University of Rochester Library Bulletin: Howard Hanson's Manuscript Scores

Volume V · Winter 1950 · Number 2
Howard Hanson's Manuscript Scores

When, on November 19, 1949, Dr. Howard Hanson was honored by the faculty and alumni of the Eastman School of Music for his first quarter-century as Director of the School, he presented a number of his compositions in manuscript to the Sibley Music Library. Representing probably the largest collection of the holograph works of a contemporary American composer to be given at one time to the Library, the music is a most significant addition to the Americana already in the Treasure Room. Dr. Hanson has long been considered the greatest protagonist for American music. He is internationally known for his compositions in all forms, including four symphonies, numerous symphonic poems, his opera, Merry Mount, works for chorus and orchestra, concertos, and chamber music. Moreover, through his endeavors as an educator, conductor, writer, and lecturer, he has made Rochester one of the most active music centers of the world, and it is fitting that his own works in manuscript should remain in this city.

One of the most interesting of the early works represented in the collection is the California Forest Play of 1920, Opus 16, written to words by Don Richards, for this was the composition which won the Prix de Rome for Dr. Hanson. In reviewing the performance of the Forest Play at the California State Redwood Park, Marjorie M. Fisher reported in Musical America for July 24, 1920: "The theme of the play lies in the history of the Redwoods from the time of their sowing through the era of the Red Man up to the time of the saving of the forest from the commercial spirit of Man by the Spirit of Nature. It is in four episodes and a prologue, each episode complete in itself, and each presented in a different dramatic form. . . " The holograph score, carefully and closely written in a large oblong notebook of some twenty pages, is therefore divided into the following parts:

Prelude to Episode One
Episode One - Ballet, "The Awakening"
Episode Two - "The Sowing," cantata for soprano, baritone, and chorus
Episode Three - An Indian Opera
Episode Four - Finale

Dr. Hanson's largest orchestral works, the four symphonies, are found in the collection. The first symphony, entitled Nordic Symphony I, in E minor, Opus 21, is a black-and-white reproduction of the composer's holograph. It is dedicated to the founder of the music department of the American Academy at Rome, Felix Lamond, and is dated "Accademia Americana, Roma, May, 1922." On the fly leaf the composer has written:

Played by Rome Symphony
St. Louis Symphony
San Francisco Symphony
Cincinnati Symphony (summer)
Los Angeles Philharmonic (three times)
Kansas City Symphony
Rochester Philharmonic
Baltimore Symphony

giving a partial list of early performances of the work by the major orchestras. The first of Dr. Hanson's large orchestral works, the symphony is written in a cyclical manner and, as the subtitle suggests, pays tribute to the sterling qualities of the Nordic spirit.

The score of the second symphony is labeled Symphony No. II, "Romantic," Opus 30, and bears the inscription on the final page "Begun April, 1928 -- Finished July 6, 1930." Commissioned for the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the work was given its first performance by that organization under the direction of Serge Koussevitzky on November 28, 1930. Its first New York performance was in March, 1933, by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Arturo Toscanini, whose markings, boldly written in dark blue crayon, remain on the score. The subtitle, "Romantic," represents the composer's escape from the hard realism which occupied a prominent place in the musical thinking of the late twenties and early thirties; the aim was to create a freely lyrical and romantic composition rather than a coldly intellectual succession of images. That the symphony is successful has been attested to by the many performances it has been given by the major orchestras, both here and abroad, its popularity even spreading to the Orient.

The third symphony was commissioned by the Columbia Broadcasting Company, and even before it was completed, three of its movements were heard on a radio program on September 19, 1937, with Dr. Hanson conducting. The holograph score of this composition, Opus 33, is 169 pages in length and is the completed form of the symphony, bearing the date March 15, 1938. On March 26 the entire symphony was performed by the N. B. C. orchestra, again under the direction of the composer. Although this work has no subtitle, it represents a tribute to the sturdiness of the Nordic pioneers in America, particularly in conquering the West. The score contains markings by Serge Koussevitzky, who conducted the Boston Symphony when that organization played the symphony on December 11, 1939.

Inscribed "In Memory of my Beloved Father," the fourth symphony (Opus 34) is an elegy, its four movements bearing Latin subtitles from certain parts of the Mass: Kyrie, Requiescat, Dies Irae, and Lux Aeterna. Completed in the fall of 1943, it was performed several times, both in Rochester and elsewhere, before it was included on the program for the all-Hanson concert at the Eastman Theatre on November 19, 1949, as being typical of Dr. Hanson's more recent orchestral style.

