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Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, July 2012

Far from being mere duty pieces all three display the deceptively simple, open-hearted qualities that suffuse so much of Hanson’s work; moreover, his Romantic spirit is undiminished, despite the changed and changing musical milieux of the 1960s and 1970s.

…one just has to hear the Sixth—in six continuous movements—to be made aware of a strong and individual voice; from its seminal woodwind theme the symphony is articulated with an economy of style that’s never short on drama. The first big tutti—goodness, what a formidable bass drum—the dry rattle of side drums and the vaunting brass are the hard outer shell, the sustained, string-led lyricism the soft kernel. Schwarz certainly points up the latter most beautifully; and while the long, singing lines of the third movement are ravishing, the more trenchant moments are just as gripping.

What a glorious, elegantly proportioned piece this is, the steady beat of the last two movements—cue that big bass drum—underpinning music of surprising impact and energy. And, as I’ve found with the other discs in this series, the orchestra are very well recorded. They’re joined in the remaining works by the Seattle Choral…The women certainly don’t disappoint in the light-filled loveliness of Lumen in Christo, whose opening verses from Genesis point to Haydn as a source of inspiration.

Whereas The Creation is a series of declamatory/descriptive passages interspersed with solos, Hanson’s score is a blend of bold but nicely scaled orchestral statements—just listen to the imposing start—and fine, cloistered singing. There’s a hint of Orffian ostinati as well—tastefully done—and a discreet peal of bells; as for the singing, it’s firmly focused and resolute in its reach. The end of the first section is a good example of Hanson’s talent for spinning the most radiant and memorable tunes from the simplest flax. Lumen in Christo is full of such epiphanies, with perhaps a genuflection towards Bruckner in the chorale-like passages of the second part.

The concluding ‘Lux aeterna’ is intensely moving—how like beams of rubied light in a serene, votive space—and it makes a perfect prelude to the Seventh Symphony. Comparisons with Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony are unavoidable—including the use of lines from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass—but Hanson’s version is much more austere. Grand gestures are kept to a minimum, and dynamics are more finely shaded. As so often with this composer there’s an abiding sense of a very private persona—like Britten’s, perhaps—given to writing of simplicity, strength and quiet astonishment.

Another rewarding addition to this fine cycle, celebrated as much for the composer’s gentle spirit as for Schwarz’s inspired direction.

Works of distinction and delight, winningly played. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, July 2012

…Hanson’s…Sixth Symphony…proved to be a surprising success, its six movements played consecutively without a break…and built around a simple three-note theme. As in so much of his music, Hanson used those three notes to great advantage in a succession of various moods, particularly in the first Adagio, which is the symphony’s central and longest movement. In the fourth movement, an Allegro assai, the theme is explored rhythmically and with imaginative harmonic changes that grow out of one another in odd angles, while a second, stately Adagio leads us into a final Allegro with the three-note motto used antiphonally. This final movement is tremendously exciting, built as it is on two overlaid rhythmic patterns, and ending in a tremendous brass chord with percussion.

Hanson’s final symphony, his seventh, combines a chorus and orchestra à la Beethoven but in his own personal style. Luckily, the conductor remembers the work when it was new, and so can to some extent recapture the grandeur and lyricism of that time. The “waves” of the music are created via a rush of strings to which winds, brass, percussion, and chorus are added, breaking over the listener in flowing and ebbing washes of sound…And, again, Hanson creates magic out of his transitions…It is only 46 bars long, but within that span Hanson builds a lovely yet chromatic movement.

Gerard Schwarz, usually a fine, dependable conductor, is his normally fine self here. For the benefit of those who weren’t around 40 years ago, I’d like to drop in at this point that he was one of the greatest trumpet virtuosos of his day… © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Laurence Vittes
Gramophone, June 2012

Hanson wrote the music on this CD when he was 72, 78 and 81 years of age, and about each he must have felt deeply. The Sixth Symphony was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to celebrate its 185th season. Lumen in Christo was commissioned by Nazareth College to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The Seventh Symphony, his last, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the National Music Camp at Interlochen, Michigan.

They are full of musical cues that the listener is intended to hear, from places like Haydn’s Creation and Handel’s Messiah, and even the famous passages from Hanson’s own Fourth Symphony. There are bold strokes, ominous moods, martial attitudes, gentle epiphanies and hopeful, joyful resolutions.

