- Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Op 22 "Nordic"
- Merry Mount, suite from the opera, Op. 31
- Pan and the Priest, symphonic poem for orchestra, Op 26
- Rhythmic Variations on Two Ancient Hymns for orchestra
Composers such as Howard Hanson may have been out of sync with the musical modernism of the early 20th century, but this seems to matter less than it ever did as we enter the 21st. Inaugurating a cycle of Hanson's orchestral music for the Naxos label, Kenneth Schermerhorn and the Nashville Symphony begin with one of his first masterpieces: the First Symphony (1922), subtitled the "Nordic." It's a little ironic that the American composer was living in Italy when he wrote this work in honor of more northern climes -- yet upon hearing the symphony this makes perfect sense, for it nods equally to the lush orchestral style of Respighi (his teacher in Rome at the time) and to the more chillingly evocative music of Sibelius (who was perhaps Hanson's greatest inspiration). The orchestra gives a powerful performance of this symphony, broad in scope, colorful in detail, and highly expressive in overall impact. The same is true in the vivid suite from Hanson's Nathaniel Hawthorne-based opera Merry Mount. On the evidence of this release, Naxos' cycle seems likely to rival Gerard Schwarz's groundbreaking recordings of the symphonies and other works for Delos and to delve deeper into obscurities from Hanson's catalogue. Also included here, the symphonic poem Pan and the Priest (1926) may not contain Hanson's most distinctive music, but it's certainly a likable work. The recently rediscovered Rhythmic Variations on Two Ancient Hymns is more intriguing; here, Hanson scales back his usually full symphonic apparatus to an austere string orchestra, proving his ability to write expressively with a more limited palette of colors. At budget price, no less, this release is enthusiastically recommended to anyone with an interest in Americana or a taste for late romantic symphonies.