HANSON conducts American Music, Vol. 1 (1952-54) - PASC292

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HANSON conducts American Music, Vol. 1 (1952-54) - PASC292

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HANSON Symphony No. 4
LOEFFLER Memories of my Childhood (Life in a Russian Village)
HANSON Songs from 'Drum Taps'

The Testament of Freedom
Recorded in 1952, 1953 & 1954
Total duration: 72:17 

David Meyers, baritone
Eastman School of Music Chorus
Eastman-Rochester Orchestra
Howard Hanson,

This set contains the following albums:

Hanson conducts his 4th Symphony & "Songs from 'Drum Taps'"

Plus rare recordings of Loeffler and Thompson in Mercury Living Presence

  • These recordings were transcribed from both original 1950s Mercury LP pressings and 1970s Dutch reissue pressings. Although the latter offered much better overall disc quality, they suffered from a particularly unpleasant brand of fake electronic stereo, which attempted to create stereo spread by the simple expedient of putting the treble onto the left channel and the bass onto the right channel.

    Unfortunately this very occasionally resulted in some phasing problems when the two channels were summed back to mono for XR remastering. In the three or four instances (of a second or less) that I detected of this I was able to either significantly reduce or entirely fix the problem.

    More generally the sound quality of the older recordings was less than brilliant, and though I have managed to achieve significant improvements, there is a noticeable reduction of top-end treble towards the end of both recordings. In this respect the Hanson Symphony and the Loeffler are both much better, and all four recordings have greatly benefited from 32-bit XR remastering.

    Andrew Rose

  • HANSON Symphony No. 4 (1943, won Pulitzer Prize) 
    Recorded 11-13 May 1953
    First issued on Mercury MG 40004

  • LOEFFLER Memories of my Childhood (Life in a Russian Village) (1925)
    Recorded 29 October 1954
    First issued on Mercury MG 40012

  • HANSON Songs from 'Drum Taps'* (1935)
    To poems of Walt Whitman
    Recorded 3 May 1952
    First issued as Mercury MG 40000

  • RANDALL THOMPSON The Testament of Freedom* (1943)
    A setting of Four Passages from the Writings of Thomas Jefferson

    Recorded 3 May 1952
    First issued as Mercury MG 40000

    *David Meyers,
    *Eastman School of Music Chorus
    Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra 
    Howard Hanson, conductor

  • XR remastering by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio, May-June 2011
    Cover artwork based on a photograph of Howard Hanson

    Total duration: 72:17

    SONGS FROM "DRUM TAPS" (Walt Whitman)

    I. Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
    Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,
    Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation;
    Into the school where the scholar is studying;
    Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride, 
    Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain, 
    So fierce you whirr and pound you drums—so shrill you bugles blow. 
    Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
    Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets; 
    Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? no sleepers must sleep in those beds, 
    No bargainers' bargains by day—no brokers or speculators- would they continue? 
    Would the talkers be talking? Would the singer attempt to sing? 
    Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
    Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder blow. 
    Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow! 
    Make no parley—stop for no expostulation, 
    Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer, 
    Mind not the old man beseeching the young man, 
    Let not the child's voice be heard, nor the mother's entreaties, 
    Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses, 
    So strong you thump 0 terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow. (1861)

    IL By the bivouac's fitful flame,
    A procession winding around me, solemn and sweet and slow —but first I note,
    The tents of the sleeping army, the fields' and woods' dim outline, 
    The darkness lit by spots of kindled fire, the silence,
    Like a phantom far or near an occasional figure moving, 
    The shrubs and trees, (as I lift my eyes they seem to be stealthily watching me,) 
    While wind in procession thoughts, 0 tender and woundrous thoughts,
    Of life and death, of home and the past and loved, and of those that are far away; 
    A solemn and slow procession there as I sit on the ground, 
    By the bivouac's fitful flame. (1865)

    III. To thee old cause!
    Thou peerless, passionate, good cause,
    Thou stern, remorseless, sweet idea,
    Deathless throughout the ages, races, lands,
    After a strange sad war, great war for thee,
    (I think all war through time was really fought, and ever will be really fought, for thee,) 
    These chants for thee, the eternal march of thee. (1871)



    RANDALL THOMPSON The Testament of Freedom
    Text from the following writings of Thomas Jefferson:

    I. A summary View of the Rights of British America (1774). The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy but cannot disjoin them.

