Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hanson and Piston by Hanson

Just in time for the Fourth of July, a couple of Pulitzer Prize-winning symphonies which are utterly different from each other, and therefore complement each other nicely.  Piston's, which received the 1948 Pulitzer, is yet another of those "Great American Third Symphonies" (a phenomenon started by Roy Harris, and continued by William Schuman and Aaron Copland) and seems to me one of the finest of his eight, with a spiky scherzo that makes one regret he didn't write more symphonies with scherzos (only Nos. 4 and 6 also have them), which fits into an overall slow-fast-slow-fast four movement pattern of the type that had been recently been popularized by Shostakovich and Prokofiev in their Fifth Symphonies.  Hanson's Fourth, the 1944 Pulitzer winner, has the exact opposite pattern, and is cast as an orchestral Requiem "In Memory of my beloved Father." (Had he taken the idea from Britten's "Sinfonia da Requiem"?)  The Sibelian echoes are very strong here, but even so this strikes me as the finest of Hanson's symphonies among those that I've heard (which is all of them except Nos. 5 and 7), and of course the performance is authoritative.

Piston: Symphony No. 3 (1947)
Hanson: Symphony No. 4 (1943)
Eastman Rochester Orchestra conducted by Howard Hanson
Recorded May 11, 1954 (Piston) and May 11-13, 1953 (Hanson)
Mercury Golden Imports SRI-75107, one LP record
Link (FLAC files, 141.32 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 64.8 MB)

This LP is a reissue from the late 1970s, one of about 150 reissues pressed by Philips in the Netherlands of Mercury Living Presence material.  It was, unfortunately, "enhanced" with fake stereo, even though this had become passé by the 70s, and naturally I have "monoed" it back again in this transfer.  As far as I am aware, neither of these recordings has ever appeared on CD; they were not part of the slew of Mercury Living Presence CD reissues produced in the 1990s, although they certainly should have been.


  1. Thanks for posting this record. I do remember this disc when reissued in the late 70's, but I did not purchase it. Good to have it available again.

    The Hanson 4th is particularly welcome. I transferred the first recording of it for download a few months back (ARS 6 Dean Dixon & the Vienna Sym) but Hanson's performance clearly surpasses that pioneering effort.

  2. Thanks a lot for this publication. For other mono Mercury Living Presence by Hanson have a look to Pristine Classical. You'll find his 5th symphony, and a lot of great stuff, by Hanson, and others.