Howard Hanson conducts American Masterworks (5 CD box set, FLAC)
Howard Hanson conducts American Masterworks (5 CD box set, FLAC)

Orchestra: Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conductor: Howard Hanson
Composer: Samuel Barber, Walter Piston, Charles Tomlinson Griffes, Kent Kennan, William McCauley
Audio CD
SPARS Code: ADD
Number of Discs: 5
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: Philips
Size: 1.7 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: no

# Capricorn Concerto, for flute, oboe, trumpet & strings, Op. 21
Composed by Samuel Barber
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
with Robert Sprenkle, Joseph Mariano, Sidney Mear
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# The Incredible Flutist, ballet
Composed by Walter Piston
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
with Joseph Mariano
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Poem, for flute & orchestra, A. 93
Composed by Charles Tomlinson Griffes
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
with Joseph Mariano
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Pieces (3) for orchestra, Nos 1-3, complete
Composed by Kent Kennan
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
with Francis Tursi, James Austin
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Miniatures (5) for flute & string orchestra, Nos 1-5, complete
Composed by William McCauley
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
with Joseph Mariano
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Gold and the Senor Commandante, ballet
Composed by William Bergsma
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Orchestral Set No. 1: Three Places in New England, for orchestra, S. 7 (K. 1A5)
Composed by Charles Ives
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Symphony No. 3: The Camp Meeting, for orchestra, S. 3 (K. 1A3)
Composed by Charles Ives
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# New England Triptych, 3 pieces for orchestra or band
Composed by William Schuman
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Symphony No. 5
Composed by Peter Mennin
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Spirituals for orchestra I. Proclamation
Composed by Morton Gould
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Spirituals for orchestra II. Sermon
Composed by Morton Gould
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

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# Spirituals for orchestra III. A Little Bit of Sin
Composed by Morton Gould
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Spirituals for orchestra IV. Protest
Composed by Morton Gould
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Spirituals for orchestra V. Jubilee
Composed by Morton Gould
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Fall River Legend, ballet
Composed by Morton Gould
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Medea (Cave of the Heart), suite for orchestra, Op. 23
Composed by Samuel Barber
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Symphonic Sketches, for orchestra in A major, L. 2/15
Composed by George Whitefield Chadwick
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Suite No. 1 for orchestra in D minor, Op. 42
Composed by Edward MacDowell
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Sinfonia in G
Composed by Johann Friedrich Peter
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# The Pageant of P. T. Barnum, for orchestra
Composed by Douglas S. Moore
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Adventures in a Perambulator, suite for orchestra
Composed by John Alden Carpenter
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Once Upon A Time (5 Fairy Tales) for orchestra
Composed by Bernard Rogers
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

# Selections from McGuffey’s Reader for orchestra
Composed by Burrill Phillips
Performed by Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Howard Hanson

An American sampler

My wife and I often eat at a local restaurant that offers what it calls an “American sampler” of shishkabob, Hawaiian chicken and Louisiana Gulf shrimp. I liken that plate to this collection by the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and longtime conductor-director Howard Hanson. Based on the quality of much of this music, I think the title could more readily have been “Howard Handson Conducts An American Sampler” rather than American masterworks, for the quality of some of this music is arguable in that respect.

Hanson was not only a composer and conductor, he was a great champion of American music in the 1950s, when its profile and exposure were much less than today. Many of the compositions included in this anthology have since been recorded in DDD in the Maxos American music series. Others have been recorded on other labels in newer, sometimes better, recordings. This does nothing to diminish these recordings or to dampen the memory of Hanson and his band.

However, many of the more well known recordings in this set have been re-done either more artistically and/or in better sound since these recordings first appeared the better part of 50 years ago. In particular, Barber’s Capricorn Concerto and Medea suite, Ives’s Third Symphony & Three Places in New England, Piston’s Incredible Flutist and Schuman’s New England Triptych have all been recorded many times in the intervening years. The recordings here sometimes magnify the thin and wiry sound coming from the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra. Some are simply not very well played, either.

That said, there are still five decade old gems to be located here. Among my favorites are William Bergsma’s “Gold and Senor Commandante” ballet suite, a delightful nine-movement ballet suite that is clearly meant for the concert hall and not the stage. I also enjoy Morton Gould’s “Sprituals” and George Whitfield Chadwick’s “Symphonic Sketches” that merges British stoicism with American melody-making.

Best for me is the performance of Peter Mennin’s Symphony No. 5. This 1962 recording was probably the first of a Mennin symphony and it still stands up well to competition. The dramatic three movement edifice is completely engaging. Its syncopated rhythm on an ostimato E-F-G-F sharp-A-E theme in the closing movement is catchy and stays long in memory.

Another important and rarely recorded piece is Johann Friedrich Peter’s “Sinfonia in G”. Peter was an early American composer from the Classical period; he was born 1746 and died 1813. The sinfonia mimics the CPE Bach crossover from Baroque to Classical early symphony with modular thematic development in each of its four movements.

There are other memorable chunks of Americana on this collection and everything sound wonderful, captured in ultra-clear and well-defined three channel tapes (produced here in stereo and not SACD) from the 1950s and early 1960s. The notes are very helpful and the bookelt details the origin of each recording. There is a very high level of nostalgia evident in this grouping that adds much to its appeal.

I think this collection is best suited to people that want to recapture the nostalgia of these great old recordings. Today’s DDD technology has nothing on these fine sounding CDs even though Mercury missed an opportunity to release these as three channel SACDs. Perhaps that is coming in the future?

Another group of listeners that will most appreciate this collection are people that want exposure to many American composers and don’t want to pay a lot to get it. The modest list price for this five CD collection is usually reduced by 40-50 percent when purchasing used from an Amazon vendor. I bought mine for about $20, the cost of less than three new Naxos CDs. This set is certainly worth more than that. Even veteran collectors (who didn’t buy the original LPs or individual CDs) will probably find something new and different here.

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