These Howard Hanson recordings by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra under their champion of American music, Gerard Schwarz, were originally made in 1991 as part of a large Hanson cycle released by the Delos label around that time. They did not ignite a real revival of this "American Romantic," but neither has his music died out; it's wonderfully orchestrated and has a certain honest quality that has made it wear well even if there's a shortage of really memorable melody. The producers of this Naxos reissue have combined works from several different Delos releases, resulting in a program with a common focus that brings out the best in Hanson's music. All of these works are of a memorial or somehow otherwise religious cast. The Symphony No. 4 ("Requiem"), entirely orchestral, was written after the death of the composer's father and takes its movement titles from those of sections of the Requiem mass. Here and elsewhere, Hanson combines his late Romantic language (Sibelius, mostly, with dashes of Vaughan Williams) with chorale melodies that reflect his Midwestern-Scandinavian Lutheran upbringing. If this smooths out the rough edges that make Sibelius such fascinating listening, it's also a musically effective combination, especially given the numerous ways Hanson can deploy the orchestra to set up the chorales. The Symphony No. 4, which won the first Pulitzer Prize in music, is the most subtle and deeply felt; Dies Natalis, written in 1967 to commemorate Nebraska's 100th anniversary as a state, lays out the combination more simply and ought to get a rise out of any audience. Worth a revival.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Symphony No. 4 'Requiem', Op. 34|