Howard Hanson: “Nordic” Symphony From Italy

American composer Howard Hanson was born on this date in 1896 in Wahoo, Nebraska, and he lived until 1981.  On Symphony at 7 this evening, we’re featuring his Symphony No. 1, The Nordic.  Interestingly, it wasn’t written in Wahoo, or Rochester, New York, where Hanson directed the Eastman School of Music for forty years, elevating it to one of the top music schools in the country.

Howard Hanson was a student on a three year stay in Italy after winning the Prix de Rome in Music which was the American Academy’s Rome Prize.  In 1923, he was a long way from Wahoo when his First Symphony was performed in Italy.  The following year, back in the U.S.A., it was performed again in Rochester, New York where it came to the attention George Eastman who founded the music school that bears his name.  Howard Hanson was appointed music director, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Hanson championed American composers, and made many fine recordings as well.  But he also stayed in touch with his roots.  His parents were Swedish immigrants, and Hanson always retained his love for Scandinavian music.  The first Symphony expresses that influence, particularly of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, whom he revered.  The music of Hanson’s Nordic Symphony has been described as “haunting, rapturous and serene.”

You can enjoy Howard Hanson’s First Symphony tonight on Symphony at 7 on Classical 101.  But in the meantime, here is a sample:

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