Biography of Howard Hanson (1896-1981)

Composer, director and Professor of American music born on October 28, 1896 in Wahoo, Nicaragua, and died on February 26, 1981 in New York. He began his education at the University of Wahoo and then studied at the Institute of Musical Art in New York and at Northwestern University. His work exerted great influence in favour of the promotion of contemporary American music, with compositions that make him a key representative of the romantic tradition.

After studying in New York, Hanson taught at San Jose, California, and then won a prize (the American Prix de Rome) which allowed him to leave for Italy, where he spent three years between 1921 and 1924. It was the first American musician who received this scholarship to Rome from the American Academy. On his return to the United States became the director of the newly created school Eastman of music of Rochester, New York, in which would remain until his retirement in 1964. He organized annual festivals of American music and directed more than a thousand new works by young composers, many of whom had been his students. In 1958 he created the Eastman Philharmonia, an orchestra of students which made tours of Europe, Russia and the Middle East between 1961 and 1962.

It gave account of Swedish descent in his first Symphony, in 1923, entitled Nordica. The second Symphony, of 1930, called romantic, and would be its most notable success. His fourth Symphony, written in 1943, was Requiem, and was dedicated to the memory of his father; This work earned him the Pulitzer Prize in 1944 and the George Foster Peabody Award in 1946. His works include also the Fifth Symphony, which was composed in 1955 and was named Sinfonia Sacra; his work Lux Aeterna written for Orchestra, 1923; Songs from Drum Tap of 1935, with voices and Orchestra; the cantata The lament for Beowulf, a Dies Irae and its opera Merry Mount, composed in 1934, which had been commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera. He also composed chamber music and wrote a text book for students entitled Advanced Harmonic Materials of Modern Music (harmonic components of contemporary music), which was published in 1960.

The Hanson style undoubtedly belongs in the middle of the 20th century; its harmonies, despite having complexity, are sound; its rhythms are strong and varied, and their way of organising the orchestration is effective. While it received a strong influence of Jean Sibelius and Modest Mussorgsky, his style remained very personal and your work can be considered quite eclectic, between the Scandinavian symphonic and the Victorian romanticism. In 1979 it became part of the American Academy of Arts and letters.