HOWARD HANSON (1896-1981)
Two Yuletide Pieces
For the First Time
Thomas Labé (piano)
NAXOS 8.559047 [75.39]
Hanson revelled in the orchestral pantone under the influence of his teacher
Respighi. However there is a substantial body of music for solo piano. This
is the first disc to delve into this area.
The period 1918-20 is well represented. The writing will appeal to anyone
who warms to Rachmaninov. The style in Poemes Erotiques, Reminiscence
from Three Miniatures and in the Sonata (completed by Labé)
is bathed in a romantic warmth without Debussian heat-haze. Medtner lovers,
for example, will want this disc and similarly anyone who has a penchant
for the boiling throes of the Piano Sonatas of Liszt or the late Howard Ferguson.
There is a Debussian steadiness in Lullaby and Longing from
Three Miniatures. Reminiscence and Studio ritmico and Studio
melodico (latter from Three Etudes) are full of pre-echoes of
the Nordic and Romantic Symphonies.
Impressionistic mist hangs in wreathes over some pages of Poema idillico
(typical Medtnerian title) pointing in the direction taken by that other
American master, Charles Tomlinson Griffes in The White Peacock. With
these pieces we say farewell to an era and resume with Hanson's piano arrangement
of his orchestral suite For the First Time: 12 picturesque mini-movements
(2.58-0.46) Though dating from 1963 these might almost be one of those suites
of mood music used for accompanying silent films. In fact some of the pieces
are distinctly 'modern' with the disconcerting presence of moderate dissonance
but these things are relative. I wonder if Hanson was cocking a snook at
Shostakovich in the Kikimora and Tamara movements.
Slumber Song is an item of juvenilia: a Chopin pastiche. Enchantment
reminded me of Moeran's In the Mountain Country and Bax's
The Two Yuletide Pieces are a degree or so more relaxed and the March
Carillon (second of the two) is much lighter.
Good notes by Labé.
The disc would have been stronger yet if it had ended on Enchantment
rather than the pallor of Slumber Song.
The disc is certainly attractive and well worth the attention of piano fanciers,
confirmed Hansonians and those sympathetic to Rachmaninov's Preludes and