CD Spotlight: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 and the Song of Democracy by Howard Hanson
It’s a big year for the Eastman School of Music, as it celebrates its centenary. And what better way to join the celebration than to listen to three great works by Howard Hanson, the school’s first and longtime director? Part of the Mercury Living Presence series, this CD was recorded between 1957 and 1960 in Kodak Hall, and still sounds fresh and vibrant. Hanson himself conducts the Eastman School of Music Chorus and the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, which was made up of first chair players from the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, faculty members from the Eastman School of Music and selected students from the Eastman School.
Both Symphony No. 1, The Nordic and Symphony No. 2, The Romantic embrace the Romantic era in flavor, while being written in a time when twelve-tone compositions were the flavor of the day. And the Song of Democracy, which uses a Walt Whitman text, is big and bold. Composed for the inaugural concert of incoming President Richard Nixon in 1969, the Song of Democracy was part of a program that Hanson proudly pointed out was the first inaugural concert to feature only American music. Our CD Spotlight has stood the test of time well - a wonderful snapshot of another era, while remaining relevant to our times.