Howard Hanson


Howard Hanson was the son of Swedish emigrants who had settled in America's midwest. He was born in Wahoo, Nebraska on 28th October 1896, and educated at the Institute of Music Art in New York and Northwestern University's school of music.  He was a declared neo-Romantic composer, dedicated to emotionally expressive, tuneful, and beautiful music.  Although greatly inspired by his Scandinavian heritage (citing Grieg and Sibelius as influences), Hanson created works with a very American feel.  He was a great supporter of American musical culture, initiating the American Composers Concerts in 1925, and the annual Festival of American Music from 1930 to 1971. 

In 1921 Hanson was awarded the American Prix de Rome in music for his California Forest Play.  He composed several of the most popular American works for chorus and orchestra, including  Lament for Beowulf, 3 songs from "Drum Taps" (poetry by Walt Whitman), The Cherubic Hymn and Song of Democracy.  His famous three-act opera Merry Mount received fifty curtain calls at its first performamce at the Metropolitan Opera in 1943, and won a Pulitzer prize. 

Hanson was hired to direct the Eastman School of Music in 1924, where he worked until his death in 1964.  There he enhanced the faculty, and developed its performing ensembles, and influenced students including Jack Beeson, Peter Mennin and William Bergsma

Related composers: Sibelius, Grieg, Bergsma,Beeson, Mennin

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