Howard Hanson conducts American Music - Vol. 4
Roy HARRIS (1898-1979) Symphony No. 3 (1937) [16:11]
Charles Tomlinson GRIFFES (1884-1920) The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan (1912-16) [9:48]; The White Peacock, Op. 7, No. 1 (1916) [5:28]; Clouds, Op. 7, No. 4 (1916) [4:34]; Bacchanale, Op. 6, No. 3 (1915) [4:25]
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981) Symphony No. 1 in One Movement, Op. 9 (1936) [18:46]
Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra/Howard Hanson
rec. 11-13 May 1953 issued as Mercury MG-40004 (Harris); 29 October 1954 issued as Mercury MG-40012 (Griffes); 9 May 1955 issued as Mercury MG-40014 (Barber). ADD

Pristine continue to liberate Hanson’s prodigious efforts for North American music. The three previous volumes were reviewed en bloc last year. Andrew Rose’s transfers from what seems to have been immaculate LP stock yield very listenable results. Hanson knew what he was about and his masterly confidence beams out from every aspect. This is clearly Pristine’s priority; original liner-notes are not but that hardly matters at all.
We start with the muscular and indefatigably surging impulses of Roy Harris’s Third Symphony. I count myself a Harris enthusiast but had never heard this version of the Third until now. This is sturdily driven by Hanson with momentum captured and sustained with a forceful and magisterial baton over an orchestra on world-class form. The typical Mercury technology of the day places the whole orchestra confrontationally in relation to the listener. It works well – magnificently, in fact. One is struck by the sensational power of the writing at 11:35-12:25 where the music moves from rolling assertive fanfare to equally commanding massive pizzicato This first LP issue of the symphony was more than auspicious. This represents the emergence of this Homeric compressed single movement epic onto CD. If you have a taste for Sibelius 7, Alwyn 5 or Rubbra 11 then this work will not disappoint you. If you want classic 1960s stereo then go for Bernstein on Sony but Hanson should not be missed.
Hanson’s and Mercury’s way with Griffes is similarly imperious and forwardly placed. The four pieces are shimmeringly atmospheric and lucidly impressionistic despite the spotlit microphone placement – a tribute to the players. This exotica from around the years of the Great War is well worth trying if you do not already know it. The style partakes of Rimsky, Scriabin, Debussy (a certain Faune), Ravel (Ma Mère l’Oye), Adolphe Biarent (Conte), Bax (Spring Fire: Handley; Elder) and, among Griffes’ own countrymen of Farwell (Gods of the Mountains) and Bernstein’s teacher Edward Burlinghame Hill (Prelude). There are other recordings – though not that many – however the most memorable from stereo LP days is of Charles Gerhardt conducting The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan and The White Peacock (Chesky). Gerhardt is more languid than Hanson. JoAnn Falletta on Naxos is even more unhurried at 12:45.
The Barber Symphony – another single movement structure, presented here in three tracks – dates from about the same time as the Harris. It is equally gripping though allowance has to be made for a stridency to the string sound; more than in the Harris and Griffes. Hanson again has his foot on the gas. David Measham’s ex-Unicorn version with the LSO now on Regis runs a full 2 minutes longer. Hanson is well in touch with the eruptively voluptuous and the tenderly attentive aspects of this hyper-romantic work but he refuses to stop to admire the flowers unduly.
More please Pristine. 

Rob Barnett

Sturdily driven … momentum magisterially sustained … an orchestra on world-class form.