Howard Hanson Serenade Program Notes
Nebraska native Howard Hanson was a gifted composer, with three beautiful symphonies, an opera Merry Mount that received its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera, and many other smaller pieces, such as this Serenade, for flute, harp and strings. He wrote it in his late forties, as a proposal to the future Mrs. Hanson, who he’d met at Chataqua in upstate New York. By this time he’d been Dean of the Eastman School of Music for over twenty years (having been appointed by George Eastman, of Kodak-Eastman). From his perch, he was able to conduct orchestras at the School, making recordings of some American works that are still the only ones available. He was involved with UNESCO, the UN’s international cultural organization, and built the Eastman school into one of the country’s’ strongest. Gentle, rising pentatonic scales give way to stronger emotions, with a progression of reflective moods. One highlight of the piece is the string pizzicato, with the harp creates a ginormous kind of guitar sound, the flute soloing over it. So effective is this material that Hanson returns to it before a luxuriant coda.