Symphony No. 2 (Hanson)

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The Symphony No. 2 in D-flat major, Opus 30, W45,[1] "Romantic", was written by Howard Hanson on commission from Serge Koussevitsky for the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1930,[2] and published by Carl Fischer Music.

The symphony, written for a standard orchestra consisting of piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in B-flat, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in C, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, snare drum, cymbals, harp and strings, was premiered by Koussevitzky conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra on November 28, 1930. Soon after Arturo Toscanini played it with the New York Philharmonic.[3] Hanson himself conducted and recorded the work with the Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra. Other conductors of the symphony include Charles Gerhardt, Erich Kunzel, Sir Neville Marriner, Gerard Schwarz, David Montgomery and Leonard Slatkin.

The symphony is in three movements, with much thematic material shared among the movements.

  1. Adagio (quarter note = 50) — Allegro moderato (quarter note = 100) — Lento (quarter note = 56) molto espressivo — Piu mosso — Meno mosso (quarter note = 72) — Tranquillo — Molto piu mosso (quarter note = 112) — Animato — Molto meno mosso (quarter note = 80) — Animato (quarter note = 112) — Meno mosso (quarter note = 96) — Ancora meno mosso — Molto meno mosso
  2. Andante con tenerezza
  3. Allegro con brio — Molto meno mosso — Piu mosso — Animato — Largamente

The "lyrical, haunting second theme" of the first movement has become known as the "Interlochen theme"[4] (as it is performed at the conclusion of all concerts at the Interlochen Center for the Arts). It reappears "with greater emphasis" in the following two movements.[5] The slow movement was arranged for concert band by Norman Goldberg and in this form was also published by Carl Fischer.[6]

Hanson considered himself a "perfect fifth composer" or a "major third composer," but in this symphony, it is the perfect fourth "that plays a prominent part throughout the symphony in both melody and harmony."[7] Despite the abundance of triplets, the Bruckner rhythm occurs only in a few spots, mainly in the horns' and trumpets' parts; the others are in the timpani in the first movement,[8] and at the end of a longer rhythmical motif in the finale.[9]

While Hanson is deemed to have broken new ground in the symphony, he "produced a popular concert work which is the epitome of the twentieth-century symphony that could have been written by an American."[10] Virgil Thomson, a contemporary of Hanson, opined of Hanson's music in general that "I have never yet found in any work of his a single phrase or turn of harmony that did not sound familiar," and of the symphony specifically "it is as standardized in expression as it is eclectic in style. Not a surprise from beginning to end, nor any adventure."[11]

Hanson was displeased that the theme was used for the closing credits of Alien[12] without his permission, but decided not to fight it in court.[13] More positively, John Williams used the symphony as a model for his music for E. T.[14]

Hanson himself conducted the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra in a 1958 stereo recording of the symphony for Mercury Records, which was later reissued on CD and has remained in catalogues for many years.

The symphony had the distinction of being one of the very few American works that Arturo Toscanini conducted when he was music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra; however, Toscanini did not record the music, even during the many years he led the NBC Symphony Orchestra.


  1. ^ p. 49 (1993) Perone
  2. ^ p. 24 (2004) Cohen
  3. ^ p. 407 (1993) Canarina
  4. ^ p. 24 (2004) Cohen
  5. ^ p. 407 (1993) Canarina
  6. ^ p. 49 (1993) Perone
  7. ^ p. 141 (2004) Cohen
  8. ^ Measure 10, p. 2 (1930) Hanson
  9. ^ Letter G, p. 103 forward (1930) Hanson
  10. ^ p. 140 (1998) Butterworth
  11. ^ p. 179 (1998) Steinberg
  12. ^ McIntee, David (2005). Beautiful Monsters: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to the Alien and Predator Films. Surrey, England: Telos Publishing Ltd. p. 38. ISBN 1-903889-94-4.
  13. ^ pp. 24 - 25 (2004) Cohen
  14. ^ p. 6 (1994) Karlin


  • Bloomfield, Theodore (1974). "Richard Strauss's Symphony in F minor" March Music and Musicians
  • Butterworth (1998) Neil. Surrey The American Symphony Ashgate
  • John Canarina, "The American Symphony", A Guide to the Symphony, ed. Robert Layton. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1993): 406 - 407
  • Cohen (2004) Allen. Westport, Connecticut Howard Hanson in Theory and Practice Praeger
  • Del Mar, Norman (1962). London Richard Strauss: A Critical Commentary on his Life and Works Barrie and Rockliff
  • Inoue, Satsuki (1993). Denon CO-75284 Thompson (translator) Robin. Nippon Columbia Co. Ltd. Japan
  • Jefferson, Alan (1975). London Richard Strauss Macmillan London Limited
  • Karlin (1994) Fred. New York Listening to the Movies: The Film Lover's Guide to Film Music Schirmer
  • Kennedy, Michael (1999). Cambridge Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma Cambridge University Press
  • Perone (1993) James E. Westport, Connecticut Howard Hanson: A Bio-Bibliography Greenwood Press
  • Schuh, Willi (1982). Cambridge Richard Strauss: a chronicle of the early years 1864—1898 Cambridge University Press. Whittall (translator) Mary
  • Steinberg (1998) Michael. Oxford The Symphony: A Listener's Guide Oxford University Press
  • Youmans, Charles (2005). Bloomington and Indianopolis Richard Strauss's Orchestral Music and the German Intellectual Tradition: The Philosophical Roots of Musical Modernism Indiana University Press

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