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Paul Corfield Godfrey
MusicWeb International, May 2012

One of Gerard Schwarz’s many services to American music during his period in residence in Seattle was to resurrect and re-record the music of Hanson. This included a considerable number of works that Hanson himself never committed to disc. These recordings did a very great deal to vindicate the music itself. More modern recording brought out many subtleties in the scoring, that the Eastman-Rochester stereo originals tended to obscure and absorb. These Delos tapes are now re-emerging, differently coupled, on the Naxos label and their reappearance is a cause for rejoicing.

The novelty here is the suite from the opera Merry Mount, which at the time it was recorded was the only performance of any part of the opera available on disc. Naxos have since put us in their debt by not only releasing a vintage recording from the original Met production…(not available in the USA) and a later recording by Schwarz and his Seattle players of the complete opera from a concert performance in 2006…This suite however remains valuable, because among other things it allows us to hear Hanson’s own arrangement for orchestra alone of the love duet.

The recording here of Hanson’s Third Symphony comes into direct competition with Hanson’s own recording from 1963…This was made using only three microphones, but they were placed much closer to the orchestra producing a rather dry sound by comparison with the refulgent acoustic of the Seattle Opera House here. From the very beginning Hanson is decidedly brisk with his own music. Every movement with Schwarz is longer than with Hanson; in the case of the slow movement and finale by a minute or more. Schwarz’s more leisurely approach pays dividends. The more leisurely tempo which Schwarz adopts in the first movement, not to mention the more distanced sound, is much more “spiritual” than Hanson conveys in his forwardly thrusting reading. The extremely beautiful textures of the slow movement are superbly conveyed here, leading to a passionately emotional climax before the opening material briefly returns. The percussion passages which introduce the scherzo are paradoxically more clearly defined here than Hanson manages…

…this is a superb reading of the Third Symphony, superior indeed to the composer’s own. The addition of the Merry Mount suite is valuable. One cannot imagine that Schwarz’s reading of the Third Symphony will be bettered any time soon, and we should be grateful to Naxos for restoring it to the catalogue. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Steve Arloff
MusicWeb International, March 2012

highly attractive to listen to with the unusual opportunity to hear Scandinavian themes filtered through the creative impulse of an American-born composer.  It has certainly spurred me on to explore the other six Hanson symphonies.

The disc really fired up my interest again in American music which I always find fascinating and almost always better than I expect it to be. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Laurence Vittes
Gramophone, March 2012

Throughout, the way that Hanson uses the orchestra argues once more that he be accepted fully into the repertoire of American orchestras whose causes he so profoundly furthered. He welcomed the challenge of sounding ‘Sibelian’ and dealt with it head on: the chilling, frozen blasts of glorious northern air that open the symphony are answered by a set of variations that show off the orchestra, by section and by instrument. Just when the music threatens to run out of steam, an unexpected surge of energy from deep within the harmonic core focuses attention on a final triumph. And that’s just the first movement.

The Third is a big symphony…existing in an increasingly parallel-universe harmonic world; Hanson’s romanticism may be ‘post’ in terms of European culture but it was none the less deeply felt and beautiful in a purely and uniquely American vein. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Donald R Vroon
American Record Guide, March 2012

there have only been three recordings of this…The Schwarz is by far the best…

This recording of the Merry Mount Suite is also the best…The love duet seems more sensitive here.

…if you don’t have this symphony you should pick this up. It’s enjoyable music. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide, January 2012

Howard Hanson’s…seven symphonies are of major importance among his compositions, and Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony received well-deserved commendations for their fine Hanson symphony recordings… Expansive, lyrical and knitted together by a recurrent chorale theme, [No. 3] has a strong spiritual undercurrent that is presented through skillful and colorful orchestration. The suite from Hanson’s only opera, Merry Mount, is a fine complement to the symphony. © 2012 Read complete review

V. Vasan, December 2011

Symphony No. 3 is a full, lush work with a large orchestra, and the Seattle Symphony under the direction of Gerard Schwarz does an excellent job of bringing Hanson’s music to life. The orchestra plays with perfect rhythmic synchronization, a credit to the excellent conductor at the helm. © 2011 Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2011

Howard Hanson composed seven symphonies of which I have always considered the third to be one of the finest 20th century works in this genre. It was written in the conventional four movements and in a tonal language that is readily appealing. Completed in 1938 it has that rugged Nordic atmosphere that reflects his ancestry, and in that respect falls inconveniently into the growth of musical Americana that had begun to isolate him. Still it was well received and if only concert promoters would programme it, it would surely find an admiring audience today. As I have written earlier, his orchestration did take something from his mentor, Respighi, but the Third is largely devoid of such influences, and Nielsen and Sibelius are more akin. The slow movement is particularly appealing, while the pounding rhythms of the scherzo, with its unusual use of timpani, lead to a highly charged and colourful finale. The disc is completed by an orchestral suite from the opera, Merry Mount, a score packed full of attractive arias and choruses, and four orchestral passages make up a very pleasant concert work ending in unbridled happiness with the Maypole Dance. The excellent sound comes from recordings made in 1990 and which were at one time available on the Delos label. They were, and will no doubt remain, the benchmark performances, conductor, Gerard Schwarz, having an innate feel for Hanson’s music. In sum, one of the discs no collection of American music can be without.

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