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Howard HANSON (1896-1981)
Concerto for Organ, Harp and Strings (1926; for chamber orchestra 1941) [16:09]
Nymphs and Satyr Ballet Suite (1979) [12:51]
Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth for Piano and Strings (1951) [11:00]
Serenade for Flute, Harp, and Strings (1945) [8:28]
Summer Seascape No. 2 (1965) [8:28]
Pastorale for Oboe, Harp and Strings (1948-49 orchestrated 1950) [7:29]
Joseph Jackson (organ); Doris Hall-Galati (clarinet); Holly Blake (bassoon); Gabriela Imreh, (piano); Andrew Bolotowsky (flute); Adriana Linares (viola); Jonathan Blumenfeld (oboe); Jacqueline Pollauf (harp)
Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra/Daniel Spalding
rec. March 2005, First Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. DDD
NAXOS 8.559251 [61:28]



The most involving work here as far as I was concerned is also the largest – Hanson’s Concerto for Organ, Harp and Strings which dates from 1926 but is heard here in its 1941 expansion. And how well the rather Nordic misterioso element is allowed to marinate at the work’s beginning. The organ is adroitly balanced – it couldn’t have been easy – and the harp is rightly prominent in the balance. The initially subdued organ part gradually expands and increases until in the work’s second half we have a full scale terpsichorean ostinato. This is a work of warmth, of lyrical appeal and considerable attraction.
 
The ballet suite Nymphs and Satyr is a late work, having been written two years before Hanson’s death. It was his last completed major score. He returned to earlier themes of his to construct a thirteen-minute four-movement suite. Two solo instruments take important roles – the clarinet and the bassoon. It’s a work that also discloses some pertinent influences even as late as 1979. Those Sibelian horn-calls summon up gaunt, vast vistas but there is also Francophile filigree writing as well. The scherzo for the bassoon has a vaguely operatic air to it.
 
The Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth dates from Hanson’s middle years and is a warmly urgent series of variations. The slow section is particularly appealing. It has a sense of isolation and withdrawal that hints of the banishments of the past. The energising piano part in the finale moves forward to a more serene reflectiveness. The Serenade for Flute, Harp, and Strings was a courtship gift for his future wife and is suitably affecting.
 
There’s keen and elegant writing for the discreet viola in Summer Seascape No. 2. Finally there’s the Pastorale which was written in the late 1940s and fully orchestrated for Ormandy’s Philadelphians in 1950. It has its moments of urgency but is predominately another warmly lyrical effusion, sensitively played. 
 
This is a fine selection though one must be honest and note that Hanson is operating on lower voltage here. Nevertheless this is a tempting and bargain priced programme, excellently performed and recorded.
 
Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Paul Cook (Bargain of the Month - November 06)

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