Hanson: Symphony no.3; Elegy; The Lament for Beowulf (APE)
Hanson: Symphony no.3; Elegy; The Lament for Beowulf (APE)

Composer: Howard Hanson
Performer: Eastman Rochester School Of Music Chorus
Orchestra: Eastman-Rochester Orchestra
Conductor: Howard Hanson
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Mercury
Size: 306 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

01. Hanson: Symphony No.3 – 1. Andante lamentando
02. Hanson: Symphony No.3 – 2. Andante tranquillo
03. Hanson: Symphony No.3 – 3. Tempo scherzando
04. Hanson: Symphony No.3 – 4. Largamente e pesante
05. Hanson: Elegy, Op.44
06. Hanson: The Lament for Beowulf

Get Mercury Living Presence Before Its Dead

When I first started collecting classical CDs, I only had a few Mercury Living Presence (MLP) titles. In my quest to get the absolute best, or at least a definitive recording, of the major works of the standard repertoire, MLP discs rarely topped the critics’ lists. In fact, only three MLP recordings have been earmarked as “Essential Recordings” by Amazon.com — Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Byron Janis performing Rachmaninov’s 2nd & 3rd Piano Concertos, and Yehudi Menuhin performing Bartok’s 2nd Violin Concerto, all three with Antal Dorati as conductor. It is also safe to say that three other titles are equally essential for their historical value alone. They are Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake by Dorati (the first recording of the complete ballet), Janis performing Liszt’s Piano Concertos (the first recordings made in the Soviet Union by American technicians, musical staff and equipment), and Kubelik’s Chicago Symphony performance of Pictures at an Exhibition (one of, if not the single best mono recording ever, and the one that led the New York Times critic to coin the phrase “Living Presence,” from which the label named its series). But how does a CD line go from having a half-dozen must have recordings, to being this reviewer’s all-time favorite classical label?
The answer: consistently magical performances, captured in brilliant golden-age stereo sound, that offer a slightly different take on your typical interpretation of the great works. Of course, MLP also went to great lengths to feature music by more obscure composers, particularly contemporary Americans. While Dorati, and to a lesser extent Paray, recorded these lesser known works, Howard Hanson was their champion. Hanson was also quite the composer himself and there are three MLP discs that demonstrate this, including this disc of his magical Symphony No. 3, Elegy (for Koussevitzsky), and Lament for Beowulf. Maybe that is why collectors prize these recordings, because they are a breath of fresh air in a homogenized world of listening. Of course, collectors love a challenge too, and MLP CDs are becoming increasingly hard to find. It has taken years for me to finally find all of the MLP CDs released to date, and unfortunately I don’t think there will be any new releases forthcoming. So collectors, and even those who aspire to be, should pick up as many Mercury Living Presence discs as possible now, before they all die.

Leave a Reply