Hanson: Bold Island Suite, Symphony No. 2 "Romantic", Suite from Merry Mountby Erich Kunzel
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.
- Release Date:
- Fanfare for the Signal Corps for brass ensemble
- Merry Mount, suite from the opera, Op. 31
- Bold Island Suite, for orchestra
- Symphony No. 2 ("Romantic"), Op. 30
Performance CreditsErich Kunzel Primary Artist
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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.