across the Atlantic. The longest work here is Mysterious Mountain, the Symphony No. 2, commissioned by Stokowski for Houston in 1955 and consisting of three measured movements lasting in all 17 minutes.
Read more "Mountains and symbols, like pyramids, of man's attempt to know God", says the composer, and his spiritual purpose is expressed in the modal writing of the Andante outer movements, with overtones of Vaughan Williams pastoral as well as of Tallis, framing a central fugue characteristically smooth in its lines. The finale, at the start sounding like 'Tallis Fantasia meets Parsfal', culminates in a chorale leading to a grandiose conclusion. If Gorécki, why not Hovhaness, one begins to ask, and there is something of the same flavour in this obviously dedicated music. Though Hovhaness, in his extraordinary facility, has written over 60 symphonies at the last count, outdoing even the prodigious Havergal Brian, this No. 2 was written when he was already in his mid-forties, a landmark work for the composer.

The Prayer of St Gregory starts like the symphony with an elegiac trumpet emerging over multiple strings, leading to a simple chorale, while three of the remaining four works bring elaborate fugues, not just those with 'fugue' in the title, but the Celestial Fantasy too, dating originally from 1935 but orchestrated later. The Armenian element in Hovhaness's writing comes out in the occasional augmented interval or chromatic line, and there is a hint of that too in another early work, the Prelude and Quadruple Fugue, dating from 1936. In its ease of expression even that belies the idea of perspiration behind the composer's writing, and like most of the other works it ends on a huge crescendo.

Hovhaness's fondness for huge crescendos, not just at the end, comes out most strikingly in the work which stands apart from the others here, And God Created Great Whales, dating from 1970. With its fluent use of gimmicks, it would be easy to mock this, starting as it does with an aleatory twitter which leads on to pentatonic doodling of a kind that one improvised as a child on the black keys of the piano. Then comes the first of the tapes of the songs of the great humpback whale, recorded specially, followed by the first huge climax, very impressive except that the pentatonic melody which roars out on trombones (leading to whalesong imitations) is not distinctive enough, almost banal, punctuated by glockenspiel. What saves the piece is the obvious dedication behind the performance, a quality which marks the playing of the Seattle Symphony under Gerard Schwarz in all the works here. The recording too is full and atmospheric.

– Gramophone [7/1994]

Hanson: Symphony Nos 2 "Romantic," 6 & 7 "A Sea Symphony" & other works
Revisiting these stylish, outstandingly sympathetic performances has been a very real pleasure and anyone who missed out on the original individual full-price issues can purchase with confidence.

Gerard Schwarz's red-blooded 1988 account of the Second Symphony (Romantic) remains a match for any rival, and in making that assessment I include both of the composer's own recordings with his Eastman-Rochester forces (from 1939 on Biddulph - and 1958 respectively). Dedicated to the memory of the composer's father, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Fourth (Requiem) of 1943 was apparently Hanson's personal favourite of his cycle of seven, and Schwarz and his excellent Seattle band do full justice to its dark opulence, concision and organic power. Similarly, there's no missing the communicative ardour and cleanlimbed security of Schwarz's lucid reading of the Sixth. Commissioned in 1967 by the New York Philharmonic for their 185th anniversary season, it boasts a formidable thematic economy and intriguing formal scheme of which Hanson himself was justifiably proud. Its successor, A Sea Symphony from 1977, sets texts from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. In the unashamedly jubilant finale Hanson fleetingly quotes from his Romantic Symphony of more than four decades earlier: it is a spine-tingling moment in a score of consummate assurance and stirring aspiration.

We also get exemplary renderings of the pretty 1945 Serenade for flute, harp and strings (a gift for Hanson's wife-to-be, Margaret Elizabeth Nelson) and characteristically inventive Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth from 1951 (with Carol Rosenberger a deft soloist), both these featuring Schwarz directing the New York Chamber Symphony. Again, the present warm-hearted accounts of both the Elegy in memory of Serge Koussevitzky (whose electrifying 1940 Boston SO version of Hanson's Third should not be missed - Biddulph, 3/97) and Mosaics (a highly appealing set of variations written in 1957 for Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra) need not fear comparison with the composer's own Mercury recordings.

Engineering is wonderfully ripe. Delos's booklet says Volume I, so presumably we can expect a companion two-disc set devoted to the rest of Schwarz's memorable Hanson series. A hearty recommendation.

– Gramophone [9/1998]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Lincoln Portrait by Aaron Copland
Performer:  James Earl Jones (Spoken Vocals)
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; USA 
2.
Fanfare for the common man by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; USA 
3.
An Outdoor Overture by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; USA 
4.
Canticle of Freedom by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955/1965; USA 
5.
Symphony no 2, Op. 132 "Mysterious Mountain" by Alan Hovhaness
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; USA 
6.
Celestial Fantasy, Op. 44 by Alan Hovhaness
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935/1944; USA 
7.
And God Created Great Whales, Op. 229 by Alan Hovhaness
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1970; USA 
8.
Prayer of St Gregory, Op. 62b by Alan Hovhaness
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; USA 
9.
Alleluia and Fugue for String Orchestra, Op. 40b by Alan Hovhaness
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; USA 
10.
Prelude and Quadruple Fugue, Op. 128 by Alan Hovhaness
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936/1954; USA 
11.
Symphony no 2, Op. 30 "Romantic" by Howard Hanson
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930; USA 
12.
Symphony no 4, Op. 34 "Requiem" by Howard Hanson
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
13.
Symphony no 6 by Howard Hanson
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968; USA 
14.
Symphony no 7 "A Sea Symphony" by Howard Hanson
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1977; USA 
15.
Serenade for Flute, Harp and Strings, Op. 35 by Howard Hanson
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945 
16.
Mosaics by Howard Hanson
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958; USA 
17.
Elegy, Op. 44 "In Memory of Serge Koussevitsky" by Howard Hanson
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956 
18.
Concerto for Piano, Op. 36 by Howard Hanson
Performer:  Carol Rosenberger (Piano)
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948; USA 
19.
Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth, Op. 40 by Howard Hanson
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; USA 
20.
Romeo and Juliet by David Diamond
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; USA 
21.
Concerto for Chamber Orchestra by David Diamond
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Chamber Symphony
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; USA 
22.
Choreografic Suite, Op. 86 by Paul Creston
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1965; USA 
23.
Serenata for Orchestra by Walter Piston
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; USA 
24.
Sinfonietta by Walter Piston
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; USA 
25.
American Creed by Roy Harris
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; USA 
26.
When Johnny Comes Marching Home by Roy Harris
Conductor:  Gerard Schwarz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; USA 

Featured Sound Samples

Symphony no 2 "Romantic" (Hanson): III. Allegro con brio
Symphony no 4 "Requiem" (Hanson): I. Kyrie
Symphony no 2 "Mysterious Mountain" (Hovhaness): I. Andante con moto

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