Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Howard Hanson's Laude

One of the more interesting pieces being performed in Lincoln this month is Howard Hanson's Laude: Chorale, Variations and Metamorphoses. Hanson wrote Laude as a commission for the College Band Directors National Association in 1975. It was premiered in Berkeley, California at the association's annual conference by the California State University Long Beach Band, conducted by Larry Curtis.

While Howard Hanson (1896-1981) is remembered as a composer of orchestral music (as well as being the director of the Eastman School of Music and the first American to win the Prix de Rome), he wrote several works for band throughout his career, works which are considered important in 20th century American band literature.

In his later years, Hanson looked back to his childhood in Wahoo, Nebraska for inspiration. Laude reflects this, as it is based on a Swedish chorale he knew as a child, All the world praises the Lord, a paraphrase of Psalm 150, which Hanson quotes as "Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet, With psaltery and harp, With timbrel and dance, With string instruments and organs, Praise him upon the loud cymbals, the high-sounding cymbals, Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."

Laude begins with a unison statement of the chorale theme accompanied by percussion, and fanfares. Throughout the piece, percussion sets off the variations, which are in various moods and tempos. In the seventh variation, the chorale returns in the Lydian mode, one of the ancient church modes, and the sound grows. Finally a simple melody from Hanson's childhood (and his Third symphony) appears, with the chorale superimposed, moving to the final climax of the work. (Thanks to Howard Hanson's extensive notes for the premier for some of these thoughts).

If you would like to hear Laude, it will be performed by the Lincoln Community Concert Band at Kimball Recital Hall on Monday, December 12, 2011, at 7:30 pm. The free concert is just one of many interesting musical events in Lincoln this month.

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