Daniel R. Greenfield | Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | 05/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Howard Hanson (1897-1981) was one of the most significant American composers of his generation. Unfortunately, he has been largely forgotten today as a result of the romantic style of his earlier music, and his refusal to adopt a more modern musical style in his later works. He has been called the American version of Rachmaninoff. This excellent double-cd brings together some of Hanson's most loved symphonic works. The first: the Second Symphony ("Romantic") is perhaps his best-known work. But more importantly are some of the later works, better represented by the haunting Elegy (in memory of Koussevitsky), and the Fourth and Sixth Symphonies. The Fourth Symphony ("Requiem") is an incredible work, and the Sixth a tour-de-force that shows how in his later work Hanson had gone beyond neo-romanticism to forge a more modern style uniquely his own. At his best, Hanson's music is forceful, profound, deeply human and vulnerable. If you are at all interested in Twentieth Century American symphonic works, you really must have this wonderful set from Delos. These are essential American classics, must have music. Even if your tastes are more for the avant garde stuff, you will still admire the depth of this composer's music."
An excellent collection of Hanson's beautiful music!
email@example.com | California, United States | 09/10/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I hadn't previously heard any of Hanson's music except for the "Romantic", but on the basis of that symphony I bought this double CD set. I'm glad I did! The music is wonderful and is brilliantly played and the "Romantic" is as arresting as ever. I can highly recommend this as an introduction to Hanson's music for anyone who likes classical music. It's from the 20th century, but it's as lovely and stirring as Schumann and Brahms!"
"Howard Hanson (1896-1981) is one of the most popular composers of the 20th Century in the USA. He rejected the serialism and atonalism of his time and continuted writing warm, romantic, music long after it ceased to be fashionable among 'serious' composers, drawing strongly on his Nordic roots.
Sadly, he has never really established a reputation on this side of the Atlantic. If this fantastic twofer CD gets more of airing though, that could all change.
If people know anything by Hanson, it's most likely to be the Second Movement of the Second Symphony, which was used as the theme for the film Alien. The Second Symphony is his most popular piece with American audiences and with it's warm, rich, harmonies and many delightful passages, especially on horns, it's not hard to see why.
Three other symphonies are in this collection of which the outstanding one is the semi-choral Seventh, "A Sea Symphony".
A number of other pieces fill the CD, with the pick of the bunch being the deeply moving and clearly personal Elegy for Hanson's friend Serge Koussevitzky. Koussevitzky championed Hansons' music as chief conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to anyone who likes late-romantic music (think of a warmer Sibelius or a mellower Mahler) or is interested in the music of the USA. I also hope that Hanson will start to get his due recognition in the concert halls of this continent "
Always engaging, sometimes masterly music in fine performanc
G.D. | Norway | 09/19/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The first double-volume of orchestral works by Howard Hanson performed by the Seattle Symphony conducted by Gerard Schwarz contains some of his most famous and engaging works. Hanson's style is post-romantic (in the sense of Sibelius or Vaughan Williams), usually broad and wistful but always personal. And the performances on these discs are generally very good, although perhaps lacking the last touch of finesse (the Seattle strings are marvelous, however) and generally well-judged and -shaped.
The second symphony is perhaps his masterpiece with its sweeping, broad and utterly compelling melodies, flowing from one engaging idea to the next seamlessly. Brilliantly scored, this epic but generally nostalgically atmospheric work is certainly a must-hear, and even though I haven't heard enough competing performances to really compare this one to others, at least Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony make an utterly convincing case for it. Even though the second is his masterpiece, the fourth symphony - subtitled `Requiem' - isn't far behind. It consists of a turbulently romantic first movement, a softly touching and affecting largo, a brief, menacing scherzo and an eloquent finale, and it is full of imaginative touches and memorable material. I am less convinced by the sixth; as with the fifth, this one consists of a series of brief, continuous movements, and while there are many good ideas here, and they are skillfully put together, the work as a whole fails to engage. Similarly with the seventh, A Sea Symphony, for chorus and orchestra, written at the age of 81 - while it is worth a listen, I have to admit that, in the end, the most memorable thing about it is the quotations from the second symphony.
The couplings are generally engaging. That is, the Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth is rather slight, if excellently performed here with a spirited Carol Rosenberger as soloist. The quietly dream-like Serenade for flute, harp and strings is, on the other hand, memorable and touching. The Koussevitzky Elegie is also a fine, serene and poignant work and the Mosaics is a lively and colorful set of variations. Like I said above, the performances are well-judged and spirited, and the sound quality is generally very good. In short, then, this is a release well worth checking out, and while not all the works here are masterpieces, some are at least very close."