Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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HOWARD HANSON (1896-1981) Symphony No. 2 (1930) [27.37] Symphony No. 4 (1943) [20.54] Elegy for Koussevitsky [10.54] Jena PO/David Montgomery rec Jena, 4 Aug 1996 ARTE NOVA 74321 43306 2 [59.44]



This must be the first bargain price Hanson disc. There have been mid-price issues previously and even the Schwarz 4 disc complete set is now available in 2 twofers at midprice.

As it is this issue demonstrates that there are many mansions in the house when it comes to Hansonian interpretation. The Montgomery approach verges on the broadest and most languid, at least it does in the finale of the second (and Hanson's deservedly most popular) symphony.

If I am tempted to wonder how Hanson 2 would have sounded in the hands of Leonard Bernstein I hope I can be forgiven because in truth none of the recordings currently available and heard by me (Hanson, Schwarz, Gerhard) represent a dud.

Montgomery is sensitively breezy in the first two movements but a slowing down pays great bonuses in the finale. The dramatic pacing and breath control is most impressive and this version does not lack excitement!

The Symphony No. 4 (Requiem) has Hanson's swirling flutes as its trademark and if its themes are not so immediately memorable as those of the Romantic we can enjoy instead the liturgical cellos (like refugees from Sibelius 4) and the quiet dignity of much of the music (suggesting to John Williams, perhaps, the main theme for the Saving Private Ryan). The miniature presto has some of the cat-padding menace of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring - a contained violence. The Lux Aeterna blooms - a great bell-like flower opening onto sunlit memory with each unfolding spurred on by the burnished edge of the trumpets. In full glory we reach the dazzling sun of the uplands of memory. This is extremely impressive but this journey is tackled again (and I think even more successfully) in the rather undervalued symphony No. 6.

The Koussevitsky Elegy takes us to the deeply felt cold wastes of Sibelius 4. The rolling climax at 5.13 seems to take us back to the glories of Boston's Symphony Hall in years gone by. it also suggests a link with Vaughan Williams' Fifth Symphony. The Elegy is not top drawer Hanson but it has some memorable moments.

There are rudimentary liner notes in German, English and French.

Recommended as a safe and inexpensive introduction to Hanson's rich legacy. Roll on a complete recording in modern sound of Hanson's opera Merry Mount!


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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