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Hanson: Bold Island Suite, Symphony No. 2
     

Hanson: Bold Island Suite, Symphony No. 2 "Romantic", Suite from Merry Mount

4.0 1
by Erich Kunzel
 

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Few American symphonies are heard as often as Howard Hanson's Second (1930) -- aptly subtitled the "Romantic" -- yet its indelible procession of lushly orchestrated tunes still succeeds in bringing on the goose bumps each time. Hanson was an unabashed Romantic, and his music sounds less "American" than the work of many of his compatriots; his style is more likely to

Overview

Few American symphonies are heard as often as Howard Hanson's Second (1930) -- aptly subtitled the "Romantic" -- yet its indelible procession of lushly orchestrated tunes still succeeds in bringing on the goose bumps each time. Hanson was an unabashed Romantic, and his music sounds less "American" than the work of many of his compatriots; his style is more likely to recall Sibelius, and his use of the orchestra can be as lavish as that of Respighi, his teacher in the early 1920s. He wrote a great deal of music, despite a time-consuming parallel career as director of the renowned Eastman School of Music, but the Second Symphony (out of six) remains his principal calling card. It's easy to understand why -- Hanson's melodic gift sustains this 25-minute score without a moment's lapse -- but the rest of his catalog is ripe for exploration, too. The suite from his opera Merry Mount is practically a miniature symphony in its own right, and it shares some very agreeable Hanson fingerprints with the slightly earlier "Romantic" Symphony. This suite has appeared on disc before, but another colorful and substantial score, the Bold Island Suite (1961), makes a very welcome recorded debut here. Hanson's music rarely surprises, but his consistent inspiration (not to mention impeccable craftsmanship) offers real pleasures that can't be denied. Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops are in glorious form -- the all-important horn section really knocks the symphony out of the park -- making a thoroughly satisfying meal of Hanson's sonic comfort food.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Patsy Morita
The classic recording of Howard Hanson's "Symphony No. 2 Romantic" is the one conducted by Hanson himself on Mercury's Living Presence imprint in the early stereo era. Nice as that one is, it turns out that Erich Kunzel, the Cincinnati Pops, and Telarc, with its reputation for excellent sound, are the perfect team for undertaking a new recording of Hanson's popular symphony. The recording captures all the swells and crests of emotion of the symphony in an extremely rich way that is even more satisfying than Hanson's. In addition to the symphony, the disc also features the first recording of Hanson's "Bold Island Suite," a picturesque tribute to an island off the coast of Maine near islands where Hanson had and Kunzel happens to have, a home. The suite's depictions of birds, broad strokes of orchestral color, and the final movement's inspiration by an ancient text all bring to mind the music of Respighi, one of Hanson's teachers. It works very well as a bridge between the "Merry Mount Suite" and the symphony, having similarities to both. To round out the disc, Kunzel chose an opening fanfare, commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in that same project that resulted in Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." The very brief work for brass and percussion is a natural lead-in for the "Merry Mount Suite," which begins with a fanfare-like overture. The momentum and excitement in Kunzel's reading of these works sweep the listener continually forward. The "Maypole Dances" of the "Merry Mount Suite" are detailed enough to hear almost every percussion instrument being used along with the pizzicato strings in a headlong, frenzied whirl. That energy, plus the fullness of the sound throughout, makes for an exhilarating program of Hanson's music.
Gramophone - Andrew Farach-Colton
Warmly recommended to devotees of orchestral Americana.
Time Out New York - Stephen Francis Vasta
The music of Howard Hanson is finally coming into its own.... [Its] appeal is immediate and undeniable.... This recording is essential.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/27/2005
Label:
Telarc
UPC:
0089408064920
catalogNumber:
80649
Rank:
106856

Tracks

  1. Fanfare for the Signal Corps for brass ensemble
  2. Merry Mount, suite from the opera, Op. 31
  3. Bold Island Suite, for orchestra
  4. Symphony No. 2 ("Romantic"), Op. 30

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4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I ordered this recording on the Fourth of July [I was in a patriotic mood] and can say that the performance of the Second Symphony is quite solid. At 25:54, Kunzel's reading is even more brisk than the composer's own [27:53] and lacks the weighty seriousness of Slatkin's superb reading [30:24] on EMI, but it's more than adequate. The sound quality is superb - this is one of the most natural-sounding orchestral discs in my collection. As for the other pieces on the disc, the Suite from Merry Mount is quite interesting, but the previously unrecorded Bold Island Suite is less so. Recommended, but if you are a big fan of this symphony you should listen to the composer's own recordings as well as Slatkin on EMI and Gerard Schwarz on Delos before making your decision.