HOWARD HANSON: Suite from Merry Mount; Bold Island Suite; Symphony No. 2 “Romantic;” Fanfare for the Signal Corps – Cincinnati Pops Orchestra/Erich Kunzel – Telarc

by | Dec 6, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

HOWARD HANSON: Suite from Merry Mount; Bold Island Suite;
Symphony No. 2  “Romantic;” Fanfare for the Signal Corps –
Cincinnati Pops Orchestra/Erich Kunzel – Telarc Multichannel
SACD-60649, 66:12 *****:

Most senior audio buffs are well-acquainted with the many recordings by
Howard Hanson on the Mercury Living Presence series of LPs  – both
of his own music and that of others. And they are being discovered by
younger generations via the reissues on first CD and now three-channel
SACD. Hanson was one of the most important figures in music in the 20th
century – not only for his compositions but for his career as longtime
Director of the Eastman School of Music and his pioneering support of
American composers. Hanson had studied for two years in Italy with
Respighi and his individual version of continuing the Romantic
tradition therefore showed Italian and French influences rather than
the Germanic of most other American composers who had studied in

Of the Hanson seven symphonies the Second or “Romantic” is his
best-known – probably for its cornucopia of gorgeous melody and rich
neo-Romantic feeling. The work was a commission from the Boston
Symphony in 1930 and is in three movements.The opening three-note theme
returns in various guises in all three movements, tying the work
together. I was initially surprised to see that Kunzel and his
Cincinnati Pops were selected to record this work, which would probably
not appear on a pops program in its entirety.  In auditioning it
all hesitations fell away; I find this not only a more attractive
interpretation of the music, but also a far superior sonic presentation
than the classic Mercury effort. Telarc’s 5.0 surround puts the
listener in the center of the glorious sounds of this work and makes me
so thankful that tonal music of this sort can again be part of our
musical life without any apology to the academic serialists who used to
control the classical music world!

The suite from Hanson’s opera Merry Mount is another one of his works
which will be familiar to many.  What was unfamiliar to me was the
synopsis of the actual opera from which the instrumental music was
derived. Quite unlike the bouncy and celebratory mood of such sections
as the Maypole Dances, the opera’s plot concerns warfare between two
early groups of American settlers, with murder, double-crossing and
death by immolation in it. This disc boasts the world premiere
recording of Hanson’s Bold Island Suite, inspired by the composer’s
place of summer retreat which was located two miles off the coast of
Maine. The three movements describe Birds of the Sea, the Summer
Seascape, and God in Nature. This superb hi-res hybrid disc helps
celebrate 40 years of Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops.

 – John Sunier

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