    II and III. Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms (July 6, 1775). We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery. Honor, justice, and humanity forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage upon them.

    Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great. We gratefully acknowledge, as signal instances of the Divine favor towards us, that His Providence would not permit us to be called into this severe controversy until we were grown up to our present strength, had been previously exercised in warlike operation, and, possessed of the means of defending ourselves. With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die free men rather than to live slaves.

    We fight not for glory or for conquest. We exhibit to mankind the remarkable spectacle of a people attacked by unprovoked enemies, without any imputation or even suspicion of offense. They boast of their privileges and civilization, and yet proffer no milder conditions than servitude or death.

    In our native land, in defense of the freedom that is our birthright and which we ever enjoyed till the late violation of it; for the protection of our property, acquired solely by the honest industry of our forefathers and ourselves against violence actually offered; we have taken up arms. We shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors and all danger of them being renewed shall be removed, and not before.

    IV. Letter to John Adams, Monticello (September 12, 1821). I shall not die without a hope that light and liberty are on steady advance. ... And even should the cloud of barbarism and despotism again obscure the science and liberties of Europe, this country remains to preserve and restore light and liberty to them. . . . The flames kindled on the 4th of July, 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume those engines and all who work them.

    The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy but cannot disjoin them.

    MusicWeb International Review

    Hanson's Fourth Symphony is sumptuous...