Merry Mount is represented by a holograph orchestral score in three volumes, as well as by a positive photostatic copy of the holograph vocal score, also in three volumes. Written to a libretto by Richard Stokes in 1932, the opera was given in concert form at Ann Arbor on a festival program in May, 1933. The first stage performance of the work was given by a distinguished cast, including Gladys Swarthout, Lawrence Tibbett, Edward Johnson, and Gota Ljungberg, at the Metropolitan Opera House on February 10, 1934. Tullio Serafin conducted this premiere, which created a sensation, the composer receiving more than fifty curtain calls. The Stokes libretto is based upon the story of the "Maypole of Merry Mount" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, who best portrays the New England conscience in literature. Far from being merely a presentation of the problem of good and evil in colonial times, Dr. Hanson's opera is a moving, human tragedy of Bradford and Marigold, with the chorus playing an active dramatic part in the working out of the plot. One of the most important stylistic traits of the music is the use of modal melodies, which are considered by the composer to be symbolic of the Puritans. The eight-page orchestral score of "The Song of the Puritans" from the opera forms a separate autograph item, also included in the collection.

Other items, too numerous to be described in detail, are:

  • Concerto da Camera, Opus 7, in C Minor (1916-17) for pianoforte and string quartet, in one movement. Scored for strings alone at the Accademia Americana, Rome, March 20, 1922. First performance of this arrangement was given by the Quartetto Romano, April 6, 1922. Holograph score, 31 pp.
  • Symphonic Rhapsody for Orchestra, Opus 14. Scored in summer, 1920. First performance by Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, May 26, 1921. Holograph score, 20 pp.
  • Symbolic Poem, North and West, Opus 22, for orchestra and chorus. Holograph score, 62 pp. (The Library also has the sketch book for this composition.)
  • Concerto for Organ, Strings, and Harp, Opus 22, No. 3. Holograph score, 27 pp.
  • Fantasy, for String Orchestra (based on String Quartet, Opus 23). Black-and-white reproduction of holograph score, dated Rochester, July 7, 1939, 44 pp.
  • Symphonic Poem for Viola and Orchestra, Lux Aeterna, Opus 24. Inscribed to Lionel Tertis and dated: "Finished Christmas Day, 1923, American Academy in Rome." Holograph score on transparent paper, 37 pp.
  • Symphonic Poem, Pan and the Priest, Opus 26. Dedicated to Willem Mengelberg and dated: "Begun, California, 1925. Completed, Rochester, 1926. Black-and-white reproduction, with markings by Mengelberg, 53 pp.
  • Pan and the Priest, Opus 26. First proof with corrections in pencil by the composer for printed edition, 1927, by C. C. Birchard.
  • Concerto for Organ and Orchestra. No opus number given on score, but performed as Opus 27. Organ part in manuscript, with organ registration and corrections written in pencil later by Harold Gleason, organist, who gave the first performance in the Eastman Theatre, January 6, 1927, with Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the composer conducting. This was the first of Dr. Hanson's compositions to be given its first performance in Rochester, 44 pp.
  • Heroic Elegy, for orchestra with mixed chorus obbligato, Opus 28. Written for the Beethoven Centennial, 1927. This does not appear to be the composer's own manuscript. (Dr. Hanson had previously given an autograph manuscript of this work to Sibley Music Library, 56 pp.)
  • Concerto in G Major for Pianoforte and Orchestra, Opus 36. Inscribed: "To the memory of Natalya Koussevitzky." Holograph score for two pianos, 49 pp.
  • Concerto in G Major for Pianoforte and Orchestra, Opus 36. Dated: "Rochester, August 1st, 1948," and inscribed: "To Natalya Koussevitzky in affectionate memory." Holograph, full score for piano and orchestra, 112 pp.
  • The Cherubic Hymn, for Chorus and Orchestra, Opus 37. Rochester, January 12, 1949. As far as the author knows, this work has been neither performed nor published. Holograph score of arrangement for voice and piano, 22 pp.
  • Festival Fanfare. Fanfare for the University of Rochester Broadcast, January 26, 1938. One-page holograph score.
  • Fanfare for the Signal Corps. Inscribed: "To my dear friend, Eugene Goossens, in affectionate admiration." Holograph score on transparent paper, 6 pp.
  • March Carillon. 1920. Holograph score, 12 pp.
  • Missa Papae Marcelli by Palestrina, transcribed for chorus and orchestra. Dated Rochester, December 22, 1936. Positive photostatic copy of holograph score of three parts of the Mass: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo; 42 pp.