Symphony No. 2 “Romantic”/Hanson

May 18, 2010

Howard Hanson, director of the Eastman School of Music for 40 years, composed his second symphony in 1930 for the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony. It has since become his most popular work due to the easy accessibility and the aesthetics of this composition. It is also quite well known due to its use by Ridley Scott in his film Alien without the permission of the composer. The loyal Jerry Goldsmith fans have been quite angered by the removal of his material. I can’t agree with the Goldsmith opinion because this music from a soundtrack viewpoint is filled with all sorts of material that could easily fit into many different films of all types. Why it has fallen out of favor over the last several years is puzzling to this reviewer.

This 28+ minute symphony is divided into 3 movements with the adagio (1st movement) nearly twice as long as the andante and the allegro. The opening is a rather eerie one depicting some sort of isolation and lonliness. It segues into a fanfare which leads into the romantic motif. The motif, which unifies the entire work, is actually two melodies being played by different parts of the orchestra; strings and solo horn. The strings offer the main theme with the French horn supplementing it. The andante is a beautiful one filled with melodies making one yearn for the past. This is the type of music to listen to in peace and solitude. The beginning of the allegro reminded me of the Pequod from Moby Dick sailing in the open sea, full of vigor, chasing their prize the whale. This movement concludes with revisiting of the beautiful motif.

There aren’t a lot of recordings as far as this symphony is concerned. The Delos Double #DE3705 is the same recording as pictured but includes over 2 hours of Hanson music and is my choice in a recording. If historical is up your alley Mercury Living Presence #432008 offers a 1958 recording with Hanson conducting the Eastman Rochester Orchestra at under $10.00. Arte Nova #433060 offers a budget CD of the work with Montgomery conducting the Jena Philharmonic, recorded in 1996. Telarc #80649 offers a fine version with Kunzel conducting the Cincinnati Pops from 2004. Finally EMI has a 1986 recording of Slatkin with the St. Louis Symphony. This recording is coupled with Virgil Thomson at an attractive price. This is definitely one to explore further. Recommended.

Symphony No. 2, “Romantic”

1…Adagio; Allegro moderato (13:41)

2…Andante con tenerezza (7:26)

3…Allegro con brio (7:17)

Total Time= 28:24


One Response to “Symphony No. 2 “Romantic”/Hanson”

  1. Richard A. Says:

    A late 60s recording by Charles Gerhardt is apparently what was used in Alien.

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