Sunday, January 17, 2016

Hanson's "Romantic" - The First Recording

Howard Hanson
The most popular work by Nebraska-born Howard Hanson (1896-1981) is his Second Symphony of 1930, long a favorite with youth and amateur orchestras because it is apparently relatively easy to bring off a convincing performance by such ensembles. Perhaps this is fitting, given Hanson's status as a musical educator; after all, he transformed the Eastman School of Music into one of America's top music schools during his 40 years as its director. But his Second Symphony actually was commissioned by the Boston Symphony, for its 50th anniversary. Ten years later, in 1940, Victor's first two sets featuring American symphonies simultaneously hit the record shops. The BSO's contribution wasn't Hanson's - it was the Third Symphony by Roy Harris. Hanson himself led his Eastman-Rochester orchestra in the symphony he had written for Boston:

Hanson: Symphony No. 2, Op. 30 ("Romantic")
Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra conducted by Howard Hanson
Recorded May 11, 1939
Victor Musical Masterpiece set AM-648, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 86.64 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 55.94 MB)

Hanson was to record the "Romantic" Symphony twice more, in 1952 for Columbia, and in 1958 for Mercury. This Victor recording is not only his first recording of the work, but his first recording of anything. I've compiled a list, from Michael Gray's Classical Discography, of Hanson's Victor sessions from 1939-42, and the 58 issued sides they produced, in order by matrix number:

May 11, 1939:

CS-035859/66 Hanson: Symphony No. 2 "Romantic"  (15865/8 [M-648])
BS-035867 Charles Vardell: Joe Clark Steps Out  (2059-A)
BS-035868 Still: Afro-American Symphony - Scherzo  (2059-B)
CS-035869/70 MacDowell: "Indian" Suite - Dirge  (15567 [in M-608])
CS-035871/2 Chadwick: Symphonic Sketches - Jubilee  (15566 [in M-608])
BS-035873/4 Sowerby: Comes Autumn Time  (2058)
CS-035875/6 Paine: Oedipus Tyrannus - Prelude  (15568 [in M-608])
CS-035877 Griffes: The White Peacock  (15569-A [in M-608])
CS-035878 Kent Kennan: Night Soliloquy  (15569-B [in M-608])

April 29 & 30, 1940:

CS-048819/22 Hanson: Merry Mount Suite  (17795/6 [M-781])
BS-048823 Robert Braine: Pavane - El Greco  (2112-A)
BS-048824 Robert Braine: Habañera - Lazy Cigarette  (2112-B)
CS-048825 Wayne Barlow: Rhapsody - The Winter's Past  (18101-B [in M-802])
CS-048826 Bernard Rogers: Soliloquy  (18101-A [in M-802])
CS-048827/32 Copland: Music for the Theatre  (17688/90 [M-744])
CS-048833 Burrill Phillips: American Dance  (18102-A [in M-802])
CS-048834 Homer Keller: Serenade  (18102-B [in M-802])

May 9 & 10, 1941:

CS-065310/4 Hanson: The Lament for Beowulf  (11-8114/6-A [in M-889])
CS-065315 Spencer Norton: Dance Suite - Prologue  (11-8116-B [in M-889])
CS-065316/21 Loeffler: A Pagan Poem  (18479/81 [M-876])

May 7 & 8, 1942:

CS-075100/5 Hanson: Symphony No. 1 "Nordic"  (11-8623/5 [M-973])
CS-075109 Charles Skilton: Suite Primeval - War Dance  (11-8302-A)
CS-075113/4 Griffes: Poem for Flute and Orchestra  (11-8349)
CS-075115 Skilton: Suite Primeval - Sunrise Dance  (11-8302-B)

(All the 1941-42 recordings except the Skilton can be accessed here.)

Hanson had two sessions for Columbia, one in 1950, the other in 1952, producing a total of five works (among them, Wallingford Riegger's Third Symphony). Four days after the second Columbia session, he began the fruitful association with Mercury that would continue until 1965.


  1. Alternate links:



  2. Great job Bryan ! Together with his 6th symphony, Hanson's 2d remains one of my favorite. Many thanks.

  3. Kudos Bryan, always loved hearing this piece since college. Wonder if there is a copy of the Columbia recording around somewhere.

  4. Great to have such a landmark recording of this pivotal score!