Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


Howard HANSON (1896-1981) SYMPHONIES Nos. 1-7 etc Carol Rosenberger (piano); Gerard Schwarz conducting The Seattle Symphony, The Seattle Symphony Chorale and the New York Chamber Symphony. Two Volumes of 2CD albums - DELOS 3705 [135:48] and DELOS 3709 [138:17]


DELOS 3705
DELOS 3709
Amazon (USA)

I first came across the name Howard Hanson, many years ago, when I impulse purchased the Charles Gerhardt/RCA recording of the composer's Second 'Romantic' Symphony on the basis of having enjoyed Gerhardt's Classical Film Score recordings. I wasn't disappointed; in fact I was bowled over by this unashamedly Romantic music. I then determined to seek out more of Hanson's music.

David Hall writing in Stereo Review commented, "Even more than Samuel Barber, Howard Hanson can be described as the American Neo-romantic composer par excellence. It would not be amiss, for that matter, to speak of Hanson as a U.S. counterpart to Rachmaninov, though with a Scandinavian accent instead of a Russian one..." Hanson's hallmarks include rhythmic vitality, emotional and dramatic intensity and such unmistakeable stylistic thumbprints as staccato timpani stokes used as an ostinato device or for terracing climaxes. Why Hanson never wrote any film music (to the best of my knowledge he didn't) is a mystery for his music is essentially filmic, bold, romantic and full of character.

In the late 1980s and early '90s Gerard Schwarz recorded much of Hanson's orchestral music, including all seven symphonies, for DELOS who have now reissued all their recordings on two convenient double CD albums.

I suggest that newcomers to Hanson's music sample his most popular work first - i.e. Symphony No. 2 "Romantic" before going on to listen to more of his works This is, understandably, Hanson's most popular work. Its beautiful and very memorable romantic themes make a considerable impact. Schwarz's performance is perhaps more rugged than Gerhardt's singularly romantic conception but it is no less compelling. After a misty atmospheric introduction, and a lengthy and imposing crescendo, the glorious melody appears - it is actually made up of two melodies projected simultaneously, one in the strings, the other by solo horn. The music is developed wonderfully in the grand heroic tradition; this thrilling movement is absolutely rivetting. The Andante has another beautiful melody that speaks of yearning and nostalgia and again Hanson develops it gloriously and builds it intensely to another big climax. The tremendously exciting Allegro con brio finale is brilliant and dramatic and recapitulates material from the first movement with a splendid fanfare and a fortissimo announcement by the trumpets of the principal theme of the first movement. Bravo!

To read the rest of my review of the rest of the works on these two, 2 CD albums please visit our parent Classical music site.


Ian Lace

Ian Lace

Return to Index