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HANSON: Concerto for Organ, Harp and Strings / Nymph and Satyr (Adriana Linares/ Andrew Bolotowsky/ Daniel Spalding/ Daniel Spalding/ Doris Hall-Gulati/ Gabriela Imreh/ Holly Blake/ Jacqueline Pollauf/ Jonathan Blumenfeld/ Joseph Jackson/ Philadelphia Vir



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Howard Hanson (1896-1981)
Nymphs and Satyr Ballet Suite Concerto for Organ, Harp and Strings Fantasy Variations
  The cause of American music could hardly have asked for a more enthusiastic champion than Howard Hanson. Throughout his long career as a composer, conductor, and educator, Hanson was absolutely indefatigable in his commitment, generosity, and enthusiasm for the contemporary music of his homeland. Born in Wahoo, Nebraska, on 28 October 1896, to Swedish Lutheran immigrants, he studied at the Institute of Musical Art and Northwestern University. Hanson joined the music faculty of the College of the Pacific in 1916 as a professor of theory and composition and within three years became dean of the college's Conservatory of Fine Arts. He was awarded the first American Prix de Rome in 1921. During his three years in Italy, he studied with the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi, whose orchestration techniques influenced him greatly. In 1924 George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak Corporation, invited Hanson to become the director of the then-young Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, New York. During his forty years at Eastman, Hanson developed the conservatory into one of America's finest institutions of musical learning and pioneered an innovative curriculum based on his vision of American musical life, integrating practical instrumental study with academic theory and musicology disciplines. He also created the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) final degree that is now offered by most American conservatories. As director of the Eastman School, Hanson held an influential position in American musical life, and he used this position consistently to promote new works of living composers. The most wide-ranging of these efforts was the series of recordings he made for the Mercury label of hundreds of American works with the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, a group made up of Eastman students and local professionals. Hanson also established the American Music Festival, a yearly presentation of works by living American composers, which continued until 1971. He maintained an active schedule as a guest lecturer and conductor, served frequently as a consultant on musical education issues, and published a theoretical text, The Harmonic Materials of Modern Music. During his years, despite the busy schedule of his Eastman life, Hanson maintained a steady stream of musical compositions, ranging from his famous affirmation of neo-romantic musical identity, his Symphony No. 2, "Romantic" (1930), to the Pulitzer-prize winning Symphony No. 4, "Requiem" (1943), to numerous works for chorus and orchestra, his favourite genre, to the full-length opera Merry Mount (1933), one of the first operas to be commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera. Hanson retired from Eastman in 1964 but continued both his own composing and his promotion work on behalf of American music until his death on 26 February 1981. Hanson's unabashedly romantic musical language was remarkably consistent throughout his entire life. Influenced by the Nordic tradition represented by Jean Sibelius, his work took a decidedly American approach to the European symphonic genre and influences. The musicologist Walter Simmons writes the following in his seminal study of American neo-romanticism, Voices in the Wilderness (2004): "Howard Hanson was a bold and outspoken advocate of music as a euphonious vehicle for untrammeled emotional expression during a period when the new-music community had become hostile to such a point of view." The consistency of Hanson's musical vision and style is remarkable, during a period in which he saw himself gradually considered an anachronism by a new generation of American composers. With a surge of new recordings beginning in the late 1980s and continuing to the present, listeners have been rediscovering the immense pleasures afforded by Hanson's grand musical landscapes. Perhaps because he was an excellent pianist himself, with particularly legendary score-reading abilities, Hanson's two essays in the concerto genre are for keyboard instruments, piano (1948) and organ. His Concerto for Organ, Harp, and Strings, Op. 22, No. 3 (1941), began life as a symphonic poem entitled North and West (1923). Hanson turned that work into the Organ Concerto (1926), written for the Eastman School's organist Harold Gleason, which used a full symphony orchestra. Owing to the difficulties of performing works for organ with large symphony orchestras, since most organs are in confined church spaces, Hanson created this final, tighter version, using smaller musical forces. It is cast in the one-movement episodic form that Hanson frequently employed. The opening begins mysteriously with strings and harp, leading to the organ's initial subdued entrance. The main two themes of the work are presented by the organ. The second section introduces a dancing ostinato, a favorite Hanson device, leading to a development of the themes of the first section. An exciting cadenza for organ pedals alone leads to a quiet return of the opening music. The faster music returns, driving towards the vibrant coda. Nymphs and Satyr (1979), a ballet suite for chamber orchestra, was Hanson's last completed major composition, and was a commission from the Chautauqua Institute, a Western New York artists' colony which was was one of Hanson's summer home retreats for many years. The musical material of the work is taken largely from two shorter pieces written in the years earlier, a fantasy for clarinet and a scherzo for bassoon. The opening Prelude presents an upward unfolding motive that is developed in the Fantasy. The main material of the Scherzo presents a melody with a distinctly Swiss mountain flavour, apparently a tune which Hanson had devised to sing to his dog while feeding her biscuits. The Epilogue brings back the opening material theme and winds down to a contemplative conclusion. The composer wrote the following scenario for the ballet:
Destiny moves the nymphs on a journey. As they travel they express their joy of life. Satyr is touched on the shoulder by Destiny and he joins the nymphs in their expression of happiness. At the end, Satyr is left alone, contemplating life and friendship.
Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth (1951) for piano and string orchestra was commissioned by Hanson's alma mater, Northwestern University, to celebrate their centenary. Hanson commented: "It occurred to me that it would be appropriate if I could write a series of variations on a theme which I wrote when I was a young student there. Looking through my student works, I found one theme which seemed to be as fresh today as it was when it was written well over thirty years ago." The theme which he chose was the opening motive of his Concerto da Camera in C minor for Piano and String Quartet (1917). The new work begins with the theme as it appeared in the early composition and then is followed by four variations of contrasting character. The first is dark and brooding, the second alternates music of percussive and flowing characters, the third is a lyric meditation, and the fourth is a vibrant and ferocious dialogue. A quiet coda ends the work in peaceful tranquility. Serenade for Flute, Harp, and Strings, Op. 35 (1945), was composed as a courtship gift to Margaret Elizabeth Nelson, whom Hanson married in 1946. It was commissioned by the WHAM Radio Station in Rochester for their Treasures in Music programme series. The work is a lyric and flowing song for the flute which courses through a series of typically warm string harmonies, energized with more rhythmic textures in the harp. Summer Seascape No. 2 (1965) for viola and strings is one of Hanson's mo
Facts
Item number 8559251
Barcode 636943925126
Release date 02/08/2006
Category Orchestral | Classical Music
Label Naxos Records | Naxos American Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Performers
Artists Holly Blake
Adriana Linares
Doris Hall-Gulati
Jacqueline Pollauf
Jonathan Blumenfeld
Joseph Jackson
Andrew Bolotowsky
Gabriela Imreh
Composers Howard Hanson
Conductors Daniel Spalding
Orchestras Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra
Producers Daniel Spalding
Disc: 1
Concerto for Organ, Harp and Strings, Op. 22, No.
1 Concerto for Organ, Harp and Strings, Op. 22, No.
Nymph and Satyr
2 I. Prelude - II. Fantasy for Clarinet and Chamber
3 III. Scherzo for Bassoon and Chamber Orchestra
4 IV. Epilog
Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth
5 Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth
Serenade, Op. 35
6 Serenade, Op. 35
Summer Seascape II
7 Summer Seascape II
Pastorale
8 Pastorale
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