This CD was originally released on the Delos label in 1990,
coupled with Symphony no.2 and the Elegy In Memory Of Serge
Koussevitsky - later re-issued as part of a four CD collectors'
set of Howard Hanson's complete symphonies (review).
The original disc gave listeners 70 minutes of marvellous music,
whereas here Naxos give a rather measly 48. Yet there are mitigating
circumstances. Although the CD does not say so, this is volume
1 in Naxos's own (sort of) Complete Symphonies survey, with
the first four either released or due for release by the end
Oddly enough, this is actually the third recording of Hanson's
First Symphony that Naxos have issued, following the Nashville
Symphony's lean, lingering account under Kenneth Schermerhorn
- also under the American Classics heading, and another 70-minute
- and their 1954 'Archive' recording of the Hamburg Philharmonia
under Hans-Jürgen Walther (9.80164), coupled with works by Elie
Siegmeister and Charles Skilton, but available for downloading
or streaming only, and ironically unavailable in the US.
Track timing aside, there are no qualms to be had against this
release. This is as authoritative a performance by the Seattle
Symphony of Hanson's Nordic Symphony as is to be had anywhere.
Schwarz's interpretation stands up well even against Hanson's
own 1950s LP recording on Mercury, later re-issued on CD - see
- an account which has the twin added attractions of including
the Second Symphony and basking in Mercury's classic Living
Presence sound, re-processed indeed as Super Audio on the CD
version. That said, Hanson's Eastman-Rochester Symphony rather
lacks the refinement of Schwarz's Seattle.
Either way, Hanson's Symphony - in E minor, op.22, though the
track-listing omits to say - is surely one of America's finest
Firsts. Elegantly orchestrated and unabashedly late-Romantic
in idiom, it evokes beautifully the awesome majesty of the Scandinavian
landscape of Hanson's Swedish parents, by turn splendorous,
mysterious, vast, ebullient, serene, icy. It can be heard as
an American version of Sibelius's own First Symphony, also in
E minor, which Hanson took as his model. The final two minutes
are an unforgettable experience, on a par with Mahler's or Walton's
The setting of The Lament for Beowulf makes a good companion
piece for the Nordic, written shortly after it and at times
similar in orchestral colouring. It is, however, more ponderous
and less sombre or dramatic than might be imagined, given the
material. Well performed by all involved, nevertheless.
Sound quality for both works is pretty good, though slightly
subdued. The CD booklet is the usual Naxos affair, but the notes
are new, and the full text of William Morris's translation of
The Lament for Beowulf is included, complete with glossary.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
see also review by Rob