This two-disc set is a re-release from the Gerard Schwarz/Hanson series that began on Delos in 1989 with the release of the Symphonies #1 & 2. Presumably, items not included here, such as the First, Third and Fifth Symphonies, will appear in Volume Two. These "Delos Doubles" (as the label calls them) are selling at a reduced price.
In a sense, this review comes down not so much to evaluating the performances as to whether potential buyers will be interested in the repertory. Schwarz has generally received high praise in this series, and I cannot find fault with that judgment: I had faithfully purchased the individual issues of the symphonies as they came out a few years back. There may be better performances of the popular "Romantic" on disc, but if you want all the symphonies and these fillers, you won't be let down. Schwarz has a grasp of the Hanson idiom, just as he does of Diamond's and Creston's and Mennin's. While he may draw greater attention when he conducts Mozart, I'll hedge my bets that he will endear himself to posterity far more for his work in the area of American music. There's not a performance on either disc here that isn't compelling and first-rate. And his support, whether from the Seattle or New York groups, is also top-notch. Carold Rosenberger, not surprisingly, turns in splendid work in the Fantasy, and the duo in the Serenade acquit themselves nicely.
So, if the repertory appeals, this set can be highly recommended. Personally, I find some of these items to be of only casual interest. The Seventh Symphony is not among Hanson's better works, though the finale, with its quotation from the Second early on, does have a glorious ending that makes it worth the price of admission. And the Fantasy Variations, while poignant, fails to fully capture the imagination. But the three other symphonies here, especially the Second and Fourth, along with the Koussevitsky Elegy, are definitely solid, worthwhile pieces. This collection, then, taken as a whole, is indispensable to those interested in Hanson or in American symphonic music in general. The notes are informative and the sound is excellent.
Copyright © 1998, Robert Cummings