Howard Hanson is one of America's great mid-century composers. His music, like that of Roy Harris, draws its character from the plains, from the pioneer blood that settled that part of the country. Here we have two major symphonies, a piano concerto, and a tone-poem, "Mosaics". These works are at the heart of American Romanticism; his melodies are distinct and tonal, his writing formal.
Starting the second half of our great Beethoven series, Boris Berezovsky returns with the Fourth Piano Concerto and Beethoven's own version of the Violin Concerto arranged with the piano as the solo instrument. Boris's earlier contributions to the series have been very well received indeed, and the Russian virtuoso has more up his sleeve. The works on this seventh volume in this series originates from a particularly fruitful time in Beethoven"s career as a composer, around the same time as his fourth and fifth symphony and the Razumovsky quartets. He continues to expand the formal boundaries for the concerto, and the result is of course some of the most fantastic music ever written.
Tatiana Shebanova, who also features in the Fryderyk Chopin Institute’s on-going Real Chopin series (see review special, p83), gets her own complete, modern instrument (as opposed to Real Chopin’s historic instruments) cycle on the Polish label Dux. Arranged in opus order, it presents a satisfying survey of Chopin’s development, and it spares the listener from (for example) a lack of variety in the usual hour-long sequence of waltzes.
The gifted Belgian Quatuor Danel turn to two masterpieces by César Franck: his passionate Piano Quintet and the String Quartet. The three-movement Quintet, like Brahms’s op. 34 an expansion of the Schumannian model, is one of Franck’s most infamous works. It immediately established itself, and a second performance with the pianist Marie Poitevin, the later dedicatee of the Prélude, Choral et Fugue, convinced the members of the Société Nationale. Franck’s String Quartet, his last major work, was similarly acclaimed by its first listeners. After its first performance in April 1890, with tears in his eyes, César Franck is said to have told his pupil Vincent d’Indy, “Now you see: at long last the public is beginning to understand me.”