  • Hanson conducts American Music Vols 1-3

    IPR law and the passage of time has freed up enterprises such as Pristine to liberate recordings now more than fifty years old. These mono Mercury LP derivatives take wing again courtesy of Andrew Rose and his marvellously applied XR re-mastering.
    Hanson's Fourth Symphony (there are seven) is sumptuous. The music wells up in great gouts of sound. Everything is burnished and regal with a slow sovereign eruption of melody. If you know his first three symphonies all issued by Universal in stereo then you will instantly relate to this throbbing convulsive music. I am not sure that the Requiem title and movements add solidly to the music, They stand as sincere indicators of the moods and senses the composer had in mind. The music was written in memory of Hanson’s father. The very short Dies Irae recalls his gritty propulsive way with the fast movements in the first and second symphonies and link in turn to The Rite and Rimsky's Antar. The finale is Lux Aeterna which is also the title Hanson gave to an earlier work for orchestra. The sense of striving and majestic heavenly flight and bell-tolling is there again. Hanson is, as ever, a master of building the romantic climax as he was to be again in the glorious Sixth Symphony. So it proves here though the work ends in taciturn rather than refulgent style.
    The sound is always plenary, affluent and burnished: golden among the horns and silvery heroic in the trumpets. There is, at times, a slight sense of tizz when the audio pressure is really on; otherwise the sound-picture is very agreeable. It upholds across the decades the vaunted Mercury reputation.
    The poetically coloured Loeffler has not been freshly recorded though this is the second version in historical sound. It sound better than it did on that Guild 2CD set of Tocanini Americana. The music is affectionately cast in an idiom that echoes that of Rimsky-Korsakov with a Gallic aspect. The whole thing is in a single track. It's quite magical. I do wish we could hear more Loeffler. By the way it's Loeffler's Life in a Russian Village not as Pristine have it Live in a Russian Village.
    Hanson's Song from Drum Taps to words by Whitman clamours for attention. It has a fire in common with similar works by RVW (Dona Nobis Pacem) and Bliss (Morning Heroes). The choir is fervent and the flames are fuelled further by the edgy attack of drums and brass. David Meyers guides us mysteriously in hushed tension through By the bivouac's fitful flame with the choir taking a tactful and unassertive shading. The clamant rapture returns for To Thee Old Cause (also set by William Schuman). This is the most masterfully spun of all the three movements and rises in molten fervour. The words can be had on Pristine's website.
    Good to hear this old friend in such good fettle. This leads us to Randall Thompson's Jefferson-based Testament of Freedom which has a clear affinity with the Hanson work. I recall the inspiring experience of hearing these recordings thirty years ago when the box of rare LP Americana arrived by post one summer morning. The Thompson is stirringly four-square and full of admirably earnest commitment to humane values. The rhythmic life that transforms the Second Symphony is touched on but not fully replicated. It’s well worth hearing and there is a transcendent gleam in I shall not die without a hope which is the finale. The singing by the Eastman School of Music Chorus never once relents from commitment and patriotism. It reminded me of John Ireland's These Things Shall Be more than once. The music swings indomitably along lit by that unwavering blaze of democratic rhetoric.
    PASC 296 is a confident entry with two post WW2 symphonies written within a year of each other. The evolutionary-paced bloom of Piston's Third is strongly controlled by Hanson. The conductor must have warmed to its sonorously unhurried heroism no doubt coloured by the country's experience of a World War and the impending Korean conflict. His surefooted way continues to impress across this four movement 35 minute symphony. It's not as catchy or as accessible as its predecessor which was unmatchably recorded by DG with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas in 1971 and can still be heard on XXXX. Even so the impudent irrepressibility heard in the finale of the Second Symphony skitters its way through the first Allegro. The chill-blasted bleach of the 3rd movement Adagio is almost tender but certainly melancholically pained. One senses splintery stamping mid-western zest in the finale. The second Allegro and the taut and tight pummelling of the final few moments speak of Piston's control if not of unbridled exuberance.
    Henry Cowell's Fourth Symphony is much shorter at about twenty minutes. It has a sort of echo in the Hymn-Allegro first movement of tender ‘westerniana’ coupled with The Great Gate of Kiev and even a touch of Purcell. The wistful avian piping of Ballad is followed by the jig-innocent Celtic balladry and danseries of the Vivace. The final Fuguing Tune takes a punt at the Great Gate again but with Purcellian awe and bell-rung majesty. Interestingly his movement titles link with titles of many of this other works: Hymn, Fuguing Tune, Dance, Ballad.
    The Loeffler Poem for Orchestra is another slow-blooming statement of the passions - Tchaikovskian really. It rises to stormy passions for sure. It was the first time I had heard the piece. If you enjoy the Macdowell Arthurian tone poems or those by Farwell perhaps with a tinge of early Delius then you should hear this. I had not encountered it before but was very glad to make its rhapsodic instinctive acquaintance.
    PASC 302 is volume 3. We start with a very early work by the wondrously log-lived Carter. His The Minotaur is dynamic, virile, brutal, burred, tense and atmospheric. It’s not short on Stravinskian high voltage. It can be cool as well as in the miraculous Ariadne, Princess of Crete and poignant as in Theseus’s Farewell to Ariadne which brings a lump in the throat as much as Bliss’s music for Hector’s Farewell to Andromache in Morning Heroes. Wallingford Riegger’s New Dance is more sumptuous and sounds lavish though not to diffuse its shatteringly savage rhythmic howl, blast and electric ripple. The Macdowell Indian Suite derives from the early 1890s – another era. The music is Lisztian, tenderly romantic, fleet-footed and only very faintly ethnic – a slight overtone in the lightly caricatured Village finale which yet ends in a glorious blaze. That same finale from time to time reminded me of Sibelius’s Lemminkainen Suite recently issued in the elite mono 1950s version with Ormandy by Pristine (PASC 299).
    These discs are available separately from Pristine either as discs or in various download formats.
    After a couple of discs where I have been less than welcoming I am so pleased that Pristine have returned to their true and exultant form.
    Let's have more please. How about the Hanson Fifth Symphony (transferred by Haydn House) and the extended ERSO extracts from Merry Mount.
    This is a fascinating slice of American musical history from the 20C. It’s all sensitively and energetically spun by Hanson.
    Rob Barnett