Howard HANSON (1896-1981)
Symphony No. 6 (1968) [20:33]
Lumen in Christo (1974) [21:33]
Symphony No. 7 A Sea Symphony (1977) [18:13]
Seattle Symphony and Chorale/Gerard Schwarz
rec. Seattle Opera House, Seattle, WA, 15-16 October 1989 (6), 6-7 June 1994 (Lumen), 18-19 May 1992 (7)
The sung texts can be found inside the booklet and are also at www.naxos.com/libretti/559704.htm
NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559704 [60:20]
This is the fifth volume in Gerard Schwarz’s fervent traversal of the seven Hanson symphonies for Delos. The three pieces are drawn from DE 3160, 3092 and 3130. As with the earlier volumes Schwarz brooks no dilution of the music. Nothing is routine or careless.
The old passionate munitions and the aggressive air-burst energy is still there in the six-movement Sixth Symphony. Hanson was writing way against the prevailing current of the times – it was 1968 – but the fuel still ignites! This work initially took a while to take a hold on me but now its swaying Nordic romance will not let go. The music has exuberance, chattering Sibelian zest, an epic stride and the benefit of a resplendent recording. It was dedicated to Leonard Bernstein and the NYPO. Schwarz takes things at a faster lick than Siegfried Landau and the Music for Westchester Symphony Orchestra version from the early 1970s. Landau was first issued on Turnabout LP TV-S34534, revived on CD on Excelsior and also as part of a VoxBox CDX5092.
Lumen in Christo growls with awe. Somewhere in there we are told that there is material by Handel and Haydn. It is deeply subsumed. The choir sings texts with light as their subject from the Latin Requiem and from The Bible. The music has a symphonic mien so do not expect much in the way of relaxation after the rippling power of the Sixth Symphony.
The Seventh also uses the Seattle Symphony Chorale. It’s a setting for choirs and orchestra of texts by Walt Whitman. Hanson – then within four years of his death - sticks to his last. The style essays no change. Indeed he even incorporates that long-breathed treasure of a melody – the grand theme from The Second Symphony. He first set Whitman’s verse in 1915 and latterly in Drumtaps (1935), Song of Democracy (1957) and The Mystic Trumpeter (1970; rec. Delos DE3160). This is not the work’s first recording. That honour rests with the World Youth Symphony Orchestra Interlochen and the National Music Camp High School Choir who recorded it in August 1977 on Bay Cities BCD 1009. Atmospheric though that original is it cannot hope to compete with Schwarz’s fully professional version.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a final Schwarz Naxos disc including the Piano Concerto and The Mystic Trumpeter. In due course I would guess that Naxos will also issue a boxed set as they did for Barber and Schuman.
Exuberance, chattering Sibelian zest, an epic stride and a resplendent recording.