Adding immeasurably to the musical experience are essays by Steven C. Smith and Jim Svejda which alternate stylistically like characters in a Stoppard play; they both persuasively tell the stories behind the music. A good starting point is the exquisite second section of Lumen in Christo, which shows a staggering virtuosity in handling allusional musical textures and themes. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Steve Arloff
MusicWeb International, May 2012

The obvious admiration that Schwarz has for both the man and the music makes all these performances both telling and convincing. The Seattle Symphony give their all while the Seattle Symphony Chorus (Chorale) is wonderfully impressive in the two works in which they feature. I read that the 120 members volunteer more than 30,000 hours each year—now that’s what I call “the big society”!

This disc is highly enjoyable and for anyone new to Hanson’s works it is a brilliant introduction to a really inspirational composer whose works are gradually achieving the exposure and success they richly deserve. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Lawrence Hansen
American Record Guide, May 2012

I have to agree that neither the 6th nor the 7th maintains the inspiration of Hanson’s first three symphonies, or even No 5, but there is enough merit in them for them to be represented in a modest collection of 20th Century American music.

One can understand why Schwarz included Lumen in his recording series. It’s a luminous, radiant piece well worth reviving. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

James Norris
Audiophilia, April 2012

HANSON, H.: Symphonies (Complete), Vol. 4 - Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5 / Elegy / Dies natalis I (Seattle Symphony, Schwarz) 8.559703
HANSON, H.: Symphonies (Complete), Vol. 5 - Symphonies Nos. 6 and 7 / Lumen in Christo (Seattle Symphony and Chorale, Schwarz) 8.559704

These recordings were previously released on the Delos label and it’s good that Naxos have re-released them for they are amongst the finest symphonies in the American tradition standing comparison in my opinion with Charles Ives and Virgil Thompson.

I can honestly say that the journey through Hanson’s symphonies has been for me well worth the time and these performances by the Seattle Symphony under Schwarz are very fine and detailed. © 2012 Audiophilia Read complete review

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, March 2012

As with the earlier volumes Schwarz brooks no dilution of the music. Nothing is routine or careless.

The old passionate munitions and the aggressive air-burst energy is still there in the six-movement Sixth Symphony. Lumen in Christo growls with awe. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review, February 2012

The re-release of the Delos International recordings of the complete symphonies of Howard Hanson concludes with the composer’s final works in the form, played by the Seattle Symphony under Gerard Schwarz with as much warmth, skill and stylistic attentiveness as the earlier volumes received. The Hanson cycle was a significant accomplishment when originally released and remains one in Naxos’ fine reissue. © 2012 Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2012

The final disc in Naxos’s complete cycle of Howard Hanson’s symphonies, one of the most important releases of American music in the CD catalogue. In previous reviews I commented on the fact that while Hanson was born in America and spent most of his life there, he came of Scandinavian parentage, and having spent some years in Italy studying with Otterino Respighi, his American musical status was blurred. Never to wholly embrace the Americanism sweeping the country, and largely ignored by the modernist music establishment in Europe, he ploughed a lonely furrow. The result has left the world largely ignorant of music that audiences could easily relate to if they had the chance to hear it. The Sixth dates from 1967, and is in the unusual shape of six short linked movements of contrasting moods. The opening could be seen as an afterthought of the Second World War, with the military use of side drum and trumpets, and a pounding rhythm of the second movement is high on impact. But it ends in a happy showpiece of orchestral virtuosity. The Seventh is subtitled ‘A Sea Symphony’ and takes its words from Walt Whitman. Scored for orchestra and chorus, it is a much enjoyable score, but stands deep in the shadow of the score with the same title from Vaughan Williams. Hanson was religious, the third work Lumen in Christo, also for chorus and orchestra, is to biblical texts, the composer describing it as ‘variations on themes by Haydn and Handel’. I leave you to spot them. Throughout this symphonic cycle the Seattle Symphony, inspired by their conductor, Gerard Schwarz, have gone way beyond the call of duty, and here they are joined by their excellent Chorale. Recorded in the 1980’s and 90’s they have previously appeared on the Delos label and have all the required impact. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

Jean-Yves Duperron
Classical Music Sentinel, January 2012

These previously available Delos recordings remain as impressive today as they did when first released in the early 90s, with a deep soundstage and wide dynamic range, and make for a memorable milestone in this ongoing Naxos series of American masterworks. © 2012 Classical Music Sentinel Read complete review

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