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Howard Hanson: Symphony No. 1 "Nordic"; The Lament For Beowulf / Schwarz, Seattle Symphony

Album Summary

>Hanson, Howard : Symphony no 1 in E Minor, Op 22 "Nordic"
>Hanson, Howard : Lament for Beowulf for chorus & orchestra, Op. 25
Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Howard Hanson, a composer of imagination and sweep and a colorist of huge eloquence, is one of the most approachable of all twentieth century symphonists. His guiding spirit was always Sibelius, and in the Symphony No. 1 'Nordic' he used the same key as in the Finnish composer's own First Symphony. The work is haunting, rapturous and serene, beautifully orchestrated and wholly commanding. The Lament for Beowulf, written for chorus and orchestra, dates from 1925. Its dark, brooding tension reflects its poetic inspiration with indelible force. "This is confident, generous, beautifully made music, richly (and sensitively) scored. Schwarz, and his splendid Seattle orchestra do not short-change us on any of this and they are beautifully, ripely, recorded here." (Gramophone on the original Delos release)

"Now that Hanson’s own Mercury recordings seem to be no longer readily availablethis is the version to have." -Music-WebInternational.com

"Naxos’ re-release of Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony’s Hanson symphonies under the American Classics series is a welcome event... the music is satisfying and enjoyable in a late-19th-century manner... The performance quality of Schwarz and his band are excellent, and the sonics are terrific." -San Francisco Classical Voice

MusicWeb International
As for Schwarz, he catches the ebb and flow of this piece to perfection, so that even in the subdued moment there's no hint of impending stasis. But, more than anything, it's the inexhaustible flow and freshness of musical ideas that keeps one gripped to the very end.

The disc is completed in its short duration with Beowulf's lament , which began in Rome and completed in 1925, a work for chorus and orchestra masterfully starts but then keep up their interest in a rare blend of ancient and modern tone mode, but an elegant and extraordinary treatment of the chorus. If I add here that we know little or nothing for Hanson, do not add anything new, but that is a proponent of undeniable value, this should also be obvious.

MusicWeb International
Well performed by all involved... . Sound quality for both works is pretty good...

Schwarz's readings are ultimately more mercurial, by turns breezily lyrical and sombrely brooding, evoking a certain American optimism beneath the music's Romantic veneer.

American Record Guide
The recorded sound... is still spectacular - solid, firm, and, like the music, expansive, but not diffuse and with plenty of ambiance from the Seattle Opera House. Schwarz keeps a firm hand on the proceedings, yet lets the music unfold at a natural pace, pushing ahead when it needs to move along, yet stopping to savor expressive, lyrical moments.

Audiophile Audition
Recollections of Beowulf's prowess find the music in full sympathy, heraldic, heroic, emblazoned. The Seattle Chorale sopranos, particularly, convey the (modal) sense of loss with a special mystical fervor. Intimate, elegiac, and portentous at once, the score as recorded by Schwarz and his Seattle forces makes a lasting and potent impression.

Howard Hanson's music is quite approachable to anyone who enjoys Sibelius, a lifelong influence for Hanson (1896 - 1981). "Nordic,"... is a... serene and stately work and less distinctly Germanic than that of Sibelius... The Lament for Beowulf (1925)... is a dark and poetic piece, and it is well sung and well played by the Seattle Symphony and Chorale under Gerard Schwarz. The sound stands up well, and the inclusion of Beowulf texts in the booklet is welcome...

Classical Candor
The sound is smooth and wide - wide in stereo spread, dynamic range, and frequency response. Midrange clarity is fine... A good sense of orchestral depth and a touch of ambient bloom complete a reasonably realistic acoustic picture... Hanson sets the music to orchestra and chorus... Hanson's own, is aptly elegiac, solemn, harsh, grave, and grim, while still being epic in scope.

The Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 22 ("Nordic"), was the work that made Hanson's reputation when he premiered it in 1922. It shares a key and a good number of ideas with Sibelius' first symphony, with a craggy, brooding opening movement and a broad finale enclosing a melodious slow movement that feels like nothing more than an interlude. The first movement has a complexity of structure that takes it beyond mere imitation of Sibelius, and Schwarz keeps impressive control of the trajectory at all times. Hanson's themes in the finale are not quite as stirring as those of their model, and the choral Lament of Beowulf that closes at the album is pretty ponderous, but the Symphony No. 1 is a bona fide neglected American masterwork, a good find for Naxos' American Classics series.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Seattle Opera House, Seattle, WA.


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Works Details

>Hanson, Howard : Symphony no 1 in E Minor, Op 22 "Nordic"
  • Conductor: Gerard Schwarz
  • Ensemble: Seattle Symphony Orchestra
  • Running Time: 29 min. 23 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1922

>Hanson, Howard : Lament for Beowulf for chorus & orchestra, Op. 25
  • Conductor: Gerard Schwarz
  • Ensemble: Seattle Symphony Orchestra
  • Notes: Seattle Opera House, Seattle, WA (02/16/1990/02/18/1990)
  • Running Time: 19 min. 7 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Choral
  • Written: 1925